Nigel Slater writes that you have to wait until the clocks go up to buy quinces. He does not say why that is, but at least in my case, that seems to be about right. After weeks of scouring the market and supermarket closest to my house, literally the day after the clocks went back, I finally found a little basket with a few quinces on my weekly foodshop. I cannot even remember what I paid for them, I was just so excited to finally get my hands on some quinces. A portion of the quinces are currently macerating for a twist on the classical mince meat I am trying and the remainder I used to make these scones.
Quinces can be difficult to like, let alone love. For starters, they are inedible when raw. Peeling them is as much fun as peeling pumpkin (and if you are feeling too lazy to bother, take comfort from the fact that according to Niki Segnit much of the flavour of quinces rests in their skin). And choring them puts you at risk of seriously hurting yourself. That being said, once you have successfully taken apart your quinces, poached them with some vanilla, roasted them in some honey and marsala or turned them into quince jelly to eat on a slice of baguette slathered with a thick layer of salted butter, all that hard work will have been worth it. Quinces have a unique and complex flavour, heavy and sensual with an aroma similar to apples and pears mixed with sweet honey and an unmistakeable muskiness.
I love a good fruit scone, my favourite to date being Gail’s enormous blueberry, apricot and ginger scones – a thin crust gives way to a perfectly moist, soft and buttery interior, studded with little blueberry and apricot jam-like pockets and a good punch from the candied ginger (and I don’t even like candied ginger all that much). That being said, these scones might be my new favourite – I tweaked my scone recipe and am finally super happy with the texture (I think the secret is using yoghurt or buttermilk and baking soda). And as for the flavour, quince and honey are a natural pairing lending the scones a wonderfully complex flavour, reminiscent of honey but more floral and musky, different and wonderful.
If actual quinces are hard to come by where you are or dealing with quinces all sounds a bit like a faff, try and at least buy a jar of quince jelly and use a little bit of the warmed jelly to glaze fruit tarts or Krantz cakes and Babkas instead of the more typical apricot jam and you will be surprised how different the flavour is (I really like to glaze flat apple or pear tarts with quince jelly).
Roasted Quince and Honey Scones
Makes 6 large scones
Note: not only helps the roasting bring out the sweet flavour of the quince, it is also necessary to soften the fruit as the short baking time of the scones would not be enough to cook the quince sufficiently. I roasted the quince the night before I wanted to make the scones to save time in the morning and to give the roasted quince time to cool down. While the recipe only asks for half a quince, feel free to roast the whole fruit – the roasted quince is delicious on its own or on top of some yoghurt or porridge. I think some diced and candied ginger would be a lovely addition to the scones or even some dried rose petals crushed with some muscovado sugar and scattered over the top of the scones before baking. These scones are only lightly sweetened with a bit of honey, but I quite like that, especially when having these for breakfast. As always with scones, these are best eaten straight from the oven, ideally with some salted butter (because salted butter never hurts).
250g quince, chored and finely diced (ca. 1/2 medium quince)
2 tbsp marsala or other dessert wine
225g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 pinch of salt
50g cold butter, finely diced
2 tbsp milk
1. Start by roasting the quince. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Mix the quince with the marsala and 1 tbsp of the honey in a shallow roasting tin and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the quince is soft. Set aside to cool.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. In a big bowl whisk together the flour with the baking soda and salt. Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles sand with a few larger pieces of butter still visible. Dump the roasted quince together with any juices from the roasting tin and stir into the flour.
4. Whisk together the yoghurt and the honey and pour over the flour. Using your hands combine everything quickly into a ball – don’t worry if the dough is sticky and a bit rough, just make sure all the flour has been incorporated.
5. Dump the dough onto the parchment lined sheet and using floured hands shape dough into a rough circle, pressing down gently until the circle is ca 3-4 cm high. Using a floured knife cut the circle into 6 triangles, keeping the shape of the circle intact. Brush with the milk before placing in the oven for 20 minutes until risen and light brown in colour.