‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
-The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear
Quince has always intrigued me. I read about it in ancient fairy tales and English literature. I decided to play with it this Fall to see if it could be part of an apple pie contest contender. I ended up making another recipe (which won 1st place and the popular vote!). I am sharing that one in my up and coming e-book. But this is a venerable pie and worth posting for you.
Quince is a lovely floral-scented fruit. It's scent permeates the kitchen. But you have to precook quince to experience it's honey-infused sweetness, which I think prevents today's time-starved cooks from trying to use it. But if you want to try something unique and impress guests at Thanksgiving, quince will raise some eyebrows and entice taste buds. Try something different! And you can always precook your quince when you have time and use it at a later date.
Vanilla Ginger Quince and Apple Pie
4 quinces, peeled and halved, peels reserved
1 bottle sweet Muscat wine
1 orange peel, 1" wide
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed and pod reserved
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 inch peeled, fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 cup raisins
6-8 baking apples (I use 2 Pink Ladies, 2 Golden Delicious and 2 Galas), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. butter, cold and cut up
2 cups plus 3 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
4.5 oz. Mascarpone cheese, chilled
1-2 more tsp. chilled water
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. sugar
I do this first because this takes a bit, and you can make the crust and cut and macerate the apples while the stove is working for you. I large saucepan, place your halved Quince on the bottom and add the wine, orange peel, quince peels, chopped ginger, vanilla seeds and pods, sugar and cloves. Add enough water to just cover everything. Heat the pan until things start to boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the quince turns a rosy pink color and are soft when pierced with a fork. Remove the quince with a slotted spoon and set aside on a platter. Simmer the rest of the liquid, reducing it down to about 1/3. This usually takes about 30 more minutes or so. Pour syrup through some cheesecloth, discarding the poaching ingredients and reserving only the liquid. Add the liquid to the raisins, soaking them until plump and most of the liquid is absorbed. Core the quince with a tablespoon. Slice the quince into 1/2 inch wedges once cooled, and set aside. All this can be made a couple days ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Make the crust:
I have recently decided I like making my crusts by hand. It actually is less work, and you don't overwork the dough, making the crust more tender! Seriously. Food processors are a pain to clean and put back. All you need is a pastry cutter (or even a fork!) a bowl and some elbow grease. Pour your flour, sugar, ginger and baking powder in a bowl. Whisk with a fork, and cut in the 12 Tbsp. butter with a pastry cutter until you have the texture of small peas. Add the Mascarpone in a few clumps and cut that in until you have the texture of coarse cornmeal. Drizzle the water over the flour. You will not need much for things to start coming together, mascarpone has a lot of moisture. Add the 1-2 more teaspoons and continue to bring together with a pastry cutter or your hands at this point. Using saran wrap, quickly wrap two balls of dough, evenly divided, and flatten into round discs. Let chill for 30 minutes or overnight. Once rested, roll out your bottom crust between lightly floured saran wrap until it fits your pie pan with 1/2 inch overhang. Peel off the top saran wrap, and with your hand slid under the bottom of the dough flip it into your pie dish and peel off the bottom saran wrap (which will then be at the top) as you adjust the position of the dough. Press into the pie dish, trim so the overhang is 1/2 thick on all sides (patching as you need). Wrap pan in saran wrap tightly and let rest for one hour or overnight as well. AT this point, I roll out my top crust as well, and lay it on a baking sheet covered with saran wrap to rest as well. Resting lets the gluten relax and prevent shrinking and toughness.
Slice the apples and toss in bowl with lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, vanilla, honey and salt. Let macerate for up to 3 hours. Drain apples, reserving liquid. Simmer liquid until reduced to about 1/4 cup of thick, bubbly syrup. Take drained aples and cook with 1 Tbsp butter until beginning to soften. Take off heat, add the quince, raisins, cooked down apple syrup and flour. Toss around, and let cool down for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425˚ with a parchment lined baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven for at least 20 minutes.
Once apple filling is cooled down, pour it into the prepared bottom crust. Place the top crust over, trim excess overhang and crimp edges. Cut steam holes. Brush top with water and sprinkle with sugar. Create a foil ring for the edges and have it handy and ready. Place the pie right on the hot baking sheet. Cover edges with foil ring if the edges are browning too fast. After about 30 minutes, I usually tent the pie with tinfoil with a steam hole so that the apples get properly baked in the middle. I keep the tent on for about 20 more minutes, then take it off for the last 10 minutes or so of cooking. Filling should be hot and bubbly and crust evilly golden brown. This takes about 50 minutes to 1 hour total. Let sit out and cool down for a couple hours before cutting to allow the pie to set.