Until I met M, my consumption of French pastries and baked goods was limited to the croissants and fruit tarts from Delifrance which, although good, were a far cry from the flaky, delicious versions offered at your neighborhood boulangerie in France. All the same, I was content with the Singaporean versions of feuillette de poulet, pain au chocolat and a dizzying array of fruit tarts for breakfasts or lunch treats, but could never comprehend the Quiche. I mean, a savory tart? Weren’t all tarts meant to be of diabetes-inducing sweetness, filled with a bed of rich custard and drizzled with high-fructose corn syrup? It didn’t help that the quiches at Delifrance looked completely tired and resigned to their fates as The Quiche That Wasn’t Quite The Real Thing, trying in vain to adopt an appetizing veneer despite their soggy crusts from sitting in the pastry case for the whole day. My mother was very excited when quiche appeared on the menu and faithfully supported those sorry little tarts. But I wasn’t convinced, and remained loyal to the glistening orbs of fruit in the dessert case.
So the first time that M prepared a quiche lorraine from scratch, I was less than eager about it, albeit curious to discover how the crust would turn out. The story has a happy ending (hence this post), and I realized with my first bite how I had severely underestimated the pleasures of this dish. Of course, a home-made version easily trumps any commercially-prepared product, but regardless, I was hooked. The crust was deliciously crisp and flaky, solidly supporting a filling of bacon, ham, cheese, eggs and cream, spiked with generous doses of nutmeg.
After a couple more quiche dinners, inspiration started to kick in. We had quiche with smoked salmon and spinach, with sun-dried tomatoes and bacon, with leeks and mushroom….the possibilities were endless. With the easy dough preparation using a standard pâte brisée recipe, and the leftovers for lunch the following day, there was little to dislike about this humble tart.
This recipe features one of my favorite quiche fillings, as the meat assumes a starring role in tying together the tart’s flavors. Be sure to use the best bacon you can get your hands on, and if you’re in the Bay Area, I highly recommend checking out the offerings at the Black Pig Meat Company.
Bacon, leek and mushroom quiche
Makes enough for a 9-inch tart pan, yielding 6-8 servings as an entree or 2-4 servings as a main course.
4 ounces/100grams all-purpose flour, plus half a cup
2 ounces/ 60 grams magarine or unsalted butter at room temperature and cubed
Half a packet of active dry yeast (about 0.16 ounces/ 4.5 grams)
3.5 ounces/ 80ml cold water (chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using)
Pinch of salt
4 pieces of bacon, cut into half-inch strips
1 large leek, white part only, quartered
5 fresh white mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 ounces/ 85 grams grated parmesan
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Begin by preparing the pâte brisée by combining the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl, then mix in the margarine/butter cubes with your fingers, tossing them until all pieces are coated with flour. Make a well in the center and add all the water. With a fork or a dough whisk, slowly gather all the ingredients into a sticky ball, then add the remaining half-cup of flour, a tablespoon at a time until all the flour is combined. Ensure that the flour is fully absorbed before the next addition.
Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead with the tips of your fingers until you get a dough that is smooth and pliable but not sticky, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it back in the bowl and chill for at least 45 minutes, before shaping the tart shells.
In the meantime, prepare the filling. Saute the bacon strips until just crisp, drain and set aside.
Set a saucepan of water to boil and blanch the leek quarters until just tender, about 4 minutes. Cool under running water, then chop each quarter into sixths or eighths, depending on the size of your leeks.
Whisk the eggs and cream together, then add the nutmeg, and a dash of salt and pepper.
When you are ready to assemble the quiche, preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F and grease the tart pan.
Roll out the chilled dough on a floured surface. After passing the rolling pin over the dough once, flour the top, flip it over and rotate it 90 degrees clockwise. Repeat until the dough is about a quarter-inch thick. This method of rolling out the dough ensures an even thickness and prevents the dough from tearing when being transferred to the tart pan.
Once the dough is at the desired thickness, transfer to the tart pan and, using the tips of your fingers, gently press the dough into the corners of the pan. You should have some dough overhang along the rim, which can be removed by gently passing your rolling pin over the top of the pan. The excess dough can be rolled up into a small ball and toasted in the oven along with the quiche, making for a delicious snack.
To fill the pan, begin with the dry ingredients before adding the cream/egg mixture. Layer the bottom with a generous sprinkling of parmesan, which will help absorb the liquid and prevent your crust from getting too soggy. Then evenly distribute the bacon, leeks and mushrooms over the surface of the tart, then add the rest of the cheese. Pour the cream mixture over all the ingredients, continually whisking as you do so.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the quiche turns a deep golden brown.