Poached Quinces and Twice-baked Hazelnut Crumbles with Quince Custard
Quinces represent a special childhood memory for me. My grandmother used to poach quinces in syrup and keep them in big glass jars in her walk-in larder. The quince poaching syrup turned a light pink colour and I remember how pretty it was. My grandmother used to open a jar or two after Sunday lunch, warm the fruit and serve it with thick sweet custard. The quinces were not only pretty but they were fragrant too and I loved the soft but grainy texture against the roof of my mouth.
This crumble recipe takes me back to my humble upbringing. I have chosen to serve individual crumbles in little espresso cups as they look pretty and sophisticated – perfect for a special occasion. The beauty of this recipe is that you can prepare everything in advance and simply pop the crumbles in the oven while you enjoy your main course, then reheat the custard to serve.
Ingredients & Method
For the poached quinces
- 500g caster sugar
- 500ml cold water
- 1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
- 1 bay leaf
- a sprig of fresh rosemary
- juice of 1 lemon
- 600g fresh quinces, peeled and seeds removed
For the hazelnut crumble mixture
- 100g plain flour
- a pinch of table salt
- 75g unsalted butter, diced
- 50g soft dark brown sugar
- 25g golden syrup
- 50g jumbo or porridge oats
- 20g blanched hazelnuts (skins removed), chopped
For the quince custard
- 200ml poaching syrup from the Poached Quinces (see above)
- 100ml single cream
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
For the poached quinces, first prepare the poaching liquid before peeling the quinces as they discolour quickly. Place the sugar, water, vanilla pod and seeds, bay leaf, rosemary and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil over a medium heat and boil for 2 minutes to form a syrup, while you prepare the quinces.
Peel and core the quinces, then chop the flesh into 1cm pieces. Add the chopped quince flesh to the hot syrup, then place a cartouche (a circle of greaseproof paper) on the surface of the syrup and cover the pan with a lid. Reduce the heat to low and poach the quince for 20–25 minutes or until it is soft but still retains its shape. Once the quince is cooked, remove from the heat and set aside.
While the quince is poaching, prepare the hazelnut crumble mixture. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, then add the butter and use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, golden syrup, oats and hazelnuts and mix everything together, then transfer the crumble mixture to the prepared baking tray and spread it out evenly. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until pale golden, stirring once during the cooking time. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Place 8 espresso cups or ramekins on a baking tray. Drain the poached quince through a fine sieve, reserving the quince and syrup separately. Discard the vanilla pod and herbs. Spoon the drained quince into each cup, dividing it evenly between the cups and filling each one about three-quarters full. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the poaching liquid into each cup, then fill to the top with the baked crumble mixture. You can set the crumbles aside at this point (see Cook’s Notes) until you’re ready to serve, or bake them immediately.
Bake the crumbles in the oven for 15–18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and the quince syrup is bubbling up around the edges of the cups.
Meanwhile, make the quince custard. Measure the 200ml of poaching syrup needed, then set the rest aside (see Cook’s Notes). Place the measured poaching syrup and cream in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a low heat. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl, then whisk a little of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture. Gradually whisk in the remaining hot cream mixture, then strain back into the pan. Cook over a low heat, stirring continuously, for 8–10 minutes or until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon; do not allow the mixture to boil or the custard may curdle. Serve the custard with the baked crumbles (see Cook’s Notes).
Remove the crumbles from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before serving with the custard.
You can make the crumbles up to 3 days in advance. Once made, store the crumbles in the fridge, then bring to room temperature before baking and bake as directed.
Keep any leftover poaching syrup from the quince in an airtight container in the fridge and use within 1 week. You can re-use it to poach another batch of quinces, or you could serve it with other poached fruits, such as pears, either chilled or by reheating it gently in a pan until piping hot.
The custard will have a grainy texture due to the natural texture of the quinces. If you would prefer a smoother custard, simply substitute the poaching syrup for milk.
The custard can also be made in advance, if you like. Make the custard as directed, then pour it into a bowl and cover the surface with a disc of dampened greaseproof paper (to prevent a skin forming). Leave to cool, then refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat the custard in a saucepan over a low heat until hot, making sure it does not boil.