There seems to be a bit of a confusion related to the differences between quiches and tarts. Both of them are a form of an opened faced pie, quiche being exclusively savory with a filling based on a savory custard and tart being made in sweet and savory versions, with or without the custard.
Quiches are a staple of the classical French cuisine, but they have become popular all over the world in numerous different versions, having two characteristics in common: a buttery crust and a creamy filling based on a liquid dairy product and eggs. Since the moment Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking has come into my home, I keep going back to that beautiful, vintage cookbook, full of flavors and smells that take me to another, special world, world of the refined french cooking, based on quality ingredients and great techniques that accentuate the star ingredient, but don’t outshine it. Filled with step-by-step instructions and drawings, it makes the classical French cuisine seem easy and simple.
When it comes to quiches, I always go back to the most classical version of Quiche Lorraine.There is just something so special in that crispy, buttery crust and a creamy filling with caramelized cubes of bacon. Quiche Lorraine is one of the basic examples of how a combination of just a couple of simple ingredients gives a magnificent result. If you like bacon, that is.
For the crust I always use the classical buttery pâte brisée:
210 g pastry flour
170 g unsalted cold butter
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp cold water
To get a crispy end result, it is very important to make the dough as fast as possible, trying not to over knead it and let it get warm. This is a very important step, since kneading activates the gluten and makes the dough chewy and breadish instead crispy and shortbread-ish. The most simple way is to put the ingredients in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to break the butter, adding the water at the end. Put the crumbly mixture on a working surface and knead it very briefly pressing the dough against the surface until the dough assembles, it should not take you more than a minute. If you choose to do it by hand, break the butter with the flour mixture using your finger tips, add water then continue to do the same as mentioned above. Form a ball, wrap it in cling foil and leave for about half an hour in the fridge. Roll it out into a circle bigger 3 to 4 cm than the diameter of your quiche, tart or pie baking pan. Transfer the dough to the pan, best rolling it around the rolling pin, cut any excessive dough, pierce in a couple of spots with a fork to avoid the crust puffing up during baking and put in the fridge.
For the filling I use quantities that fill up the crust to approximately 2/3 of height:
150 g bacon
350 ml unsweetened heavy cream
2-3 pinches of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a pinch of ground nutmeg
Cut the bacon into cubes and fry on a hot pan till caramelized on all sides, removing all the excessive fat coming out of the bacon. Mix the cream, eggs and seasonings, check if the taste is to your liking and add more seasoning if necessary. Be careful not to add too much salt, because the bacon itself is usually pretty salty. Take the pan with the crust out of the fridge, add bacon and pour the egg mixture over the bacon. Bake in an oven preheated to 200 °C for about 25-30 mins. The surface should have a nice, golden-brownish color and the crust has to have a nice crisp. I recommend putting the pan on a lower level in the oven and choosing baking with the heaters option on and not the fan one. In that way, the crust is going to be crispy and baked on all sides, the problem being always the base under the filling. If you want to use the fan option, I recommend pre-baking (blind-baking) the dough before adding the filling. Blind baking stabilizes the dough, creates a sear and helps the final crispy result without risking the lower part to be less baked or unbaked. Blind-baking means putting a sheet of parchment paper or aluminium foil (shiny side down) over the dough and filling it almost up to the top with baking stones, dried beans or chickpeas, even rice. Bake for 10 min on 180°C, remove carefully the weights and paper or foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Than follow the instructions mentioned above, taking a close eye on the edges of the crust so they don’t brown too much. If they reach a brownish color and the quiche is still not baked, cover the surface loosely with a sheet of aluminium foil or parchment paper. They say quiches are properly baked if you are able to pick up a slice with one hand without it bending or breaking.
This is the most classical version that always makes the guests go ‘mmmm!’. With time, people started adding pieces of cheese on top, often Gruyère or some other aromatic cheese, using crème fraîche or sour cream in the filling, caramelized onions, leeks, adding herbs like fresh thyme, chives and other ingredients to their liking, but the base being always custard in the filling and the buttery crust. With this French classic you cannot go wrong!