Perfecting the Quiche

It has been awhile since you’ve read about any of the goings-on in this gals kitchen.  There’s a reason.  A wedding – our son’s wedding brunch and I get to be part of the cooking staff and have been experimenting. I’m trying to perfect recipes. The wedding is in two weeks! Yikes!

I don’t mind making and eating mistakes.  But this is A WEDDING!!!  It will go down in history.  What we eat is a small part, but every small part adds up to an experience that is either excellent or somewhere below that mark.  My goal is excellence. *Same with what dress to wear too, but hey, aren’t you glad this is a cooking blog?  Maybe I’ll share a picture later.  Nix that. Here’s my dress.  Land’s End. It’s beautiful! That’s not me in the pic. 🙂

This is where and when the ceremony will take place. Sunrise.

Followed by a brunch a little later (Watch the ceremony in your pajama’s, they said. YES!)

So I’ve been trying to perfect the quiche.  Don’t get me wrong.  My quiche has always been good.  But there are those quiches that are incredible, and mine have not been that.  Incredible means a perfectly smooth, creamy thick custard delicately balanced over bits of bacon, onion and cheese.

I’ve asked a dozen professionals for advice and have read just about everything I need to know to become an egg scientist.  To bath or not, ratios of eggs to cream – or milk or half and half.  The crust – or no crust.  Then the temperature and method of cooking.  Every book offers something different on all those issues.  It’s no wonder “Real men don’t eat quiche.”!

But now they will: watch me work.

Do you see in that photo the little bit of shine at the center of the quiche?  This is important. Do not ever overcook eggs.  They continue to cook after they are removed from the oven.  This is key if you want a good silky texture. Otherwise the quiche will shrivel and be too dense and dry; like most of mine in the past. But never again!  The test  is to insert a butter knife about an inch from the edge of the pie when it starts to turn a little golden on top.  When the knife comes out clean, with no bits of custard on it, it’s done. It won’t seem done, but will finish on the cooling rack.  Don’t be afraid.  It should still be jiggly in the middle.  For me, since mine will be in the deep freezer until that morning, I had to under cook them even more so that when they’re re-heated they won’t be over done.

So many variables in kitchens.  Every oven is different.  If you use a shallow or deep pan, the thickness of your crust, or no crust at all.  How much bacon and cheese and other ingredients all have a direct affect on the time of cooking and the finished product.  That’s why the learning is in how ingredients react and balance.

I used 9″ fluted, disposable cake pans for this recipe because they have to travel and I don’t want to bring empty pans home.  I chose to use the recipe for the crusts from the Strawberry Rhubarb Slab Pie from the May 22nd blog.  I rolled them out very thin, pricked them with a fork, brushed with an egg wash and did not precook them.  Oven was at 400 for 15 minutes, reduced to 300 for 30 minutes.  This worked out perfectly, except I had to take mine out after only 25 minutes. 

Ratio: 4 extra large eggs to 1 1/2-2 cups of cream.  My pies were deep dish so I used 2 cups cream.  For a pie pan I’d go with 1 1/2 cups of cream. Or half and half or whole milk can work.

Another tip is that the richer the dairy, the silkier the finished product.  Can you use skim milk? Sure.  But to obtain a rich and silky quiche use at least half and half.  

Using a wire whisk, whip the eggs for a minute or two and then add 2 cups of cream. Whisk till well blended.  Add spices.  For this quiche I used a dash of cayenne pepper, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar. Whisk together.

Next is the assembly line.  It’s important to have a balance of ingredients and you place them in the pie shells by weight: heaviest at the bottom and build.  Since I really like to see a thick layer of custard on top I try to keep the fillings under an inch in height at the base of the pan.

For these quiches I added caramelized onions.  Quiche Lorraine doesn’t use caramelized onions. This is a variation that I was told is “to die for”.  Chop the onions to make 1/2 cup.

Then cook them in a bit of butter over medium high heat, stirring until they’re brown and soft but not burnt.

This photo shows them caramelizing, but you want to cook them beyond what they look like in this photo to no whiteness left, but rather a golden yellow well browned mess of onions.  Set aside and cook about 1/4 pound of chopped bacon until there are no more bubbles and they are crispy but not burned.

Now comes the assembling.  Start with the onions, then the bacon on top of the onions.

Next comes the cheese.  A word about the cheese.  After much counsel the consensus is that a good Swiss or Jarlsberg, or a combination of the two, is great.  You can add Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese, which are both incredibly nutty and rich in flavor, but cost $$$$.  The key is good quality ingredients so you don’t have to break the bank on a good quiche. I was making 4 quiches and spending lots of $$$$ everywhere, so I went with the advice of caterers whose livelihoods depend on perfection.  Does it sound like I’m trying to relieve my guilt?

One cup of freshly grated cheese goes on top of the bacon:On top of all this pour the egg and cream mixture, making sure you cover everything but don’t overflow the pan:In the preheated to 400 degree oven, carefully place the quiches on the middle rack.  Bake for 15 minutes at this temperature, then reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and continue to bake for 30 minutes.  After 25 minutes check the quiches to see if they are finished.  Otherwise, at about 30 minutes insert the knife about 1 inch from the side and if it comes out clean. It’s the knife test that counts more than the time. These are done even though you can see that they are not completely cooked in the middle.

Cool on rack and serve at room temperature.  Or, cover with aluminum foil and chill until you need them, then bring them back to room temperature.

I’m sure you’ll see photos after the wedding and we’ll see how these turn out after all the travel they’ll go through.

DRY ICE: An interesting note about traveling with foods like this.  I had to figure out how to make these in advance, freeze and then travel for several hours in a car, then to the plane across the lake to the island, and then to keep them frozen for two days at a hot cottage with little refrigeration space. Dry ice is amazing stuff, I’m told.  Not only is it lighter weight, but it will hold things cold or frozen for several days.  Regular ice can even be placed over it, with a piece of cardboard in between and it will prevent the ice from melting.   So dry ice has more value than making a volcano in science class in elementary school! Cool, huh?

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One thought on “Perfecting the Quiche

  1. The quiches were to die for. Everything I had hoped for in the balance of silken custard and subtle marriage of caramelized onions and Jarlesburg cheese and bacon. The dry ice was just shy of a waste of money. If it isn’t kept completely airtight and insulated it doesn’t last long. However, it did get me from Wednesday night through to Friday around noon when I had to rescue the food and place it in a real freezer.

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