With autumn well on its way and pumpkins and mushrooms having returned to my kitchen as regular guests, I realised this season I hadn’t made anything using quinces yet. So when I happened upon a beautiful batch of quinces last week, I jumped at the opportunity to turn them into a delicious seasonal treat. The result: these crisp-cased quince tartlets with zesty frangipane and soft autumn spices.
These quince tartlets make a festive treat, celebrating autumn with fragrant fruits and a soft-spiced, sweet filling. I’ll be the first to admit that making them takes a bit of time and planning. They are made from scratch, in different steps that each demand their own time and attention: poaching the quinces, preparing and blind-baking the pastry cases, making the frangipane and finally baking the tarts. To make life easier, I spread this process over two days, preparing the fruit and the pastry on the first, which means that on the second day I’ll only need to fill and bake the tartlets. And in case you’d like to simplify the process even more, there are a few shortcuts you can take.
As said, I start by poaching the quinces. When raw, ripe quinces are rock-hard and their flesh has an unpleasant, grainy structure. It’s only when they’re cooked that they become tender and their natural sweet and rosy flavour becomes apparent. In cakes, they can be added raw, to be baked along with the pastry, but this may result in quite a long baking time. To make sure they are perfectly cooked when they come out of the oven, I poach them before adding them to the tart cases. This is also a good opportunity to provide them with some additional flavour. I posted recipes for poached quinces before, giving suggestions for different flavour combinations. For these quince tartlets I picked the fresh flavours of cardamom, ginger and lemon. Alternatively, you could choose the warm flavours of cinnamon, star anise and vanilla, as in this recipe. And of course you could make a combination of the flavours you like best.
I poach the quinces a day ahead, to give the flavours the opportunity to develop, and of course to have the tart filling all ready to use on the next day. If you’re short on time, but do want to make a fall-flavoured frangipane tart, you could choose to replace the quinces with apples or pears, which can be used raw.
To make the pastry cases, I used a mixture of oat flour, buckwheat flour and corn starch. This produces a gluten free shortcrust case with a flavour that goes wonderfully with the tart filling. The pastry cases are blind-baked before filling them, which ensures they are beautifully crisp once the tartlets come out of the oven. Instead of the gluten free flour mix, you could also use white wheat flour. And if you want to be really quick, you could consider using a shop-bought batch of sweet shortcrust dough instead.
And then there’s the frangipane filling. Frangipane is a classic, creamy cake filling that is traditionally made with ground almonds, sugar, butter and eggs. For this vegan version, I replaced the butter and eggs with a mixture of oil, flax eggs and baking powder. The result is a soft almond filling, which rises during baking and turns out lovely and crisp on the outside, nice and soft on the inside. I flavoured the frangipane with a generous dose of lemon zest. When combined with the quinces, the resulting tart filling is wonderfully fresh, sweet and soft-spiced.
Once cooled down, these quince tartlets are wonderful to eat on their own. But they are even better when served warm, topped with a spoonful of coconut yogurt, or with a scoop of rose petal and cardamom ice cream.
Vegan quince tartlets with frangipane and soft autumn spices – makes 6
for the quince filling
- 3 medium-sized quinces, rinsed and polished with a cloth (or rubbed with your fingers) to remove any remains of the white felty layer on the skins
- 500 ml water
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 200 g raw cane sugar
- thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
- 8 cardamoms, cracked to open slightly
- 1 vanilla pod, opened lengthwise (optional)
for the pastry cases
- 150 g oat flour
- 100 g buckwheat flour
- 65 g corn flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. fine cane sugar (you can use caster sugar or icing sugar instead, if you don’t mind processed sugar)
- 60 ml rapeseed oil
- 160 ml almond milk or cold water, plus more if needed
for the frangipane
- 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp. ground flax seeds + 6 tbsp. water)
- 80 ml rapeseed oil
- 200 g almond flour or finely ground almonds
- 30 g rice flour
- 100 g raw cane sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
6 ∅12 cm tart cases
- These tartlets can be made from scratch on the day you want to serve them, but the quince filling and the pastry cases can be prepared up to two days ahead. Not only does this make your life much easier, it also gives the flavour of the poached quinces the opportunity to develop.
- If you’re in a hurry and don’t want to spend time poaching the quinces, you can replace the quinces with sliced apples or pears, added raw to the frangipane filling. The baking time is the same, but it will be enough for these fruits to become tender.
- If you want to make it quick and easy, you can use a batch of shop-bought sweet shortcrust pastry dough.
- For additional information on how to prepare quinces, suggestions on flavour combinations, and ideas on how to use the remaining poaching liquid, see here.
To make the poached quince filling, start by getting the poaching liquid ready. Add the water, sugar and the lemon zest and juice to a pan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the ginger slices, cardamoms and vanilla pod, if using, then turn down the heat and keep the liquid at a low simmer.
Using a sharp knife, halve the quinces. Don’t bother trying to core them, because this will be much easier once they’re softened. Tip the quince halves into the poaching liquid immediately to prevent them from discolouring.
Over a low heat, simmer the quince halves until just tender. This may take anything between 15 minutes and 2 hours. Once the quinces soften, the skin will start wrinkling and tearing, so keep an eye out for that and regularly test for doneness by pricking a piece with a fork.
When the quince halves are done, take them off the heat. Leave to cool completely, preferably in their poaching liquid. If you have the time, store them in the fridge overnight. This will give the flavours extra time to develop and make the quinces and syrup turn a lovely pink.
To make the tart cases, mix the oat flour, buckwheat flour and corn starch in a large bowl. Stir in the salt and sugar, then add the oil and almond milk. Knead the mixture to a supple dough. If it stays wet, add a little extra oat flour; if it’s crumbly, add a bit more almond milk.
Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least an hour before using. You could also prepare the dough a day ahead. The use of oil and the light flour keep the dough pliable even when cold and it’s best handled when used straight from the fridge.
Heat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4. Brush your tart tins with a little oil.
Lightly knead the dough, then shape it into six balls. Place one onto a sheet of baking parchment. Flatten it a little, then cover it with a second parchment sheet. Roll out the dough until it’s a circle a few cm larger than the tin and about ½ cm thick.
Line the first tin with the pastry. Prick the base all over with a fork to prevent it forming air bubbles. Cover the pastry case with a fitting piece of baking parchment and weigh it down with baking beans or dried rice. Repeat with the remaining tart tins.
Blind bake the pastry cases for 10-12 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and beans. Return the cases to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes until crisp and just starting to brown. Leave the cases to cool in their tins for a bit before further using, or overnight.
To make the frangipane filling, start by making the flax eggs. Stir the water into the ground flax seeds and let the mixture stand for a few minutes to thicken. In a large mixing bowl, mix the almond flour, rice flour, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest. Stir in the rapeseed oil and flax eggs. Set aside until using.
If you divided the preparation over two days, reheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
Fill the pastry cases with the frangipane up to half or three quarters, leaving enough room for the filling to rise during baking. Take the quince halves from their syrup, core them and pat them dry with a sheet of kitchen paper. You can easily peel them now too, if you like, by just pulling the skin. Alternatively, you can just leave the skin on, as poaching the quinces will have left it very thin and tender. Slice the quince halves, keeping the slices together. Top each tartlet with a sliced quince halve.
Bake the tartlets for 35-45 minutes until the cases are crisp and the frangipane filling is golden.
Leave the tartlets to cool on a wire rack, then serve as they are, or topped with a spoonful of coconut yogurt or with a scoop of rose petal and cardamom ice cream.