Some of you bakers may recognize Robert Wemischner as one of KCRW’s Annual Good Food Pie Contest judges. As a professional pastry chef and culinary educator at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College for over 25 years now, he has mentored scores of young, aspiring bakers and authored four books on how to craft signature desserts. His latest book is The Dessert Architect.
We ran into Robert this week with his students on a school field trip at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, where they were learning about the seasonality of different fall ingredients, and how to properly source them. One of the ingredients on their class list was quince from Mud Creek Ranch, so we decided to tag along.
Quince is an often overlooked fruit here in the US, despite its popularity in Europe, where bakers and preservers alike find myriad ways of incorporating it into their seasonal menus. With its lumpy, almost apple-like appearance, quince is extremely high in pectin, which makes it perfect for preserving, poaching and baking, though very tannic and astringent if eaten raw…and some people do!
Red Wine-Poached Quince Tarts
Yield: approximately 12 servings
Poached Quince Ingredients
1 vanilla bean
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup fresh quince, peeled, quartered and woody cores removed
For the Poached Quince: Using a small, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean pod lengthwise. In a heavy, medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan, bring the wine, water, sugar and vanilla bean to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add the quince and cook for approximately 45 minutes over low heat, or until tender—but not disintegrating. (Tip: Cooking times for quince vary from fruit to fruit. For best results, source fragrant fruits which tend to become meltingly tender without falling apart.) Cool the fruit in the syrup. Make the dough and almond cake filling as follows:
Whole Wheat Tart Dough
Yield: six 4″ tarts or one 12” tart
Tart Dough Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 oz (12 tbsp or 1½ sticks) unsalted butter
3 oz granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
To Prepare the Tarts: In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and cinnamon together. Separately, in the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth and light. Add sugar and mix until blended. Now, in another small bowl, whisk egg and vanilla and add this to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix to incorporate, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that the mixture is well-blended. Next, add the flour and mix just until it disappears. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to densify.
Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about one hour.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8” thickness. For the six tarts, using a 5” round cutter, cut the dough into six rounds. Line the six tart pans with the dough. If making the one 12″ tart, simply roll out the dough into a 14″ round and line the pan, cutting off any excess. Chill the shells until ready to bake. Make the Almond cake filling as follows:
Almond Cake Filling for Tarts
Yield: approximately 9 ounces to fill six 4″ tarts or one 12″ tart
Almond Cake Ingredients
1¾ oz all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 oz (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2½ oz granulated sugar
1 large egg
3½ oz almond meal (also called almond flour)
For the Almond Cake Mixture: Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside. Mix butter and sugar together. Add eggs and mix to blend. Add sifted dry ingredients and almond meal. Mix to blend.
Pipe or spread the cake mixture to a height of about half an inch into each tart. Top with quartered quince and then bake the tarts in a preheated 375ºF oven for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is well-browned and the cake has risen. (Note: Baking time may be a bit longer for the 12” tart.) Cool and completely remove the tart rings.
Serve with mascarpone or vanilla ice cream.