Fueled by pie and motivated by the hope of warmer weather and big trees, we pushed westward. We headed toward the stunning Apache-Hargreaves National Forest in central Arizona. Neither of us were familiar with the area, so I asked other road trippers in a boondocking Facebook group where we should set up. More than a few folks said that Forest Road 9350 was the place to go for spectacular off-the-grid camping. We drove on as the sun dipped, into a Ponderosa pine forest, down a washboard road, to another side road, and then into the dispersed camping area we called home for the next three nights.
We parked near the edge of the Mogollon Rim, a breathtaking 200 mile long plateau with a 2,000 foot drop. Our only neighbors, 100 yards down the road, were quiet equestrians there to enjoy the trails. We were surrounded by beautiful pines. They provided a refreshing familiarity to me after having spent many nights in barren deserts. The topography was friendly enough to navigate that we could easily hike for hours off-trail and not get lost. And, I had a camper pantry full of local foods.
We hit the south west during persimmon, chile pepper and quince season. This made me so very happy. I had never cooked with either of the fruits, and was eager to see what I could create in the little camper.
I bought Fuyu persimmons directly from a farmer who told us that he puts them in BLT sandwiches, in place of tomatoes. Ok, I can work with that, I thought. I would make little pizzas with the classic combo of a honey drizzle, a nut, a soft cheese, and a fruit. In this case, New Mexico pecans, Queso Fresco, and persimmon. I topped it with fresh sage that I flash fried to a crisp in hot olive oil.
I whipped up some empanadas with a simple saute of whatever veggies and proteins I had in the camper fridge, and added freshly roasted peppers. I had no idea what to do with the quince, but I was up for a challenge.
Luckily, some digging online resulted in a very easy and very special tart that can be made in one pan with basic ingredients and a simple, everyday dough.
Quince Tarte Tatin
For the Easy Everyday Dough
- 2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½" cubes
- ⅓ cup ice water
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp vinegar, white, apple, or rice
For the Quince Tarte Tatin*
- 7 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup honey
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp spice of choice, ginger, cinnamon, allspice
- 6 large quince
For the Easy Everyday Dough
- In a large bowl, toss the flour with salt. Knead the butter into the flour with your hands, until the mixture looks crumbly.
- In a smaller bowl, beat the egg together with vinegar and water.
- Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture while stirring with a fork, until barely incorporated. Be careful not to mix too much.
- Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface. Knead with your hand's heel twice, just enough to make it into a quick dough. Shape the dough into a flat 1-2" tall circle and wrap it in plastic. Let the dough chill for at least an hour.
For the Quince Tarte Tatin
- Mix the water, sugar, honey, lemon, spice, and vanilla in a large pot over medium-high heat.
- While the liquid is heating, quarter, peel and remove the cores of each quince.
- Add quinces to the simmering water. Cover the pot with lid, leaving it partially open to allow some steam to escape.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer, do not boil, for at least an hour, until the quince are cooked through. Cooking time will vary, depending on the quince. They're done when they are cooked through but are not mushy. Test by piercing one with the tip of a sharp paring knife. Remove from the poaching liquid, pat dry and reserve 1 ¼ of the poaching liquid.
For the Quince Tarte Tatin Assembly
- Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
- Pour 1 ¼ cup of strained fruit poaching liquid into a nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is thick and syrupy (the consistency of honey), and then remove from heat. You should have ¼ cup left.
- Pat the quince quarters dry, and lay the poached quince snugly against each other, rounded side down, in the pan. Pack them in tightly as they'll settle down once baked.
- Remove the dough from the fridge. On a lightly-floured surface, roll the dough to ⅛" thick and into a circle a few inches bigger than the pan you're using. Only roll as much dough as you'll need for this recipe. Refrigerate leftover dough for another dish.
- Drape the dough over the quince, tucking in the edges, and bake on a lower oven rack for 45 minutes. The tart is done when the dough is deep golden brown.
- Remove the Quince Tarte Tatin from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. Place a rimmed serving platter or baking sheet over the tart. Flip the tart over. You may wish to wear long oven mitts and be sure to take appropriate precautions as hot liquid will inevitably escape. Save this hot liquid to glaze the tart!
- Serve with yogurt or whipped cream.