It’s been gloomy and wet for over two weeks. It’s good news for the water reservoirs here that had been dried out. When my head gets clogged up with thoughts, I get into the kitchen and bake. Baking requires more concentration, which is a good therapy for a wandering mind. The lesson I got from my chef mentor still resonates in my head; don’t ever use baking powder or baking soda. I don’t know how many of you would agree with this but now I also much prefer to bake with yeast. The easiest way to create a darn good fruit-stuffed dessert is a strudel using filo pastry, which is sold fresh made in every block and is so handy dandy.
But for some whimsical reason, as it often happens to me – perhaps, I don’t like the sameness, – I decided to bake a yeast bread. Then, I saw quinces screaming at me, which were too many for the filling, so I decided to make quince paste, thinking of
the possible delivery of Hungarian blue-veined cheese, supposedly made with sheep’s milk, in a week. So when it happens, I’ll share with you the taste of Hungarian cheese and wine.
The quince paste I made with honey and a bit of brown sugar. Please don’t let autumn pass without making quince jam or paste. In Korea, we make quince marmalade by preserving thinly sliced quince in sugar to brew into a refreshing tea or a medicinal tea for a common cold. I know there are various ways to make quince jam. Some make with grated quince, some with sliced or cubed quince, and some prefer jelly. But what is the most important in all methods is to cook the skin and pips with the fruit. You can even add lemon pips for extra pectin as I did!
Then I boiled it with water, cloves and a pinch of anise. When the quince became soft, I took some out into a smaller pot and braised it adding cinnamon. It’s like killing two birds with one stone, which I often do as part of my organised eating plans. Mr.O often wonders how I keep little leftovers in the fridge all the time. For example, when I roast chicken or turkey, I throw in whole bulbs of garlic, and then, I use some for the sauce that evening and keep the rest mashed or whole in the fridge to be used in soup, dip, sauce, etc. for weeks to come. But sometimes, a disaster such as this can happen. I forgot about the quince being cooking while doing something else and it almost got caramelised but escaped the fate of being burnt, phew…..!
I simmered the quince for the paste for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally, and when it was done, I poured it into jars without thinking. Yes, I am very distracted these days, finalising the book editing. I go through hundreds of photos every day, which makes eyes idle and head dizzy. So smelling the sweet yeasty smell and being physical is quite beneficial to my mind.
For the dough, it was like between bread and croissant, which I’d aimed for. I advise you, though, that you make it into two loaves. I was a bit dazed and made into one long log, which I found was a bit too big. I improvised the recipe called, Spiced apple cream cheese Danish braid, but the link is no longer available, how funny! I vaguely remember that she spread a sort of cream cheese mixture at the bottom of the dough. Anyway, you can imagine it, I suppose. But mine is more fruit forward and the dough is softer than other braid bread recipes. But next time, I will make it in a Swedish style. Anyway, rain is forgiven as long as there is a sweet cake in the kitchen.
Quince Braided Bread
Ingredients (2 loaves)
For the dough
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 Tbsp melted butter
200ml warm milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g brown sugar
5g dry active dry yeast
a pinch of salt
For the filling
2 medium quinces, sliced or cut in cubes
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick (preferred)
squeeze of lemon juice
1 Tbs quince or apricot jam, a little water and butter for brushing
1. Put flour, sugar, yeast in a mixing bowl and combine the butter, milk, vanilla extract and salt in a separate bowl.
2. Gradually add the liquid into the dry ingredients and form a soft dough.
3. Knead the dough, either in the bowl or transferred to a floured surface, for 5-10 minutes until soothe and let it rise for 1 or 1.5 hours until doubled.
4. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by boiling the cut quince in sugar and spices until just soft.
5. Punch down the dough, divide into two, and on the floured board, roll each out into rectangular less than 1cm thick.
6. Spread the filling in the centre and cut 1 cm-thick strips along the sides, making sure both sides have the same number of strips.
7. Lift the left strip and put across the filling diagonally, just like braiding hair. The last strips need to tuck up a little to seal the end. Repeat the same for the other dough.
8. Rest the dough for 30 mins and preheat the oven at 180’C and bake for 20-25 mins.
9. Brush it with the jam mixed with a little water and melted butter, and dust with powder sugar if you like.