Homemade to the core

Inspired by the why-buy-it-if-you-can-do-it-from-scratch attitude of many food bloggers, I decided to do something I hadn´t attempted before: homemade “dulce de membrillo” (kind of like a quince spread, but presented as a bar.)

pasta frola 4

Besides being curious about making it from scratch and later using it to make a quince pie, I wanted to have a tried-and-true recipe to give those of you outside of Argentina to have a way to make our typical pastafrola. (Though after reading this article in Wikipedia, I´m hoping you can get hold of the fruit to begin with because apparently Argentina is among the few countries that still grow the fruit and is the source of most of the quinces found in North America.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yep, the quince spread… I was actually surprised at how easy it was to make (it did take like an hour and a half overall but it´s not too bad for this sort of thing and it keeps for a few months). You peel and cut the fruit, take the cores out and put them in a little cheesecloth pouch, put the fruit and the bag in a pan and cover it with water and boil until tender. Then you make a puree, mix with sugar and cook again. And you get this:

dulce de membrillo

The taste is in the apple family, yet different and you can use it to eat as is with some creamy cheese or on top of a toast or whatever you want really. I´ve just found Shuna´s post about quince, and I suggest you read it from top to bottom if you want to find out more about this poor neglected fruit.

pastafrola 2

But what I had in mind was to show you our typical pastafrola, which is a quince pie with a buttery pastry base (you can use a pate brisé, for instance) with lots of lemon zest and the quince paste on top, covered by a lattice top. I was planning on having a perfectly uniform lattice top, but the flaky dough was determined not to let me achieve perfection… so let´s just call this pie “rustique”, shall we?

pastafrola

pastafrola in the making

I don´t know if this pie will be alluring enough for those of you who´ve never tried it before… probably not, but to me it´s perfect just as it is, in all its simplicity, because it´s a bit of a national landmark by now (and it doesn´t have dulce de leche, that´s a first!), and it´s just tied to so many childhood memories.

Like the time when my mom made one with a delicious golden crust using some amazing eggs my grandma had brought from a farm, and left it to cool on the table before picking up my brother from a soccer match. When she came back our dog Perrín had eaten half of the pie! And you know how it goes… when it comes to dogs, you don´t want to assume the other half was left untouched, so the other half ended up on the bin… that was a very sad afternoon for our stomachs, but it still makes me laugh to relive the whole scene: my mom screaming, the dog hiding under a table, me mourning the lost pie.

So I still hope you get to make it or try it someday. I´ll save you this slice for whenever you make it to Buenos Aires ;)

pastafrola slice

Dulce de membrillo (quince spread)

Fresh quinces, 1.8 kg (which got me about 1.4 kg after cleaning them)

Sugar, 1.1 kg (some recipes say it should be the same amount of sugar than fruit, but it gets too sweet if you use those amounts)

1. Wash and peel the quinces (they should be firm and yellow, I used a potato peeler to peel them and it was very easy to do). Cut them in quarters and remove the cores. Put some of the cores with the seeds in a cheesecloth pouch.

2. Put the fruit and the little bag in a pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook until they are tender (mine took 15 minutes or so, but it depends on the size of the fruit, just check with a fork or a knife for doneness.)

3. Strain them (reserving the water in a bowl) and puree them with an immersion blender. Mix in the sugar.

4. Put it back in the pan and cook over medium-low heat mixing with a wooden spoon every few minutes until it gets quite thick (you should be able to see the bottom of the pan when mixing) and it acquires a caramel-like tone. Be careful to cover the pot because the jam forms bubbles that pop while cooking and it could burn you. What I did was cover it almost fully with the lid and take it out of the fire and wait a few seconds before removing the lid and mixing.

5. If you want to have the membrillo in a bar like I did, let it cool a little and pour the mix in a container covered with plastic wrap. Keep it in the fridge until you need it (it keeps for a few months.)

6. If you want a softer texture to use as marmalade or something, you can add a bit of the water you boiled the fruit in before making the pure.

Pastafrola

For the pie crust

All purpose flour, 3 cups

Baking powder, 6 teaspoons

Sugar, 3/4 cups

Butter, cold, 190 grams (since 1 stick is 115g, this would be around 1 3/4 sticks)

Lemon zest, 3 tablespoons or so (I used the zest of 2 lemons)

1 egg yolk

2 eggs

Milk, 4 tablespoons

1. Zift the flour, the baking powder and the sugar.

2. Cut the cold butter into little squares and make a fine crumble with the previous ingredients. (You can also use the food processor for this, and if you work with your hands or a pastry cutter, make sure you don´t heat up the butter.)

3. Add the lemon zest, the yolk, the eggs and the milk and mix slightly to form a ball. The dough is quite crumbly and you shouldn´t knead it too much because you´ll ruin the flaky consistency this dough should have. You simply need to join the ingredients and form a ball.

4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

To assemble the pastafrola: 

Pie crust (recipe above, but you can use a pate brise recipe if you want, just make sure to add quite a bit of lemon zest)

Quince spread (as much as you want really)

Boiling water, 3 or 4 tablespoons to soften the spread

1. Roll out the dough until it´s about 1/2 cm thick. Cover a tart pan with the crust. Put it in the fridge. Keep about 1/3 of the dough to make the lattice top.

2. Cut the quince spread (more like bar really) and soften it with a few tablespoons of boiling water using a fork. Spread this paste over the crust.

3. Make a lattice top and brush with egg wash.
4. Cook in a 180°C/350°F degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the dough is nice and golden.

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25 Comments

Filed under Argentina, sweet

25 responses to “Homemade to the core

  1. Quince is my favorite fruit, hands down, so you don’t know how happy your post made me!
    Here, I found quince for ….$1.99 for ONE….unbelievable! So, I have one lonely quince sitting on my countertop!
    I absolutely love your pie! Great job!

  2. nookandpantry

    That pie is beautiful! I don’t think I’ve ever had quince before. I’ll have to try it sometime. :)

  3. laura

    Mmmm, dulce de membrillo on slices of white cheese is my favorite thing! And I’m looking forward to the pastafrola crust recipe. My grandmother used to make it all the time but she’s stopped cooking in her old age.

  4. Wow, Marce! You did a great job! This looks delicious!

  5. I have never tried a quince before – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen one!! I will have to keep my eyes open now…..

  6. Love the lattice on your pie. I also have never heard of quince. Love learning about new things!

  7. Oh, I love pastafrolla, I haven’t had one in forever. And membrillo, I’m so glad to have a recipe, although quinces are tragically rare here, it’s usually easier to go to a foreign goods store and buy tins of sub-par membrillo or jars of quince jam.

  8. Marce,

    This looks splendid. Thank you for the link. Quince is definitely not the easiest thing but it is seductive!

    I am interested, though, to know why there’s so much baking powder in the dough?

  9. Helen- Thanks, that´s a hell of a lot to pay for a single quince, ouch! Here I spent 2 dollars for almost 2 kilos… finally something that´s cheaper here! haha Well, I make you an offer, if you ever come to Buenos Aires during the quince season, I´ll buy you 2 kilos and you cook me something with it, how about that for slave labor?

    Nook and pantry- You should try it then, just remember you shouldn´t eat it raw.

    Laura- Glad the recipe also brings back memories to you. I´ve posted the crust recipe now.

    Patricia- Thanks.

    Deborah- Since they seem to come from Argentina, I´d say this is the time to look out for them.

    Cheryl- Thanks a lot, it isn´t perfect, but it´s still quite cute in my opinion.

    Mercedes- Another pastafrola fan, that´s great, I was fearing no one would have tried it before. About the canned dulce de membrillo, see if you can find anything by Arcor or Esnaola and it should be quite good.

    Shuna- Thanks for coming by and for the compliment, it means a lot coming from you.
    About all that baking powder, I´m not sure, but my guess is that the original recipe my family has been using for decades came from a booklet sponsored by a baking powder brand called Royal, because I know that´s were many of our family recipes come from. Despite all that baking powder, the dough doesn´t rise too much and is deliciously flaky, though I don´t know if the baking powder has anything to do with that or it´s just the butter.

  10. That is one gorgeous pie! I’m impressed.

  11. Sil (Bs As)

    I’m not a great fan of membrillos, so I make it with “dulce de batata” all the time… anyway… congrats for such an effort! looks great!

  12. I LOVE ate de membrillo. I always buy it but maybe I should try to make it! It looks sooo good.

  13. i love it when recipes say “as much as you want, really.” lol!! brilliant. looks ridiculously delicious.

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  15. Hands down the prettiest pastafrola (pie) I think I’ve seen.. I love the lattice work you did with the crust – just gorgeous, sweetie =)

    I’ve never had quince before but I’ve heard how delicious it is. I’d LOVE to try it for the first time in your pastafrola. You did save me a slice, right? ;)

    xoxo

  16. Hi Marce, I would like to try this recipe for pastafrola. I think you may have missed out writing how much butter is needed? Thanks.

  17. Nora- Oh my god, you are absolutely right, I suck! I have to call my mom and have her check the recipe for me. I´ll email you when I get the information and update the recipe.

  18. Yum! Making lattice never works for me (not too much points in the patience dept) yours looks great. We had some magical membrillo in London, sooo good.

  19. Charles

    I’ve had a quince in my garden for years and never knew what to do with the fruit. It recently turned a golden color. Tonight I’ll pick all of it and try the recipe. Thank you.

  20. I’m lucky to live in Northern California, where you do find the occasional quince tree, almost always with fruit left to rot because who knows what to do with it?
    I tried your recipe for membrillo and it turned out great. I took my chances without the cheesecloth bag of cores and seeds, and it still set up just fine. It does take a long time to cook down, but it’s well worth it. Off to pick up some manchego and a loaf of bread!

  21. Andres

    Membrillos are not always available, but sometimes can be found in unespected places. I am in NW England. Asking around I have found several people who have quince trees, and some don’t even know what to do with the fruit. This year I got upwards to 10 Kg for free.

    Quince tend to be found in orchards or fields and the fruit is left to rot. Go out in to the countryside and ask the farmers. You will surely find one or two that have a tree and will let you grab the fruit, as they don’t use them.

    You can also get them in France. More reliable is to get them from the south of Spain. The season is about October-November. So if you go to the Costas for that period you can always find them in the markets. So your holiday becomes: Sun, sangria, and……….membrillo.

    In general terms there are 2 kinds. The proper eating quince, from the Cydonia family. These are trees, eventually fairly big. And the fruit is large, even twice the size of a Bramley apple.

    The other kind is an ornamental bush. I think from the Japonica family. Lovely flowers and smell, but very small fruit. With these it is usually not worth peeling and coring to make jam. But I use them in the same way as Crab Apples, and make Quince Jelly. Just wash and quarter them. Cover with water and boil. Strain over night. Weight the juice then add about 80% sugar. Boil until set point and bottle. As a matter of fact, you can make this from very gently “jellied” and a bit runny; to very solid (and you can cut it up like a proper dulce de membrillo).

  22. GLORIA DAWN

    My son just home with 10 quinces grown locally. (Tasmania Australia) I have not cooked them before and looked up a recipe…found yours sounds great I am anxious to try..we also have a tree loaded with crab apples..I am going to try to make jelly.
    Thanks for sharing..

  23. Dolores

    Hola! llegue a este blog justamente leyendo una receta para hacer dulce de membrillo “from scratch” Vivo en Portland y esta semana compre membrillos para hacer pastafrola o para comer con queso.. MMMMMM (postre favorito de mi marido) Wish me luck!
    la unica diferencia entre tu receta y la que estaba copiando es que la otra pide poner la pasta una hora en el horno bajo (125 F) para que se seque… Veremos como sale.. gracias por tu blog esta muy bueno!!!

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  25. Deborah

    Tried the dulce de membrillo recipe–yum.
    But unfortunately the tart dough came out with a horrible chemical taste. I think too much baking powder. Or perhaps I shouldn’t have used the typical US double acting baking powder?

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