Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Quince and Pepita Cake

My grandmother’s semi-wild garden has a number of fruit trees, yielding fabulous pesticide-free Fuji apples, pears, and a profuse number of quinces.

Writers wax lyrical about the quince’s perfume, recommending leaving them in a bowl for visual and olfactory pleasure, but I find that this is more a constant reminder that Something Must Be Done with the damn things. They keep for quite a while at room temperature, but not forever, and it has been known for knobbly blighters to decompose while I work myself up to addressing them.

The main problem is that they must be cooked for aeons. Yes, one can go down the route of a long, slow roast, as preferred by Maggie Beer and avowed by Nigella Lawson, but this requires an oven that is trustworthy enough to be left on and some psychic ease in letting fossil-fuelled electricity flow for several hours.

Since neither of these conditions apply to me, and I am impatient, I opt for a pressure cooker. This means that the worst I have to contend with is a) washing the pressure cooker and b) cutting the quinces. Rather than raise the risk of slicing a digit off, I opt for cutting them in half, leaving the cores in, and then poaching. The cores are much more easily removed afterwards. Nor do I bother removing the skin, as this is perfectly edible when cooked but can be slipped off easily if not desired.

This is how I deal with quinces:

Take 4 quince, scrubbed to remove the downy covering, and cut in half. Put in the pressure cooker.

Add 4-6 cardamom pods, crushed to allow the seeds out, and 2 star anise. Add enough water just to cover. Seal the pressure cooker, bring it to full pressure then turn the heat down (it should stay at full pressure) for 30-45 minutes. When the time’s up, turn off the heat and allow to cool. When it’s cool enough, the pressure cooker will be ready to open. 

The quinces will be soft, and red. Once cool enough to handle, it is a trivial matter to remove the cores and then do what you want with them. Some of mine have been reserved for eating with muesli, the rest for the following cake.

Note that no sugar is added - they are still a little sharp, but cooking does bring out natural sweetness. I think it is unnecessary to add sugar to the poaching liquid, and very messy.

The poaching liquid can be strained and kept - either as it is, or cooked with sugar to make a syrup

And so to the cake.

This is vegan and gluten free; those who do not share my scepticism about alternative sweeteners (namely that rice malt syrup is ok) may also class it as low sugar.

  • 5 cooked quince, cored and chopped; quince poaching liquid.
  • 2 tbs ground linseed/flaxseed, mixed with 6 tbs water - leave for several minutes to gel 
  • Combine and mix well:
    • 1 cup banana flour
    • 1 cup millet flour
    • 3/4 cup tapioca starch
    • 2 heaped tsp baking powder
    • 3 tsp spices (I used a Gewürtzhaus mix, the name of which I have forgotten; they are all excellent)
    • 1 tsp vanilla powder or vanilla extract
    • 100g pepitas/pumpkin seeds
  • Combine: 
    • 1/2 cup apple sauce
    • 40g coconut oil (melted if the ambient temperature isn’t high enough)
    • 100g rice malt syrup
Then, add the wet ingredients to the linseed mix. Add this to the dry ingredients. Add the chopped quince. Add enough quince poaching liquid to make a thick batter. Put in an 8” springform tin, greased and lined if necessary, and bake at 180˚C for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

The usual caveats about liquid amounts and cooking time apply - adjust as necessary.


Johanna GGG said...

This really beautifully written and gives much fruit for thought (yes pun intended) - I love rice malt syrup because it is so much less sweet but still sticky and gooey. I am interested that you poach quinces without sugar - I have always thought it necessary but now maybe I will follow your lead. And the cake looks a glorious deep pink

The New Epicurean said...

Johanna, it was gloriously pink! I have made a mental note that perhaps pureed quince could be a useful ingredient for making pink cakes, when beetroot might be too strong?

I should warn you that I have a very un-sweet tooth, so what I regard as adequate might be a bit confronting...