Friday, April 6, 2012

over-the-top mushroom quiche

a tall wedge of mushroom quiche

This one is personal. Four years, five months and 19 days ago, I was bested by this quiche and as noted by the detailed date count, I may not be over it. Worse, it wasn’t even the quiche that bested me, but the crust. A flaky shell with even more fragility-enhancing butter than a standard pie dough, it was twice as big as a regular quiche shell, and then, instead of letting you press it into a shallow tart pan, it was draped inside the towering (okay, three-inch) walls of an open-hinged 9-inch springform ring. Without a base. This crust takes no prisoners and my 2007 take — a slippery, torn-up, leaky shell that only held half the quiche batter and dribbled much of that, too, onto the oven floor — was nothing to write home about. Not that this stopped me; this is, after all, an Internet Weblog.

the chilled buttery shell dougha ruler helps, sometimesto transfer the doughunfolding the dough inside

I finally got back to it last week and here’s the point in the story where I’m supposed to tell you that four years later, I won. In the Smitten Kitchen vs. Thomas Keller’s Buttery Quiche Shell smackdown, Smitten Kitchen prevailed. Take that, commenter who said “you know, this IS a Thomas Keller recipe so it’s not meant for the casual home cook,” and that “some things should be left to the pros.” Alas, I’d totally not seen and patched the tiniest of holes in my shell and a small amount of filling dribbled out. And then a huge chunk fell off the crust as I was trimming it. I did it to keep it real, okay?

draped over, like a blanketall pressed in pie weights and uncooked riceready to remove the weights

Nevertheless, if anything, that comment is the reason I’m here today because I could not possibly agree less. You are every bit as entitled to make this recipe as the most entitled commenter; what you may need — and what I needed — is a little more detail, the kind of detail that anticipates where most home cooks tend to struggle with buttery doughs.

a mix of mushrooms
a great big pile of sliced mushrooms
sauteeing the mushrooms
assembling the epic quiche

And that detail? There’s actually only one: Keep. Your. Dough. Cold. Cold butter is firm and holds a shape; warm butter is mushy and has no structure. We talked about this ever-so-briefly last summer when I made apple pie cookies, and it bears repeating: Promise me that you won’t mess around with soft dough, here or anywhere. The single easiest way to master crusts is to decide at the outset that you won’t waste your energy on limp, stretchy dough. As soon as your dough softens, transfer whatever you’re doing to the freezer for two minutes to chill it again. Soft dough is hard to work with. It gets sticky and you compensate by over-flouring it. It will also annoy you and make you think that you’re bad at working with dough but you’re not. You’re just warm-blooded and you need to put the dough back to chill for two minutes.

a towering, crowd-feeding quiche

The process for this dough is no different, but there’s just more of it: bigger volume, more rolling and a higher proportion of butter to flour. It gets soft faster.

the crust-trimming begins!
this is where I hold my breath
some more trimming is in order

But why, Deb? Why would I make such a pesky-sounding quiche? you ask. Because, my friends, this is the quiche your weekend needs. This is quiche for a crowd. I love thin and delicate savory tarts but the effort that goes into those eight little wedges hardly balances the speed in which they are diminished. And when you want to make quiche for a big brunch, or an Easter lunch, or a bridal or baby shower or for your family that looks suspiciously at quiche and then reaches for seconds, it’s nice to only have to make one. One towering quiche. Thomas Keller gets this. This recipe, even with its fussy crust preparation, is worth fighting for because in the end, you will totally conquer it, everyone will love it and then you get to do this.

[You can come back here in an hour when you're done hitting Random on that site. I totally understand.]

a quiche to feed a crowd
over-the-top mushroom quiche

Happy holidays, from all of us.

One year ago: Apple Tarte Tatin, Anew
Two years ago: Tangy, Spiced Brisket and Radicchio Apple and Pear Salad
Three years ago: Bialys, Braised Artichokes with Olive Oil and Lemon and Chewy Amaretti Cookies and Artichoke Olive Crostini
Four years ago: Shaker Lemon Pie and Spring Panzanella
Five years ago: Mixed Berry Pavlova, Artichoke, Cranberry Bean and Arugula Salad and Arborio Rice Pudding

Over-the-Top Mushroom Quiche
From Thomas Keller

[Adaptation notes: I tweaked the ingredients, just a little; added weights and lots of directions that I hope will make this recipe easier for the pastry-averse.]

Keller recommends that you use 1 pound of oyster mushrooms and 1 pound of white button mushrooms for this recipe. I used a smaller mix of the two, plus a pound of cremini (or baby portobello) mushrooms. Use whatever you’ve got around. I insist that while a large mix mushrooms are wonderful to cook with, you can get plenty of delicious flavor in this quiche from any everyday mushrooms you can get at a good price.

He also recommends that you use 2 cups milk and 2 cups heavy cream. I did this, but have made many quiche successes in the past with all milk, some milk and some half-and-half, or just a higher proportion of milk (say, 3 cups) to heavy cream (i.e. 1 cup).

To par-bake or not to par-bake: Par-baking tart shells is, honestly, my least favorite cooking task. I would rather empty the dishwasher twice in an afternoon. However, doing so ensures a more crisp, browned crust. If you’re not overly concerned about this, you can skip this step and just pour the filling into the chilled unbaked shell. If you’d like to go the extra mile, the directions are included. Warning: A 9-inch pastry ring holds 15 cups of filling. You will need 15 cups of pie weights, dried beans or rice (that you don’t wish to cook later, as the toasting will make them take forever to cook) or pennies/loose change. I used a canister of old rice and pie weights and still came up an inch short.

Update 4/12/12: After reading a few comments about the softness of the quiche, I realize it would have been helpful to mention at the outset that this quiche is a bit softer and creamier than most. Keller says he prefers his that way. It’s likely to be less sturdy than many of us are used to. For example, in the two Julia Child quiche recipes I know, the proportion of milk/cream/dairy to the same number of eggs (6) would be anywhere from 2 to 3 cups, not 4. So, if you’re concerned you may not like a softer quiche, you can add another egg or even two to it.

Buttery Pastry Shell
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sicks or 225 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into a small dice
1/4 cup (60 ml) water, ice cold
Neutral oil, for brushing springform

Filling
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive or vegetable oil
2 pounds (905 grams) mushrooms (see Note up top for suggestions)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced (I used 4 small because I’m a rebel)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced (use 1 teaspoon only if dried/jarred)
3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces or 70 grams) Comte, Emmantel or Gruyere, grated
2 cups (475 ml) milk
2 cup (475 ml) heavy cream
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Make buttery shell: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix 1 cup of the flour with all of the salt. Then, with the machine on low speed, add the bits of butter, a handful at a time, until the butter is completely incorperated. Add the remaining flour until just blended, then the cold water until thoroughly incorporated. Dump dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a flat, round disc. Wrap it with the plastic and chill it for at least one hour, preferably overnight, and up to two days.

Prepare shell: Set the ring of a 9-inch springform pan, leaving the hinge open, on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the inside of the ring with lightly with oil and set aside.

Generously flour your counter, then place the chilled, unwrapped dough on the flour and flour the top of the dough. Roll you dough into a 16-inch round. The dough is going to be very hard at first, but keep at it, pressing your rolling pin gently from the center; it will get easier as it stretches out, and it’s best to start when its very cold as it will remain the coolest/most firm longer. Re-flour your surface as needed, continually lifting and rotating your dough to make sure no parts are sticking. If at any point the dough becomes sticky, soft and, frankly, annoying, just slide it onto a floured baking sheet and pop it into the freezer for two minutes for it to cool down again. If it tears, just overlap the sides of the tear and roll them back together. Don’t fret tiny holes; there will be time to patch later.

You can transfer your dough to the prepared pastry ring in one of two ways. Keller’s method is to roll it up on your rolling pin, then unroll it in the ring. I like to gently fold mine into quarters, without creases, and unfold it in the ring. Gently lift the edges so that the slack of the dough drapes in. Press the dough into the corners and up the sides of the ring. Trim the overhang to 1-inch and please, save your scraps. (I did not. The ring your see pictured is round two. I don’t want to talk about it.) Chill the pastry shell (and the scraps, so they don’t get mushy) in the fridge for 20 minutes (if par-baking) or until needed (if not par-baking).

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Decide if you want to par-bake your buttery pastry shell: Read the Note up top first.

To par-bake your pastry shell: Line your chilled buttery pastry shell with a 14-inch round of parchment paper, or, if your parchment paper isn’t that wide, two sheets in opposite directions. Fill completely (or whichever wall parts aren’t filled will collapse a little) with pie weights/dried beans/uncooked rice/loose change and bake in your preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lightly golden at edges. Carefully remove weights and parchment paper and return shell to oven, baking another 10 to 15 minutes longer, until “richly brown” (as per Keller) on bottom. Set aside to cool while you make your filling. Leave the oven on.

Prepare filling: In a very large skillet, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring, until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the butter, shallots and thyme and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender, about 12 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper and let cool.

Assemble quiche: Whether or not your par-baked your buttery pastry shell, check it for holes or cracks that would cause leakage. If you see any, seal them with the trimmed scraps from the dough. Scatter 1/4 cup (one-third of) cheese and half the mushrooms in the bottom of the pastry shell. Either in a blender (Keller’s recommendation) or with a hand whisk (what I did), mix half the milk, cream and eggs with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (this seemed like a lot, I used less, wish I’d used the full amount), several grinds of black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg (if using) until frothy. Pour into the pastry shell. Top with another 1/4 cup of the cheese and remaining mushrooms. Make the custard again with the remaining eggs/milk/cream and same seasonings and pour it into the shell. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cheese on top.

Bake quiche: For 1 1/2 hours, until nicely bronzed on top and the custard is just set. (My tester came out damp but not eggy; i.e. clean.) Let cool in pan until warm.

Serve quiche: Using a serrated knife, trim the pastry shell flush with the top of the pan. Run your knife around the outside of the quiche, inside the ring to make sure it’s not stuck anywhere. Take a deep breath. Lift the springform pan ring off the quiche. Applaud. You can trim your crust further if there’s a big gap between the top and the top of your crust but you might want to do so more neatly than I did. Cut the quiche into wedges and serve warm, with a delicate greens salad.


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