This Turkish quince dessert, or ayva tatlısı, is a good illustration to the importance of picking a right cooking method to fully unleash the flavor. I find raw quinces rather unattractive for eating as they are hard to bite and astringent. A few hours in the sugar syrup in the oven though do wonders to quinces: they become syrupy as if their every tiny cell gets soaked with viscous honey – sheer indulgence!
I first tried this dessert prepared specially for me in a Turkish home. By that time I was sure I had reached the ultimate heaven through the excessive introduction to all the baklavas and lokums. But when I tried ayva tatlısı I did realize the new horizons in the Turkish desserts were yet aplenty. So, last time I was in Istanbul I got sure to pick up some quinces from a fruit vendor and imported them home to make this wonderful dessert. I found a recipe shared by Anna Colquhoun who acquired it on her culinary and anthropological explorations in Turkey.
Turkish Quince Dessert Recipe
Ingredients (4 servings)
2 large quinces
150 g light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder
clotted cream or fat vanilla ice-cream
- Prepare quinces: Wash and peel them, then halve to get two parts sitting firmly on their underside. Now carve in a a hollow that would keep about 2-3 tsp liquid in. Put a clove in each quince's hollow, mix cinnamon and sugar and add 3-4 tbsp mixture onto each quince.
- Pick up a right pan: Pick up a pan that would be wide enough for the 4 quinces halves. Pour a glass of water into the pan – it would be rather critical that the water goes up to the cuts of the quinces' halves sitting next to each other. I've picked up a pan that was too wide and the edges of the quinces lot slightly burnt. Add some quince seeds and several peelings of quince skin to the water to deepen the color.
- Send to oven and attend hourly: Cover the pan with a lid or foil and bake in the center of a very low oven (110C/230F) for six or more hours until quinces are deep red and the syrup is thick. Check them out every hour to make sure there is enough syrup and add water if necessary. There is no drama if you keep quinces baking for less than 6 hours: I kept mine for 3 hours and they still turned wonderful. 6 hours would produce a perfection, though.
- Cool and serve: Let quinces cool in the syrup. Servethem with some syrup and topped with clotted cream or with fat vanilla ice-cream on the side. In Turkey they also serve it with ground nuts – walnuts go particularly well.