This pie is my interpretation of one in Thomas Dawson’s The Good Housewife’s Jewel, first published at the end of the 16th century, and the latest in my new series of historical recipes. I’ve followed his suggestions for both pastry and filling as faithfully as I can, because although Dawson gave more detail than many of his contemporaries, there’s still plenty of room for guesswork and because I’ve adapted it to modern tastes.
It’s a fascinating book and one I highly recommend if you have an interest in historic food. As was common at the time, his pie was highly spiced: “fill your paste almost full with cinnamon, ginger and sugar” he tell us. I’ve been a little more conservative. Dawson also outlines several pastry recipes, including one very similar to modern rough puff, although this is an enriched shortcrust.
I’ve chosen not to sweeten the pastry as there’s plenty of sugar in the filling for my taste and I like to retain some of the sharpness of the quinces. If you have a sweeter tooth, please use Regula Ysewijn’s version, detailed (with her permission) in this post.
No recipe is created from thin air. Not only did I use Dawson’s original, I took inspiration from Regula and from pastry maestro Calum Franklin (do please check out their books), and when it came to the not-very-Tudor top, from Karin Pfeiff-Boschek and Julie Jones (ditto). The main picture is my homage to photographer Ros Atkinson, aka Her Dark Materials. Any clunkiness is all my own.
Tudor Quince Pie
400g plain flour
200g butter, chilled and cut into 1cm dice
Pinch of salt
Pinch of saffron
2 tbsp cold water
1 egg and 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked together
850-900g quince, peeled, quartered and cored
Juice of 1 lemon
100g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
3/4 tbsp powdered cinnamon
2-3 tbsp ground almonds
Egg wash, to glaze
Make the pastry: crumble the saffron strands into a small bowl, cover with the cold water and leave to steep. Put the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and whizz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, or cut in the butter with a table knife and rub in with your fingertips.
Add the saffron water and the beaten eggs and pulse or cut in until the pastry starts to come together. Remove to a lightly floured board and knead as briefly as possible, to remove any cracks. Divide in half and form each half into a disc. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Please note that although I made a lattice (I had a new gadget to play with) this pastry better suits a conventional lid and decorations.
Prepare the quince: squeeze the lemon juice into a bowl and cut the peeled, quartered and cored quince into thin slices. Toss with the lemon juice to prevent browning. In another bowl mix the caster sugar with the ginger and cinnamon. Set both aside.
Heat the oven to 160C/320F/Gas Mark 3 and put in a baking sheet.
Remove one pastry disc from the fridge and roll out thinly to fit your pie tin. Mine is 23cm in diameter and 3cm deep. Trim the edges but leave some overhang to allow for shrinkage. Scatter the ground almonds over the base of the pastry shell – this helps absorb any juices during cooking.
Now scatter with some of the spiced sugar and add a layer of quince slices. Add more sugar and continue to layer the fruit and sugar until the pie is full, mounding it slightly towards the centre. Reserve a tablespoon of sugar for the topping and put the filled pie back in the fridge.
Take out the other disc of pastry – it may need a few minutes at room temperature to be flexible enough to work with – and on a lightly floured surface, roll out your lid. Cut a 3cm hole in the middle to vent steam (making it this big will enable you to check whether the quince is tender later).
Take the pie from the fridge, egg wash the rim and put the lid on top. Trim the edges and crimp.
Egg wash the top of the pie and decorate, using the trimmings. Egg wash your decorations and put the pie back in the fridge for half an hour. Remove, egg wash again and scatter with the remaining sugar.
Place on the pre-heated baking tray in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the quince is tender to the tip of a knife. Turn the pie halfway through to ensure an even colour. Keep an eye on it and if you’re worried the pastry is browning too fast, cover loosely with foil.
When done, remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before cutting and serving, or allow to cool completely. It’s good with thick cream or vanilla ice cream.