Quince, Honey and Thyme Tart

Quince is a very hard and tart fruit in its raw state, which softens and becomes a delicious treat when cooked and sweetened.  When growing up in the French countryside, we commonly used to make quince jelly and quince paste with this fruit high in pectin. After cooking for a long time, the flesh of the fruit turns a beautiful deep pink color, which is most appealing and appetizing. 

 ​The honey caramilizes the quinces, and the thyme imparts a savory taste balancing the flavors. The longer the baking process, the more beautiful golden vermillion they turn. 

  Ingredients

  • 800 g/1 lb 12 oz quince
  • 60 g/ 2 oz French butter
  • 90 g/ 3 oz raw honey (Mild flavor like acacia)
  • 1 cinnamon stick 
  • 4 cloves
  • A few sprigs thyme

For the crust:

  • 150 g/ 5 1/4 oz all purpose organic in bleached flour
  • 70 g/ 2.5 oz French butter
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1-2 Tbsp cold water

Preheat oven to 375F. 

  Start by making the crust. Place the flour, salt and cold butter, cut in small pieces, in a bowl. 
  Using one hand only, gently and briskly mix the butter and flour to coat each piece. Then, press the flour-coated pieces of butter between your fingertips to ‘crumble’ the mixture.   Continue until the mixture resembles a sandy texture.  Then add just enough cold water to form a non sticky ball. 
  Place the dough on wax paper, wrap it and refrigerate it.  Meanwhile, cut the quinces in half, then quarters. Do not peel the quinces at this time as it would be a very difficult task. It is easier to peel them after cooking them.   Cut each quarter in halves to makes eighths. Quince oxidize extremely quickly by contact with air.Place them in a wide-bottom pot, barely cover with cold water, and add the cinnamon stick and cloves.     Bring to a boils and simmer about 30 minutes, until the quinces are tender. Meanwhile, place generous pieces of butter  on the bottom of a 9-inch pie dish as well as around the sides.   Pour the honey over the butter to cover the bottom of the pie dish.   Spread the thyme leaves over the butter and honey. Reserve a couple sprigs of thyme for presentation.   Take the quince out of the boiling liquid into a colander using a skimmer/slotted spoon. Reserve the liquid for another use, such as quince jelly.   Cut out the seedy core.   Peel the quince pieces. By now the skin should come off relatively easily.   Arrange the quince slices in a circle following the shape of the dish.   Take the dought out of the refrigerator and place it on a floured surface.  Using a French rod-style rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circle barely larger than the tart dish.   Roll the crust onto the rolling pin to easily transfer it from the surface to the tart dish. 

  Roll out the crust onto the quinces.   Tuck the edges between the quince slices and the buttered edges of the tart dish. 
  Bake for about 40 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let the tart sit on the rack in the oven for another 15 minutes with the oven door slightly open.   The crust should be lightely golden and crisp to the touch.   Run the blade of a knife around the edges to unstick the caramelized tart from the baking dish. Turn the tart over onto a serving platter.  You might have to carefully rearrange or straighten some of the quince slices. Finish by adding a few leaves of fresh thyme. Serve and enjoy!

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French Apple Tart

French Apple Tart
Classic and beautiful, a combination of Golden Delicious apples for the base and Granny Smith for the top layer

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This recipe is inspired by my French technique of slicing apples thinly (which does, admittedly, take time) and the cinnamon from my Midwestern surroundings. If you are interested in the pure French version, omit the cinnamon and use a vanilla bean instead.

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Ingredients:
8 Golden Delicious or Honeycrisp apples
8 Granny Smith apples
1 14-oz Dufour puff pastry (see below photo)
1/2 cup of saffron mango jam (or apricot jam)
Cinnamon
Agave syrup
1 cup water

Tools:
1/4 sheet for baking
1 large saucepan for the apple sauce
1 small saucepan for the jam
1 potato masher or food processor
1 pastry brush
1 paring knife
1 rolling pin

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This puff pastry can be found in the frozen food section at Whole Foods. The ingredients are the same that I would use if I were to make it from scratch – simply butter, flour, salt, water and lemon juice – and it’s a great time saver. If you decide to make your own puff pastry, I learned from my time at the Ritz pastry school that you can only give the dough two turns a day. This means you would have to plan three days ahead for the necessary six turns.

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First, quarter the apples and then peel them. Here I’m using Honeycrisp instead of Golden Delicious, but either variety works. Honeycrisps tend to be a bit more watery when cooking, so reduce the amount of water you add to the saucepan.

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Cut each quarter into thick slices, making them as uniform as possible so that they cook evenly.

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Place the apples in a saucepan with about a cup of water. If you are using vanilla bean instead of cinnamon, add it at this time. Simply cut the bean in half lengthwise, scrape the black seeds into the saucepan and drop the open bean onto the apples. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender. If the water evaporates before all the apples are soft, add a little more. If there is extra water when the apples are ready to be mashed, drain them and reserve the syrupy liquid.

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Once the apples are soft enough, use a potato masher to purée them, country style. If you used a vanilla bean, remove it before mashing the apples. If you’re using ground cinnamon add it here, as well as agave syrup to taste.

You may return it to the stove if the consistency is too watery. You want to have a spreadable apple sauce consistency.

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If you prefer to have a smoother consistency, place the cooked apples into a food processor fitted with a steel blade (without the vanilla bean), and process until silky smooth. Return to the saucepan and add cinnamon, if using, and then agave. Again, you might heat it up a little longer to obtain the right consistency.

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While the apple sauce is cooling, roll out the puff pastry to fit a quarter sheet. There is no need to butter the bottom of the quarter sheet as the butter content of the puff pastry is high enough that it won’t stick. Then spread the cooled apple sauce into a smooth and even layer.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Now comes the task of skillfully slicing the Granny Smith apples in thin, long and even slices. Start by quartering and peeling the apples. Then, with a paring knife, slice each quarter lengthwise, about 2 to 3 millimeters thick. Place each piece on the apple sauce starting at one end of the quarter sheet, one slice next to another in overlapping vertical rows. The thinner the slices, the more beautiful the results when cooked.

When you’re finished, place it in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Check halfway through the baking to ensure the tart is cooking evenly. If one side is browning faster than the other, turn the baking sheet around.

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Start heating the saffron mango jam (or apricot jam) in a small saucepan over the stove until it is liquefied enough to spread with a pastry brush. If the consistency is too thick, add some of the syrup reserved earlier from the apples. If you do not have syrup, add water.

Using a pastry brush, lightly spread the liquefied jam over the hot apples. It is important to do this right out of the oven, while the apples are hot for best, most even results.

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Close up, the pattern looks like fish scales. Beautiful!

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Serve a thin elegant slice accompanied by a vanilla soy ice cream. Delicious…..and chic!
Enjoy!