The Last Fruit of the Year

Most of the trees in my yard are fruit trees, and many of them are coming into full maturity and bearing potential. I was looking forward to a succession of harvests this summer, when fate intervened in the form of one small, scrawny squirrel.  She showed up under my birdfeeder last winter, looking like she was near death. It was fun to see her crouched outside the kitchen door eating seeds, and I even put out a few special treats for her. She grew fat and sleek, and in late spring she reappeared after a disappearance with five baby squirrels bouncing around behind her.  They had a very high adorable factor, and when they destroyed some green fruit I did not make too big a fuss about it. Then they disappeared, and I began to see squirrels around the rest of my neighborhood. Then, predictably, mother squirrel showed up with six new babies.  The remaining fruit was ripe, and they harvested it all. I mean all of it. A large prune plum tree, strung with plums so heavily that the branches looked like blue rope, was stripped in a couple of days. I was able to eat about five peaches before they were gone. Apples gone. Cherries gone.  I was reduced to buying local fruit at the farmers market, a sad comedown for somebody who has been tending fruit trees for the last decade.

Fortunately, it turns out that squirrels don’t like quinces.  My tree was loaded, and I set out to discover what could be done with quinces. I made a ton of chutney, and made some membrillo to serve with cheese,  but my favorite use is as a base for a flourless chocolate torte.  The original idea came from one of my favorite food sites, Food 52, and was based on eggplant.  You can read it here: https://food52.com/recipes/77833-ian-knauer-s-chocolate-eggplant-cakes. I made it once as written and liked it, but I felt that it could be improved upon. Quinces have an aromatic overtone and a lot of pectin, which helps this cake set.
You will need a special ingredient, black cocoa powder. I use Onyx brand. The cake is not the same without it. I keep it lower-carb with the use of special sweeteners which can only be obtained online: Sola sweetener and Truly Zero sucralose. If you choose to use other sweeteners from the grocery store, be aware that they are probably not really low carb at all, because most of them contain ingredients that can raise your blood sugar. Also, the texture and mouthfeel may be drastically affected. If you eat sugar, you can forget those two ingredients and sweeten it with sugar to taste. Otherwise, the only significant  carbohydrates present are from the chocolate and quince, and quince is not a sweet fruit.

Start with one large or two smaller quinces.  Scrub the fuzz off with a scrub brush, but don’t peel them. Most of the pectin is in the peel. Cut them in quarters, cut the core out, and steam them for about 25 minutes or until  easily penetrated with a fork. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line an 8” cake pan with parchment paper. In a double boiler or (very carefully) in a microwave at lower power, melt 2 4oz bars of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate and one full-size bar of excellent dark chocolate, 84-85% cacao content. Put the soft quince flesh in the blender and grind to a perfectly smooth paste with enough heavy cream to keep the mixture blending smoothly, usually about a cup. A Vitamix does a great job of this. Quinces are pretty fibrous, so make sure it is blended smooth. Scrape the mixture out into a mixing bowl. It will already be stiffening from all the pectin, so use a heavy wooden spoon for the rest of the mixing. Beat in eight egg yolks, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons vanilla,  a few scrapes of freshly grated nutmeg, 1/2 cup Sola sweetener, and 7 drops Truly Zero sweetener. Otherwise, sweeten with sugar to taste. Beat in the melted chocolate, and last, beat in half a cup of black cocoa powder. It will be really stiff by now and need a fair amount of muscle power. Taste, only if you are okay with raw egg, and adjust the sweetness if needed. This amount of sweetener gives a semisweet result.

Scrape into the parchment-lined pan, spread around neatly (it won’t spread in the oven, so get it the way you want it,) and bake at 300 until a clean knife comes out almost clean. Then-this is important-let it sit for at least 8 hours before you cut it, so it can firm up. Serve at room temp or slightly warmed, Never cold, with or without whipped cream, and enjoy. My motto is “Chocolate is food, not dessert,” and I have eaten a wedge of this cake for lunch on occasion.

I have frozen a number of one-torte portions of blended quince flesh and cream, ready to make this cake all winter.

 

6 responses to this post.

  1. Fantastic! I actually have quite few quince from my neighbors established yard. They grow so well, we need recipes for them other than quince-flavored sugar syrup. Off to gather a couple more of those quince! Thanks!

    Reply

    • Posted by wooddogs3 on November 13, 2018 at 8:49 am

      Hope you enjoy the recipe. I make some low-alcohol ferments for quick drinking without aging, and I am enjoying one made from water in which quinces were simmered. Then I add sugar and yeast and ferment it out dry. It is aromatic, hazy because of the pectin, and benefits from a touch of sweetness added just before drinking. I’m obsessed with fermentation right now. Have you dabbled in it much?

      Reply

      • Oh, a bit. The lacto/alcohol ferments I did back when I was about 16. It was hard because my parent’s didn’t approve of alcohol. So I kept them hidden in cupboards with surprising success. Although one of the bottles of small beer blew up. I have always had bubbling concoctions going, so that it was alcoholic I didn’t mention. That’s what I get for bottling beer in an used olive oil container!

        I made several batches of mead. One in particular had a mix of lemon thyme, lemon balm, and lemon verbena which I drank young and fizzy of its own liveliness. I also made some meads to which I added blackberry juice. These came out somewhat bitter and actually had too much alcohol. I like the softer lactoferments. Ginger ale I love. I have on my list to try a russian/autumn olive ferment.

        Worst ferment ever was dandelion root and leaves combined. I don’t know how, but even the glass of that jar somehow absorbed the deplorable gases of that catastrophe.

        I somehow thought you had an aversion to ferments? I think it was a comment you made about “surviving” past ferment crazes that gave me the idea. Glad to find out you do dip into it bit.

      • Posted by wooddogs3 on November 13, 2018 at 10:32 am

        I did make that comment, and what changed my mind forever was two books: the Wildcrafting Brewer, and, especially, the Noma Guide to Fermentation. They are both so good that I could not do without them, but the latter is a really extraordinary exploration of the flavors produced by fermentation. Have you seen it? What originally turned me off was the dreadful vinegary kombucha that people were always wanting you to drink a couple of decades ago, telling you that it would cure all cancer and practically make you immortal and other unlikelihoods, but the Noma people even do wonderful experiments with kombucha, and I have made things that I have actually enjoyed drinking recently.
        As much as I have come to enjoy the flavor of lactofermentation, I cannot actually imagine fermented dandelion root. You are braver than I am. But then, I don’t care for the roots at all and tend to leave them in the ground.
        So, in brief, I was wrong about home fermentation, and would love to hear more about your experiments. I am hoping to do a post on it soon, but it is so complex subject that it’s hard to know where to start.

      • Sorry, I didn’t see you had replied to until I came back to say I made the torte! Really good. My rendition is really strong because I just went with some stevia extract for sweetener. I did try steaming the quince slices in sauvignon blanc with nutmeg and vanilla thinking it might make a richer taste. Will have to compare with another approach sometime.

        Can’t eat much of this at once. The intensity of that flavor just invigorates the nerves and is very satisfying.

        Interesting about the Noma and no, haven’t heard of them. Will have to look into that.

        Vinegary kombucha is really nasty. I made GOOD stuff back at our old house in those cupboards I mentioned, but just haven’t found a niche at our current residence that makes the same. Funny how a place does that.

  2. Reblogged this on Mortal Tree and commented:
    Quince should have a lot of uses. The trees are hardy, long-lived, productive and beautiful. The fruit are beautifully scented such that just a few fill a whole room with their sweet, sweet scent. The only problem is they are pungently, spicy-sour as heck!

    Heather to the rescue. I tried out this recipe using just cacao powder rather than the specialty chocolate she recommends and way less sweetener. Do go with sweetener if you try this recipe. What I made I liked, as it was pungently spicy-sour chocolate. Most poeple who tried it thought it too pungent. Think of this recipe as an exotic, fruit based spice “cake.”

    P.S. Thanks for all your responses to the Intrinsic post! The project is now recieved over $500 of its $17,000 goal. Check out the reward tiers and get one! It can be as littke as $1, and $5 gets you in a thank you post on MT. You’ll want the book though. And don’t let let that pledge notification go to waste. Share it it by email, blog post, or social media to let people know you have extraordinary taste in Kickstarters and books! Thanks!

    Reply

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