Quinces hold a mysterious allure. Hard unconventional fruit requiring delicate coaxing to emerge, like beautiful butterflies from dreary cocoons. Their scent is perfume, a complex fragrance that translates to an indescribable flavour after gentle and extended cooking.
I love quinces, but this time the specimens I bought this time were lacklustre, I got tricked and purchased too early in the season. The resulting quince paste was not worth writing about, but it can be regenerated, or dried further, reused. (I have plans for the paste, expansive and experimental as they may be. I can imagine it melting through shortbready biscuits, tarted up, or dried til chewy and eaten with yogurt and pistachios). The poached quinces, though, would soon enough need to be thrown away.
After so much work and time I couldn’t just ditch these ruby beauties, so I made them into a wonderously fragrant cake, flavour-rich on top, crispy and chewy at the edges and homely on the inside, like a warm hug. The dense crumb punctuated with a crisp fragment of almond, nutmegy, quincey and complex. But who knew that this would be the outcome? It came on a whim, I was out of cinnamon which the original recipe called for, so nutmeg was called as the understudy, I had no ground almonds so chopped would have to do. I tinkered here and there and the result was happily our dessert for days straight. A week later F was so excited when he found the final two pieces I had secreted away in the freezer – in a few weeks we can be reminded of this lucky quince mistake.
Best eaten warm, with thick greek yoghurt or cream
(adapted from Mieze’s Plum Cake in Stephanie Alexanders A Cooks Companion)
180g softened butter
150g castor sugar
135g plain flour
135g SR flour
2 large eggs
3/4 c finely chopped almonds (works best with some very fine pieces mixed with larger chunks)
1/2 c brown sugar
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, mix in sifted flour. Lightly whisk eggs with milk and add to mixture, stirring lightly to form a soft batter. Spoon batter into greased 26cm springform cake tin, flatten top and sprinkle over almonds. Arrange pieces of poached quince evenly over the almond layer. Pour topping over fruit, bake in pre-heated oven at 180C. Serve warm.
for topping: Melt butter and stir in sugar and spice. Let cool slightly then whisk in eggs.
* No specified amount as you can use as little or as much as you like. You can slice the poached quince very thinly for an even layer, or top with large chunks.