The Mighty Quince: Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Poached Quince

In early Fall I say tearful goodbyes to summer stone fruit and fresh berries.  The only thing that will improve my somber mood in the produce section is the appearance of a fall favorite- the gorgeous, fragrant, beautiful quince.  (And literally every time I see one I think of the “Jeopardy” scene from White Man Can’t Jump- it’s a food that begins with the letter “Q.”).  The quince is related to the apple and pear, though you can’t eat it raw because it’s too fibrous and will give your mouth that terrible puckery feeling.  That means you have to cook it, and the longer you cook it the better, because the flesh turns from whitish yellow to beautiful deep claret red.

We invited friends over for a small dinner party on Sunday and you know how I like to roll for a dinner party.  On the menu, fresh Greek salad with a brick of French feta piled on top, Wagyu ribeyes with white asparagus and balsamic glazed pearl red onions, and of course, dessert featuring the gorgeous quince I picked up.

For dessert I was inspired by an old cookbook a friend gave to me:  The Wine Lover’s Dessert Cookbook, which had a recipe for buttermilk panna cotta.  I thought it would be perfect with quince.

I brought 4 elements together for this beautiful plated dessert (see links to all of these recipes above): the buttermilk panna cotta, poached spice quince, almond tuile cookies, and candied hazelnuts.

A good plated dessert should be sweet but not too sweet, with something a little savory to balance the sweetness, and something crunchy to balance the soft textures.  This dessert nailed it.

The spiced quince melted in your mouth and really stood out against the mellower creamy smoothe panna cotta, and the hazelnuts added the savory crunch.  I knew it was a hit because all of my guests cleaned their plates.  The panna cotta was rich but not so rich that you could only eat a couple of bites.  I have to say I was proud of this one and may even mention the idea to my restaurant’s pastry chef.  It was the perfect finish to a meal with great friends.

Recipes for panna cotta, spiced poached quince, and candied nuts follow.  For almond tuile cookie, recipe here.

Buttermilk panna cotta poached spiced quince

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Serves 6
Prep time 3 hours
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 3 hours, 10 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Region Italian


  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1 cup Heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Granulated sugar (or Evaporated Cane Juice)
  • 1 cup Buttermilk


  • 1/2 Vanilla bean (seeds scraped)


Adapted from The Wine Lover's Dessert Cookbook


1. Prepare a muffin pan (I prefer the silicone type) or 6 small ramekins by putting vegetable oil on a paper towel and rubbing the muffin tin or ramekins with the oil.
2. Pour 1/4 cup cold water into a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over water and let soften for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, gently heat cream and sugar in a saucepan until it’s just warm, not hot or steaming. Scrape seeds from vanilla pod into cream and add the pod as well. Stir well to dissolve sugar.
4. Remove cream/sugar from heat once it’s just warm and stir in softened gelatin until it’s fully dissolved, about 1 minute. Stir in buttermilk.
5. Remove vanilla bean pod before pouring. Pour panna cotta mixture into muffin pan or ramekins. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, then put into the refridgerator to set, about 3 hours (can be made up to 4 days in advance, just store in the muffin pan in your fridge).
6. Run knife around muffin pan or ramekin and invert carefully on plate.

Poached Spiced Quince

Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 3 hours
Total time 3 hours, 10 minutes
Meal type Dessert


  • 2 Quince
  • 1 1/2 cup Granulated sugar
  • 3 cups Water
  • 3-4 Star anise
  • 15 Black peppercorns
  • 2-3 Cinnamon sticks


1. Add sugar and water to heavy pot and bring to slow boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
2. Peel quince, then cut 4 sides, cutting around the core like an apple (make sure you don’t get the hard fibrous core in your slices). Slice each of the 4 sides in 1/2" slices. Work quickly to avoid the quince turning brown.
3. Add quince slices to pot, then put spices in cheesecloth sachet, tied with twine, and add to pot. Simmer on very low heat, covered, for about 3 hours until quince turn deep amber red.
4. Remove quince from syrup and set aside for use in dessert. Strain spices and return red syrup to the pot. Create thicker syrup by reducing at a simmer, uncovered, until syrup thickens to desired consistency. Put in squeezy tube to use cooled syrup artfully on plate.

Candied Nuts

Prep time 20 minutes
Meal type Snack


  • 1 cup Nuts (Your choice: hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts all work)
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Water
  • Oil (Peanut, canola, or vegetable, enough to make 4" deep in pot)


1. In small sauce pan, bring nuts, sugar, and water just to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer for about 15 minutes until sugar water thickens to a syrup consistency.
2. In a separate pan, heat enough oil to submerge nuts. Heat oil until thermometer reaches 325 degrees (if you don’t have a thermometer, add 1 nut to test temperature, if it makes bubbles when you add it to the oil, you’re good, if the oil is smoking, it’s too hot). Deep fry nuts until they turn a nice dark brown.
3. Strain nuts from oil and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or silpat, keeping nuts separate so they don’t stick together as they cool. If you want them sweeter or saltier, toss with sugar or salt as desired. When they dry they’ll be nice and crunchy.



  1. Food perfection! We talked about our meal for hours afterward….

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