I may be a lover of all things chocolate but fruit desserts have a special place in my heart.
Seasonal fruits cooked to perfection, flavored with spices and other aromatics, topped with all sorts of delicious custards, creams and sauces, can be for me the ideal dessert, especially at a festive dinner or gathering.
I love quinces, my last post makes this evident. They are such special fruits, so unassuming yet unattractive to many, but I can see past that, I know their potential, their uniqueness and magical flavor qualities.
Take for example this dessert of baked quinces with cinnamon and star anise, served with kaymak and topped with pistachios. There’s a subtlety yet unmistakable fullness of flavor in this dish that really makes me go back to it again and again.
Cooked this way, quinces are truly magnificent. They are first simmered for an hour together with sugar, cinnamon and start anise and then they are transferred to the oven where they are baked in a bain-marie for two and a half hours. The long, slow cooking makes them soft —while still retaining their shape—, juicy and incredibly mellow.
They are intensely aromatic and full-flavored from the fruit itself, and the spices make their presence known without being overwhelming. It’s quite a delicate dessert that’s not too sweet, with the soft, lusciously plump quinces pairing wonderfully with the thick, creamy kaymak, the crunchy, earthy pistachios and the good drizzle of syrup over the top.
Wishing you a Merry, Happy, Joyous Christmas!
Baked quince with kaymak and pistachio
Kaymak is a very thick cream similar to clotted cream that’s not typically sweet but it has a tang to it that’s reminiscent of crème fraîche. The best kind, and the one I always use, is made from buffalo’s milk, but you can find it made with cow’s milk too. It is perfect for desserts and I also use it in my hot chocolate drink. If you can’t find kaymak, substitute with crème fraîche or clotted cream. If you can’t get a hold of these ingredients either, then substitute with whipped cream or mascarpone (they are both sweeter though).
These quinces, compared to the Greek ones I used for my Greek quince spoon sweet, did not change to a deep coral color but to a light coral, orange one. Still pretty, but I would have loved to see that intense color in my quinces again. Perhaps it has to do with the different variety of fruit I used.
Yield: 4 portions
2 large quinces (500-550 g each)
200 g caster sugar
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Peel the quinces and cut them in half lengthwise. Remove the core and keep the seeds. Put the quinces and the seeds in a large saucepan and add the sugar, star anise, cinnamon and enough water to cover the quinces.
Place the pan over a high heat and stir with a spoon to dissolve the sugar. When it comes to the boil, turn heat down to medium, cover the pan with a lid and simmer the quinces for 30 minutes. Then, turn them over and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 120°C.
Place a baking dish big enough to fit all the quinces in one layer inside a larger baking pan.
Once the quinces have been simmering for an hour, remove them carefully from the saucepan with a large spoon and place them inside the baking dish together with 1-1½ cups of the syrup they have been poaching in.
Note: Keep some of the syrup that’s left in the saucepan to drizzle over the finished dessert.
Transfer to the lower rack of the oven and fill the large baking pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the inner dish, thus creating a bain-marie.
Bake the quinces for 2 hours, then turn heat up to 150°C, cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for a further 30 minutes.
Note: Make sure you check the bain-marie every half hour in case you need to top off with water if it has evaporated.
When ready, the quinces should be tender but not falling apart. They should hold their shape but be soft and juicy.
Remove the baking pan from the oven and then remove the baking dish from the bain-marie. Leave the quinces to cool inside the baking dish. Once cool, transfer them to the refrigerator, covered with aluminum foil.
Serve the quinces cold in individual dishes, topped with a good dollop of kaymak and a generous sprinkling of ground pistachio. You can drizzle the top with some reserved syrup if you wish.