quince pizza for breakfast!
Do you know what a quince is? It’s okay if you don’t. You are not alone (although, I think less of you now). A quince is a fragrant, apple-y, pear-y kind of fruit that is not very commonly eaten or grown in the United States, but is a big deal in places like Turkey and Uzbekistan. If you are lucky enough to see quince at your local grocery store, you should buy it! The only variety that I have ever encountered is the pineapple quince, and unless the signage says otherwise, it is probably from Argentina. They do grow in places like California and the Pacific Northwest, but I have never seen them in any significant abundance around here, maybe because the trees are very susceptible to disease and the market for this weird fruit is pretty small. Pineapple quince are not related to pineapples, but once you sniff one of these puppies, you will understand how they acquired that name. Their fragrant, tropical, fruity and flowery scent is definitely reminiscent of a pineapple, or at least a fruit cocktail that is heavy on the pineapple. I happened upon a bulging basket of Washington-grown pineapple quince at my local market, so I thought I would take a walk on the wild side and do something tasty with them for Thanksgiving, like a quince galette.
Read more to see how I did it and then gluttonously ate the last of it for breakfast the next morning!
I have worked with quince before, but only a few times in pastry school, approximately one million years ago. Unfortunately, they aren’t the easiest fruits to work with: they need to be peeled, then cored (which is difficult because their flesh is very hard, dry, and pithy), and they cannot—or should not, for your mouth’s sake—be eaten raw, so you also have to cook them thoroughly before using them in any kind of tasty food application.
I played it safe, went with what I knew, and decided to poach them. Thankfully, you don’t really need an exact recipe to poach fruit if you understand the general idea surrounding this cooking method. Basically, with poaching fruit, you are just looking to gently simmer similarly sized pieces in a sugar syrup until they are tender. And although poaching fruit in only water would work, it is better for the overall flavor of the fruit to poach it in some kind of tasty liquid. A general guide for making poaching liquid starts with a sugar syrup of equal parts (by volume) sugar and a liquid (water, wine, juice, etc). Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to keep the liquid at a bare simmer. Viola. That is poaching liquid. For best results, go with a large, wide pot so that the fruit cooks evenly and doesn’t get overcrowded. If you have a lemon, you can add half to your poaching liquid to keep the flavors bright, and, depending on what you are poaching the fruit for, you can toss a vanilla bean, a few cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, or star anise pods in there too. The most important part about poaching anything is to not let the liquid come to a full boil. That my friends, as you may have guessed, is how to boil things, not poach them.
With that, I peeled, quartered, then cored three quince and poached the pieces in the sugar syrup, with a whole, split vanilla bean and a splash of lemon juice, for about twenty minutes. Most fruit is less dense than the sugar syrup and therefore has the tendency to float, which can mean uneven cooking. Use a dinner plate that is slightly smaller in diameter that your pot and rest it on top of the floating fruit to submerge it.
When the quince were tender, and before they had turned to mush, I fished them out with a slotted spoon and let them cool on a wire rack. I strained the poaching liquid so I could use it again for… I don’t know yet, but it is absolutely reusable and I see red wine poached pears and apples in my future.
Then, when the segments were cool, I began cutting them into uniform slices.
Meanwhile, I had a disk of pate brisee, or pie dough, that I made the day before chilling in the fridge. I know, I know, I just sprung that on you at the last minute, but better late than never.
So, about pie dough: I would never dare to presume that I could share with you a completely one-of-a-kind pie dough recipe, or call your attention to my very own original recipe that didn’t already exist, somewhere. Unfortunately, I did not invent pie crust and, as it has only a few ingredients there are only so many ways to make it successfully. Thankfully, many cooks before me have created very delicious recipes for this already so all I have to do is pick my favorite. The recipe I use consistently is just one of several thousand floating around the universe that would work great with this galette. Maybe you have a pie dough recipe from your Great Aunt Gertrude that calls for cold cream and lard that you love (although that is weird and you might want to retire that soon). Or, maybe you are really into buying the frozen Pillsbury kind at the grocery store (again, I think less of you now). Or, maybe you are clueless, in which case here is a recipe, and here is another one, and still another. The moral of the story is that 1) you need some pie dough, and 2) whatever kind you like will be great for the galette. The pate brisee recipe I use is practically identical to every other recipe on the planet and makes enough dough for a top and bottom crust (so you only need half of this for the quince galette):
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour,
1 teaspoon salt,
2 teaspoons sugar,
8 ounces butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1/4-1/2 cup cold water
Use a food processor and pulse the dry ingredients together. Then pulse in the pieces of butter until they are very small and evenly dispersed. Then, slowly add the water in a light stream, pulsing and checking the dough often, until it sticks together with light pressure. It will still look crumbly when it is ready. If it forms an actual ball of dough in the food processor, you blew it. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, press it together to form a flat disc, wrap it well with more plastic wrap, then refrigerate until needed, or at least a few hours. I like to make the dough the day ahead and then roll it out before I start preparing the fruit so it stays nice and cold. The trick to making a good, flakey pie dough lies in maintaining the integrity of those little bits of butter scattered throughout by keeping the dough cold right up until you put it in the oven.
A galette is my go-to dessert for most occasions, because simply rolling the dough out into one thin, even layer is almost all of the dough-fussing that is necessary. And, it’s okay if your rolled-out dough vaguely resembles Iceland, with its deep fjords and rugged coastline. Just try, without handling the dough too much, to make it all the same thickness (about 1/4 of an inch), and as close to a circle as possible. And bear in mind that the Be Coolinary galette is a forgiving dessert that lends itself well to being described as “rustic”—which, in the pastry world is just a clever way to make things that appear kind of messy or sloppy seem intentional.
After the dough has been rolled out, transfer it to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep it in the fridge until just before you are ready to put the fruit on it.
Okay. Back to the quince. So, after cutting all the poached quince pieces into uniform slices, I had a handful of overcooked and/or misshaped quince bits leftover. Not wanting to waste these tasty morsels, I made them into a jammy paste by cooking them down with a splash of the poaching liquid until it made a thick spread. I cooled the paste by spreading a thin layer onto a dinner plate and popping it into the freezer for five minutes. After it had cooled, I was all set up—with the quince paste, sliced quince, and a bit of vanilla sugar—to assemble the galette.
When assembling a galette, it is helpful to imagine you are topping a pizza. But not just any pizza, a dessert pizza. I started by spreading the cold quince paste on to the cold dough. Did I mention that all of the ingredients were cold? You could also use frangipane here or omit this step altogether (Be Coolinary loves you no matter which way you do it).
Then I arranged the quince slices in the center.
Then, after all the fruit was arranged, I started folding over the fruit-less edges of the dough towards the center, pressing together any out of control rips or tears, that were once majestic, Icelandic fjords.
Some pastry chefs might advocate folding the dough edges in far closer to the fruit than I do, almost making a giant fruit dumpling. Either way is great, however I am a fan of a flatter, thinner galette because I find it cooks more evenly, has less soggy dough pockets, and is more likely to resemble a dessert pizza.
I brushed the crust with an egg wash composed of 1 whole egg beaten with 1 egg yolk, and sprinkled the entire thing with a heavy shower of vanilla sugar. I baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes, until the edges were rounding the turn between golden and dark brown. After I let it cool, I transferred it to a large dinner plate, securely wrapped it up in approximately 10 to 12 feet of plastic wrap, and ventured forth to a Thanksgiving meal in Bellevue, Washington, where the Be Coolinary quince galette happily shared a countertop with a pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin, pecan, and lemon meringue pies.
With so many delicious dessert options to choose from, it was inevitable, and quite fortunate, that I was sent back to Seattle with some leftover dessert pizza. Naturally, the morning after one of the most gluttonous feasts of my Be Coolinary career (see this post, this post, or this post for first-hand accounts of the others), with tryptophan still surging though my veins and cranberry seeds still stuck in my teeth, my urge for a slice of my dessert for breakfast seemed extremely inappropriate (and borderline concerning). But, like most things involving food, despite my better judgement, I went for it. It is with this experience that I can say with the utmost certainty that the best way to enjoy this rustic, Thanksgiving dessert pizza, is the morning after, coupled with a fresh cup of coffee, to help nurse your turkey/awkward-family-interaction hangover.