Friday, October 12, 2007

An apple… I mean a quince, a day…

A slice of Apple Quince pie served with low-fat vanilla ice-cream

I grew up close to the mountains of Southwest Virginia. The staple fall crop in much of the area was apples. Freshly picked, sweet, and crisp apples! They were wonderful! I can name at least 3 apple orchards that were close to where we lived. Those old stores were always full of their newest apple crops, freshly made jams and jellies, local onions, potatoes, locally cured hams, bacon, and local clover honey. I loved going into those shops every year. Near the first of October pumpkins were also on the scene, but it was the apples that drew you to these wonderful orchard stores. If I close my eyes, I can still see the old wooden plank floors. I can still smell the unique warm and fragrant aroma of the apples that were picked that day. It was usually cold and often they had fresh hot apple cider waiting for chilled customers. I miss those old apple orchards.

I’ve never seen one like them down here in eastern NC, but thankfully I can still find apples. One evening last year a friend from church brought us a bag of “honeycrisp” apples. I had never tasted an apple so sweet and crisp. They were crunchy and seriously sweet, with a honey overtone. Our friend had ordered the apples from New York. I didn’t know where I was going to get them, but I was determined to find some of these amazing apples this year.

On the way home from PA, I saw an old orchard store and we HAD to stop! I made Michael turn the car around so we could get some apples. I was delighted when I discovered that they sold the honeycrisp variety! We picked up a small basket of apples, a glass jar of locally made apple butter, and as we headed towards the front of the store, I saw an oddly shaped, yellow apple-like fruit sitting on a table. A quince! I knew what this was! I had heard of this ancient fruit years ago, but I had never seen one! Also, in the Light and Tasty magazine I had picked up earlier that weekend, an entire 2 page section was devoted to cooking with quince!

Freshly picked quince

A quince is a very old fruit that is often referred to in ancient Grecian, Turkish, and even Macedonian manuscripts. It is thought that the quince was cultivated for cooking long before our modern apples. Interestingly, in the ancient languages of some cultures, the name for the fruit “quince”, would actually translate to our modern word “apples.” The fruit itself is yellow when ripened, is very fragrant, and tastes and smells sort of like a cross between an apple and a pear. The raw fruit is extremely sour and it is most often served cooked in sauces, jams, and jellies. Quince, similarly to other fruits, can also be used to make wine, and adds a unique flavor to baked pies such as apple and pear. Check out this interesting article in Wikipedia for more information on the quince.

The Light and Tasty magazine included a recipe for an “apple and quince pie.” It’s a great recipe. The next time I make this, I may try it with a more familiar apple variety such as red delicious. Michael is very sensitive to sour tastes, and the honeycrisps we bought actually were a bit on the sour side, so even though he liked the pie a lot, he thought it was tart. The 2nd best thing about this wonderful pie is the aroma. While baking and cooking the quince, it was like Christmas and warm cider. I can’t wait to make this again, even if it’s just for the aroma to float and linger through our little house!

I’m proud of this pie not only because I baked with quince for the first time, but because it was my first attempt at a gluten-free pie crust. It’s probably the first time I read all the directions ahead of time and followed the recipe exactly. I didn’t add or substitute any ingredients, and I’m glad I didn’t. I used the Vinegar Pastry from Bette Hagman’s classic cookbook, The Gluten-Free Gourmet, revised edition. This is an EXCELLENT crust, and trust me… if I could make it, its fail proof! Don’t let the word “vinegar” turn you off from making this crust. It doesn’t make the crust tart, but simply and beautifully enhances the dough. I plan on using this recipe from here on out for pie crusts! The first thing Michael said, after taking a bite of the pie was, “This crust is GOOD!!!” Coming from him, that is a true compliment!

The only addition I may make in the future is using different gluten-free flours. I think you could definitely substitute brown rice flour and even adding Teff flour, might give this crust a yummy, nutty taste. Let me know what you think!

Apple Quince Pie

A gluten-free revised version of the recipe from:
Taste of Homes, Light and Tasty Magazine

October/November 2007 pg. 58-59

  • 3 cups thinly sliced, peeled quinces (about 2-3 medium)
  • 1 can (5 ½ oz.) unsweetened apple juice
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • Gluten-Free pastry for a 9-inch single crust pie (see recipe below)
  • 5 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (sweet or tart to your liking), about 5 medium
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. rice flour
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg (I used freshly grated)


  • 1/3 cup gluten-free oats OR quinoa flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. rice flour
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. cold butter

In a large saucepan, combine the quinces and apple juice. Place cloves on a double thickness of cheesecloth; bring up corners of cloth and tie with string to form a bag, OR use a tea infuser, or tea ball (this is what I used.) Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 12 – 15 minutes or until quinces are cirsp tender.

Uncover quince mixture and simmer an additional 12-15 minutes, or longer until liquid is reduced to about 2 Tbsp. Discard spice bag. Cool for 5 minutes.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with gluten-free pastry. Trim to ½ inch beyond edge of plate. Flute edges, if desired (I used a fork). In a large bowl, combine the apples, sugar, rice flour, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Gently stir in quince mixture. Spoon into crust.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine the gluten-free oats or quinoa flakes, rice flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over filling. Bake at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


Bette Hagman’s Vinegar Pastry

From: The Gluten-Free Gourmet, revised edition, pg. 146

  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • ¾ cup tapioca flour
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • 1 rounded tsp. xanthan gum
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. ice water

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cornstarch, xanthan gum, salt, and sugar. Cut in the shortening.

Blend together the beaten egg, vinegar, and cold water. Stir into the flour mixture, holding back some, until the pastry holds together and forms a ball. (Kneading will NOT toughen this pastry!)

Form two balls and place in a bowl; cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (I actually refrigerated the dough overnight before using, this worked really well) Remove and roll one ball at a time between two sheets of plastic wrap that have been dusted with sweet rice flour.

To place in pie tin: Remove top sheet, and using the other for ease of handling, invert the dough and gently place it in the pan. Shape into curves before removing the second piece of plastic wrap. For a crust to be used later, bake in a preheated 450 degree for 10-12 minutes. For a filled pie, follow directions for that pie.

Makes two 9-inch crusts or a double-crusted pie.


Please check back on Sunday for next weeks Gluten-free menu!

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