Cracker cups

paprika cracker cups with membrillo and manchego

When speaking of my quince obsession the other day, I told you about membrillo, a delicious Spanish quince paste. Due to the miracle of quince’s high pectin content, when cooked for a long time at a slow temperature, it makes this lovely firm jelly, that is as pretty as it is tasty.

In Spain they eat it with manchego cheese, a dry, salty sheep’s cheese. The combination is uncommonly good! I decided to make some little cups out of cracker dough, and put a small piece of membrillo and a small piece of manchego in each one. It looks fancy, but it’s also nice because you get the full experience in one bite – sweet & soft, salty, and crispy crunchy. I made these with smoked Spanish paprika. Because 1)I make everything with smoked spanish paprika (I swear, I have to stop myself, sometimes!) 2) It’s Spanish, like the cheese and the quince paste 3) it makes the dough a beautiful pinkish salmon color that goes so nicely with the lovely pinkish amber membrillo!

I simply made a quick cracker dough, and rolled it into little discs that I pressed into a mini muffin tin. I didn’t want them to be too neat and orderly, they look more like little flowers if you just press them quickly together and crimp them randomly with your fingers.

You could use any kind of cracker dough, and put any number of things inside (food-type things, preferably!) Tapenade and fresh mozzarella would be good. Or goat cheese and a little sprig of arugula, or some capers. Whatever you like!

Here’s Bob Marley’s beautiful My Cup to listen to while you make your little cracker cups.
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I have to admit to being somewhat quince-obsessed. I’m fascinated by any fruit that requires a bit of attention before it’s palatable. (I have a black currant bush and a quince bush in my garden, but I haven’t really had fruit from either yet.) It’s such a contrast to the standard American attitude toward fruit, which is that it should be sweet the instant you pick it, and then it should be individually packed in corn syrup and plastic.

So, quince. They’re so odd-looking but pretty, and they have such an intoxicating fragrance when they’re ripe. Plus, they’re elusive. It’s quite a quest to find quince fruit where I live, although you see quince bushes with their crazy bright-pink flowers everywhere in the springtime. A few years ago I pestered the produce people at my local shoprite every time I went. Eventually they got a big batch of quinces. I hope somebody else was glad to see them there!

So yesterday, when my friend Kate gave me a bag containing 5 quinces, it made my day! They were past the first blush of youth, and looked a little grey and furry, but they smelled ridiculously good!

I poached some in port wine with a large apple, and I made a sort of compote to go on my almond cake.

port-poached quince compote

And with the rest I made membrillo, a Spanish quince paste that I’ve tried to make several times over the years with varying results. Well, it worked this time! I haven’t tasted it yet, but I almost don’t care how it tastes! Because it’s so damned pretty. I bought a vanilla bean towards the end of the summer, and I’ve been saving it the way I save really beautiful blank books that are too nice to actually write in. Well…membrillo was worth it! I’ll try to find some manchego cheese to go with it, which is how it’s meant to be eaten!
Here’s Quince, by Sonny Stitt
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