Archive for custard

Recipes: Quiche, a Basic How-To

Posted in Recipes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2014 by KarenElizabeth

When I was in university, I made my first vegetarian friends — and I had no idea how to feed them.  My high-school girlfriend’s brief flirtation with vegetarianism had consisted mostly of grocery-store-brand veggie lasagna, vegetarian chili-cheese fries at the cafeteria, and eating a lot of raw veggies & dip.  I’d never had to cook an entrée that didn’t include meat, before, and wasn’t entirely sure where to begin.

A search online for vegetarian recipe ideas led me to a food I’d never tried before:  quiche.  I figured that something which looked essentially like an omelette in a pie crust couldn’t possibly be half bad, and whipped up a quick version with broccoli, mushrooms, and three kinds of cheese.  It was a success, and quiche entered my cooking arsenal as an easy, quick, and crowd-pleasing piece of comfort food.

quiche

These days, while quiche remains an easy default for vegetarian-friendly meals, it’s something I make more often as a portable lunch-option for work, or as something I can quickly reheat when I’m too busy to cook for a few days.  It’s also a great way of using up leftovers, since you can throw pretty much anything into a quiche and it’ll come out tasting pretty good.  I usually do, in fact, use meat in my quiches — today’s version includes pork sausage — but they’re an incredibly flexible food that you can easily tailor to your particular desires.

 

The Crust

The most labour-intensive part of a quiche is the crust.  I generally use my basic pie crust recipe as the starting point, but since a quiche doesn’t require a top crust I’ll just whip up a half-sized batch.

Cut a half-cup of vegetable shortening into 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour and a pinch of salt, until you’ve got a crumbly mixture with no big clumps of shortening.  At this point, since quiche is a savoury dish, you may want to add a few herbs — I like to toss in a sprinkling of dried Italian herbs for visual interest and a bit of a flavour-hit in the crust.  Sprinkle cold water in, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough just comes together into a slightly-crumbly ball.  Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes or so before rolling out into the bottom of your pie dish (or a round cake pan will do, if you want a deeper quiche with a more straight up-and-down edge — a springform pan will allow you to make a deep-dish quiche without the difficulty of removing it at the end).

Alternatively, you can either use a store-bought crust, or puff pastry.  Either is perfectly acceptable (although everyone should really make a scratch-made crust at some point in their life).

 

The Filling

As I’ve already mentioned, you can put pretty much anything you like into a quiche.  Meat should be pre-cooked (for today’s quiche, I browned the sausage & some onions in a frying pan for the filling), but vegetables can be either cooked or raw — I tend to prefer raw veggies, since they retain more of their individual flavour and texture within the cooked quiche.  Frozen veggies are perfectly acceptable, here — just give them a rinse to get rid of the “freezer taste”.  Dark green veggies like broccoli, asparagus, and spinach are classic quiche ingredients, but don’t feel limited; use whatever you like.

Leftovers are a great option for quiche, so this is the perfect place to use up the last bits from your roast or chicken dinner.

Depending on the texture you prefer, you can use large or small pieces in your filling.  I like the texture & flavour variations provided by using larger pieces of veggies, but it’s entirely up to you.  Smaller bits will give a more uniform flavour throughout the dish.

quiche filling

Where I differ from many classic quiche recipes is that I like there to be a LOT of stuff in my quiche.  While custard is delicious, I prefer to add just barely enough egg & cream to hold the whole thing together, to make a more hearty meal.  So as you can see in the photo, I fill my dish right up.  Meat, veggies, and plenty of cheese, with just a few little spaces in-between for the egg to fill.  Putting the majority of the cheese on top (use any kind you like; my quiche today has a combination of Parmesan and sharp Cheddar) makes for a nice toasted, crispy top that both looks and tastes delightful.

 

The Custard

The defining ingredient of quiche is, of course, the custard.  Thoroughly beating the eggs is important to getting a nice, fluffy texture on your finished product.  For my 9″ pie pan, I use 3 eggs and about a cup of cream (5-10%, although whole milk will do if you’re concerned about fat content).  Add your herbs & spices to your custard — salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika (be generous with the paprika) are my usual “basic” mix, and then I’ll add other spices to compliment whatever filling I’m using.  Chili spice or cayenne for a spicier meal, parsley & sage to go with chicken, rosemary with beef, dill & thyme with fish — or, like today, a generous scoop of curry powder to compliment my pork sausage.  Make sure the herbs & spices are thoroughly mixed in, then pour your custard mix slowly over top of the filling in the pie shell.  A few light taps on the side of the pie pan will make sure that the custard has filled up all the holes between the filling.

quiche before baking

Note that your quiche should not look particularly “full” of custard at this point.  It will puff up during cooking — if the pie pan is full to the brim, you’ll get spillover as things cook.  You can see in the pictures that mine looks quite “shy” before going in the oven, but once things are cooked the eggs have puffed up to fill the remaining space.

Cooking, Serving, Storing, and Re-Heating

In an oven heated to 375 Fahrenheit, bake your quiche for about 40 minutes (until the crust is golden-brown).  Once you take it out, let it sit for 5 minutes or so before serving — this will let the custard solidify a bit more, and make it easier to slice & serve.

quiche toasty cheese

I like my quiche with a bit of hot sauce on top, or occasionally a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  If you’re feeling decadent, you can drizzle on a bit of hollandaise.  A 9″ pie pan makes about 4 servings.  A bit of salad on the side rounds out the meal, but certainly isn’t necessary.

Quiche will keep wonderfully for 3-4 days in the fridge — wrap tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or store in an airtight container, to prevent it from drying out.  Or you can divide it into portions & freeze for 2-3 months.

Reheating is best done in an oven or toaster oven, to maintain the crisp & flaky crust.  If you’ve frozen your quiche, reheat it directly from frozen, don’t thaw it out first.  If you’ve just been keeping it in the fridge, it should only take about 10 minutes to be heated through & ready to eat.

Microwaving is faster, but your crust will get soggy.  3-5 minutes should do, depending on your particular microwave.

You can also eat quiche without reheating, which is often what I’ll do at lunch time.

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Happy Pi Day!

Posted in Recipes with tags , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2010 by KarenElizabeth

Happy 3.14, everyone!

For ScienceBlogs’ Pi Day competition, I’ve whipped up a pie that I’m calling “Citric Acid in your Eye Pi”.

Last year’s contest winner involved bacon, and I had no wish to be a copycat, so I’ve steered clear of meat entirely (because let’s face it: bacon is pretty unbeatable, so doing some other meat would just be begging for only second place).  Instead I chose to do a pie involving my arch nemesis: whipped eggs.  Custards and meringues have always posed a great problem for me, because no matter how many tips and tricks I learn, no matter how long I chill the bowl and the beater, and no matter how sure I am that there’s not a single drop of yolk or fat in the mix, there’s a 50/50 chance that my eggs just won’t ever reach stiff peaks.  The reaction that makes simple egg whites turn into fluffy deliciousness is both fascinating and frustrating to me, and I love it.  It also seemed appropriately scientific, considering that this contest is being done through ScienceBlogs.

Once it had been decided that custard was the order of the day, all that remained was to think of a flavour.  Blueberries were suggested (they’re Kenneth’s favourite), but then another reaction came to mind: the curdling reaction of milk and acid.  It’s always baffled me how lemon custard can manage to come out so sweet, without curdling into something completely disgusting, when the recipe involves both milk and lemon juice.  I made a few alterations on an old-fashioned recipe, threw in a quote from The Simpsons (episode 2F22, Lemon of Troy), and voila!  A pie was born, and my contest entry completed.

The Recipe

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter (softened)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup citrus* juice
  • 2 tsp citrus* zest

* My original recipe just calls for lemon, but today I used a mix of lemon, lime and orange.  You can use any and/or all of the above.

The Prep

Start by building yourself a crust.  Any type of pie crust will do, but today I used a chocolate crumble crust.  Simply combine together 1-1/4 cups of chocolate cookie crumbs with 1/4 cup of melted butter, and press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan.  Refrigerate the crust until the filling has been prepared.

To make the filling, combine the sugar and butter together until the butter is well mixed in.  Then add the two egg yolks, and again mix well until the mix is relatively homogeneous.  Next add the milk, flour and salt.  This is easier if done in several additions, so that the flour doesn’t clump up.  If you do end up with clumps of flour, use a fork or a whisk to break them up.  Finally, add the citrus juice and zest.  Set this mixture aside while you deal with the egg whites.

As I mentioned above, whipping up egg whites into a nice, frothy foam has always been a bit of a cooking challenge for me.  Others continually inform me that it’s a very easy thing to do, but experience has taught me that there are many ways that it can go wrong.  So here’s a few tips to help you out:

  1. Make sure that your bowl and whisk (or beaters, if you’re using a hand mixer) are VERY clean, and completely free of any oil or grease.  The tiniest drop of oil in the mix will totally screw things up.
  2. Chill the bowl and whisk beforehand in the refrigerator.  The cold will help.  I use a metal bowl, but glass will work just as well (it just takes a bit longer to chill down).
  3. Don’t let any egg yolk get into your whites.  If you’re not really confident in your egg-separating abilities, you can do each one separately into a smaller dish, and then pour all of your successful whites into your mixing bowl only once you’re sure that they’re yolk-free.  If you screw up an egg or two, don’t worry:  cover the dish with plastic wrap and set it aside in the fridge for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Once you’ve got your egg whites separated into your clean, cold bowl, get whisking.  The egg whites will first become frothy, and then will start to stick together (and to your whisk).  When you reach the stage known as “stiff peaks” — a consistency similar to whipped cream — you’ve had success, and you can stop whipping.

Fold your whipped egg whites into the rest of the custard mix, then pour the whole thing into your prepared pie shell.  Then it’s into the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes to an hour — a toothpick inserted in the center of the pie should come out clean.

The Decorations

For the chocolate decorations on top of this pie, I melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips together with a little bit of butter (about a cup of chocolate chip to a half-teaspoon of butter).  The butter prevents the finished product from getting that white stuff on the outside.  I then poured the melted chocolate into a Ziplock baggie, and snipped off a tiny corner.  Through that corner I could then pipe the chocolate designs out onto some waxed paper (always do a few extra pieces, just in case some break when you try to lift them up later).  The chocolate then went into the fridge to harden and cool.

For the citrus slices, I simply sliced very thin pieces of lemon, lime, and orange.  I then covered those slices with white sugar, and refrigerated them for a few hours to let them soak up the sweetness.

It’s very important to not put on your decorations until the pie has COMPLETELY cooled.  Otherwise the chocolate will melt, and the citrus slices will sink into the custard.  Be patient, and leave your pie in the fridge for an hour or two before attempting the decorations.