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.)
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:
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.
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?
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
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.
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
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.