October 15th, 2009

Quince Crumble

Twice Baked Quince and Hazelnut Crumble with Quince Custard

This is a pretty humble dish in itself  but the kind of dessert  that would be perfect to round off a lovely family Sunday roast with all the trimmings. It’s mid October, the chill is starting to settle in and it’s time to turn the central heating on.

Quinces have a special meaning for me as it reminds me of my childhood. My grandmother used to poach the quinces in a syrup and keep them in big glass jars in the large cold larder. Granny’s  larder was unique, the kind you do not see in homes any longer.In summer and the early autumn months  she used to prepare  poached fruits, jams, pickles, chutneys, air dried meats, biltong and plenty of delicacies for the colder winter months. My grandfather used to have a large plot of land by the house where he tried to grow nearly everything. I remember the tall paw-paw trees by the front entrance, the cape gooseberry bushes planted under the dining room window. I used to play with my dolls underneath the cape gooseberry bush as it made a perfect canopy for a “tent”. To the other side of the house were mango trees and at the back he had avocado trees, tomatoes, figs, cucumbers, potatoes, aubergines, quinces, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries and by the garage were the seriously tall pecan nut trees. Writing this I realised how incredibly privileged I was to have experienced all of this, to such an extent that I took it all for granted. I expected that everyone I met would have had a similar upbringing and all the ‘goodies’ available were normal, how disillusioned and privileged am I?

Granny used to poach the quinces in a syrup and they turned light pink in colour after a while. I remember how pretty they were. She used to open a few jars after Sunday lunch and serve the fruit with thick sweet custard. Gran and Grandad had seven  daughters and sons in law and 12 grandchildren. You can imagine that the family Sunday lunch was a big occasion and a lot of jars of poached quinces from her special larder made it to the dining table. It was a true feast and a wonderful family occasion. I remember enjoying the quinces a lot, they were not only pretty but fragrant and I loved the unique soft but grainy texture, as I rubbed the warm poached quince against the roof of my mouth.


Today I made this crumble as it’s the kind of family occasion dish for me. I poached the quinces in a syrup infused with bay leaf, vanilla and rosemary. I think quinces are very much under used as people are either scared of it due to the fact that it discolours so quickly, it’s hard to cut , or they simple just do not know it as well as I do. Fear not, it does require a bit of elbow power to cut it but be careful and make sure you mix it with a splash of lemon juice to prevent it from discolouring.

I think there is nothing worse than a soggy crumble topping where the fruit juices have bubbled up and have been soaked up by the uncooked flour and butter mixture. Writing about it actually makes me cringe. For all these reasons I prefer to pre-cook my crumble mixture in the oven before topping the poached fruits and then bake it for the second time. Hence the twice baked quince and hazelnut crumble. I  have chosen to add a bit of extra texture by adding roughly chopped hazelnuts and jumbo oats to my crumble topping. If you can get hold of Jumbo oats then I recommend that you purchase them specially for crumbles and flapjacks. They sustain a coarse and chewy texture and prevent it going soggy and disappearing quickly. I also add the oats after I have rubbed the butter into the sugar and flour to preserve the texture.


I have chosen to make these crumbles in little espresso cups, it looks pretty and to be completely honest after a heavy Sunday roast you do not really need a large bowl of crumble.

I make a quince custard with the left over poaching syrup. I have to warn you that the texture will be grainy due to the quinces and if you do not  like that  texture then simple ordinary custard would be just as good.

The beauty about this recipe is that you can prepare everything in advance and simply pop them in the oven whilst enjoying your main meal.

Bay Leaf and Vanilla Poached Quinces

  • 600g quince, peeled and diced
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 150ml water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • 1 whole un-waxed lemon

First prepare the poaching liquid before preparing the quinces as they discolour quickly.

Place the sugar, water, vanilla seeds and pod, bay leaf, rosemary and the juice and the lemon carcase into a saucepan, bring the syrup to the boil over very low heat.

Let the syrup boil for two minutes then start to prepare the quinces.

Peel and core the quince, cut into roughly 1cm pieces, place the quinces into the hot syrup, place a cartouche on top and slowly poach the quinces over low heat so that they retain their shape but cooked at the same time.

Once the quinces are done turn the heat off and set aside whilst preparing the crumble.

Hazelnut Crumble

  • 100g plain flour
  • 75g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 25g golden syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 50g dark brown sugar
  • 50g Jumbo or porridge oats
  • 20g chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Place the flour, sugar, golden syrup, salt and soft butter into a mixing bowl, use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture forms coarse breadcrumbs.

Add the oats and chopped hazelnuts, mix and transfer the crumble mixture to the lined baking tray, even out and bake the crumble mixture for 20 minutes, stir it once during the cooking time.

Quince Crumbles

  • Poached quinces drained
  • Poaching liquid
  • Baked Hazelnut Crumble Mixture

Preheat the oven to 180°C and place 8 espresso cups on a baking tray.

Spoon the drained poached quinces into each cup about 3/4's full, pass the poaching liquid through a fine sieve and spoon over 2 tablespoons of the poaching liquid into each cup.

Fill the cups to the top with the baked hazelnut crumble.

Place the cups on the baking tray, when your ready to serve the crumbles bake them for 15 - 18 minutes in the preheated oven.

Let the crumbles cool for 5 minutes before serving them with the quince custard.

Quince Custard

  • 50ml of the quince poaching syrup
  • 120ml milk
  • 100ml single cream
  • 2 free range egg yolks
  • 10g caster sugar

Place the poaching syrup, milk and cream in a saucepan, gently bring it to the boil.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolk and sugar, pour a little of the hot milk mixture into the egg mix and then pour the egg  mix back into the hot milk mix.

Return the mixture to low heat, stir continuously until the custards thicken but do not boil the custard as it will curdle.

Once the custard is cooked pass the custard through a fine sieve and serve with the crumbles.

Serves 8 espresso cup size portions

Food Fanatics Tip

Remember the custard will have a grainy texture due to the natural  texture of the quinces. If you do not like this texture I suggest  that you do not use the poaching liquid, substitute the syrup for milk.

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7 Comments to “Twice Baked Quince and Hazelnut Crumble with Quince Custard”

  1. Jacqui Dyer says:


    I started making this from your British Larder book with the tartlet image attracting me to it. I got very quickly confused when I couldn’t find the pastry recipe part as shown on page 363 or see the crumble in the picture. I then checked across to here and my confusion was solved.. Wrong image in the book.

    Will have to make both now :-)

  2. amelia says:

    Your photography is stunning and I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog. AND wonderful dishes.

  3. I always thought that quinces were something of the Elizabethan era. It’s only coming to New Zealand where they are grown that I’ve become aware of them again. We planted a quince tree in our orchard so it will be a while before I have my own.

    I love the principles of this recipe – quince or not, it’s a thought for other crumbles which we love but seem a bit peasant to serve for a dinner party. Now I know…..!

  4. Fran says:

    Hello again. Thanks for keeping me up to date with all your fantastic recipes. Had the picnic jar in front of tv on rug – friends and family thought I’d gone made until they tried it – such fun!
    Question: – I grew in my garden a few years ago ‘spaghetti squash’ amongst other things and it was fantastic – similar to bake like a butternut squash, but when you scoop out the flesh it is just like spaghetti – great if you on a diet and so unusal – so many things you can do with it. I can never find it in shops though and sadly I do not have a garden any more as I had to move so cannot grow it myself – any ideas/recipes – if you don’t know no one will!

  5. Elisa says:

    May I ask what make is that gorgeous creamer in the first photo?
    Quince custard sounds wonderful!

  6. Sue says:

    You are so right about baking the crumble topping separately. I first tasted this at a restaurarant in Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsulat in New Zealand and it was a revelation and now I happily serve this wonderful traditional dessert without that awful resulting studgy topping, that lies heavily on the stomach afterwards!

  7. Thermomixer says:

    Thanks – great tip about the crumble. I love quinces and made some quince paste in the Thermomix recently – separated the skin and core and cooked first with some water while steaming the slice in the Varoma and then strained the liquor, to get the pectin without so much of the grainy bits, and then fruit and liquor into TMX with sugar and an hour later- and once cooled – wonderful smooth quince paste.

    Like the idea of the bay leaf in the poaching liquor and may try the custard in the TMX.

    Thanks again.

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