These lovely sweets are a type of Pate de Fruit, which is the French term for small squares made of reduced fruit juices thickened with gelatin. The difference is that here I rely only on the pectin in the quince to thicken the mixture and no gelatine is added.
As I use unpeeled and coarsely chopped quince for the paste, the result is on the rustic side, which I personally like. Using the unpeeled fruit also helps with getting an all-natural beautiful pinkish-orange color. The color develops while cooking and deepens as the paste dries out.
The origin of the dish is Sephardic, and the recipe I’m using here is based on my grandmother’s recipe for “Dulce de Bimbrio”, a Ladino term for quince jam. If you want to learn more about Ladino and Sephardic cooking, check under this posts’ introduction.
I am aware of the fact that this recipe looks complicated, but it really is not as hard to make as it looks. All it requires are very few ingredients, keeping an eye while cooking, and some patience with the drying process.
I am sure that you will find the result so tasty; you will see that the extra effort is well worth it. However, if you don’t have the patience to wait for the paste to dry, you can use the cooked mixture as a tasty jam.
Makes: about 45 squares
Prep time: 30 minutes
Waiting time before cooking: 2 hours
Cooking time: about 2 hours
Waiting time after cooking: 5-7 days
3 medium size quince
2 cups sugar
3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 cups water
1. Wash and dry the quince. With a heavy knife, cut into small sections. (This will make it easier to remove the core with the seeds.)
2. Place the cores in a large piece of cheesecloth and tie to a bundle.
3. Cut the quince into large cubes, and process coarsely in a food processor with the metal blade. You will end up with about 3 cups of chopped quince.
4. Place the chopped quince in a wide pot and add the sugar, lemon juice, salt and water. Mix well and add the cheesecloth bundle. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, so that the sugar will dissolve and the fruit will break down a bit.
5. Mix again and cover the pot. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to medium-high. Cook covered for about 10 minutes, to let the steam wash the sugar from the sides (this will prevent the sugar from crystallizing.)
6. Uncover and cook on medium heat for 50 minutes, mixing occasionally. While the mixture is still cooking, remove the cheesecloth bundle, place on a plate and let cool a bit. Gently press out the liquids and add them to the pot.
7. Keep on cooking the mixture for about another hour, mixing occasionally, so that the mixture will not scorch at the bottom. In the last 15 minutes, mix more frequently, as the liquids will evaporate and the risk of scorching is higher.
8. Meanwhile, line a 9.5” (24cm) square pan with baking paper.
9. When almost all the liquids have evaporated, transfer the paste into the pan. Place on a rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover very loosely with baking paper, to keep dust away but still let the mixture dry out. Keep in a dry and warm place.
10. The next day, carefully take out the paste with the baking paper from the pan. Clean the pan and line with a new piece of baking paper. Carefully turn the mixture on it, top side facing down, and remove the top baking paper.
11. Repeat the turning process for 3-4 days, until you see that the paste is dry on both sides.
12. Line a large cookie tray with baking paper. Place the dried quince paste on a large cutting board. Cut off the edges with a large knife and then cut it into about 45 squares of 1.2” (3cm) each.
13. Place the squares on the tray, not touching one another. Let dry for 1-2 days longer, turning occasionally.
14. Transfer to a container lined with wax paper and place the squares in layers separate with more wax paper. Cover the container loosely. The sweets will keep up to 10 days, though I’m quite sure they will be gone much faster…