May 9, 2014

Spring Quiche

I first made these quiches a few weeks ago for brunch when my grandparents were here. Everyone loved them, particularly my grandma, my mom, and my sister, so it seemed fitting to write about them for Mother's Day. If three generations of women (all with very different tastes, might I add) loved them, they have got to be good.

Let's start with the crust. It's really the only thing in this recipe that's not so good for you. I use my basic savory pie crust, which is literally just flour and butter with a pinch of salt and sugar. Just throw everything in a food processor, adding a sprinkle of water as necessary to form a cohesive dough. I then roll the dough out very thin and cut it into approximately 5" circles to fit 4" tartlet pans. I love my tartlet pans for this because you get a bigger crust to filling ratio (and we all know the crust is the best part) and everyone can have their own little tart(s). An added bonus is a shorter cooking time; it takes much longer to cook a quiche in a 9" pie plate (which you can do with this recipe) than in a few 4" tartlet pans.

After you press the dough into the pans, freeze them for a while before baking. It's one of the few secrets of making the perfect pie crust because baking cold butter makes a flaky pie crust. There's a whole scientific explanation, but I'll save that for another post. I blind bake my crusts before filling them to prevent sogginess and ensure that they cook through. Blind baking simply refers to covering the dough with foil, filling the crater with pie weights or dried peas/beans, and baking until the crust is almost cooked through. It keeps the crust from puffing up and browning too much.

As for the filling, I wanted to celebrate spring and Mother's Day. To me, that means lots of squash and zucchini, and I also throw in some mushrooms and mozzarella. Crispy bits of pancetta or bacon would be delicious as well. I cook all the vegetables before I mix them into the filling so that I can bring out their flavors. I saute them with thyme and shallots for a gentle herby flavor that complements rather than competes with the delicate flavors of the squash. Thyme is one of my favorite herbs, and it's worth splurging on fresh thyme for this recipe. Shallots are less harsh than onions but offer a bit more flavor than garlic. I saute everything in batches so that all the vegetables brown evenly.

The final steps entail making the quiche "batter" and assembling the tarts. To make up for the butteriness and fattiness of the crust, I use milk instead of cream and low-fat mozzarella. You can always use the full-fat version, but I find that I can save calories without sacrificing flavor, so why not? I just whisk the milk and eggs together, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the mozzarella.

To assemble everything, I layer a few slices of squash, zucchini, and mushrooms on the bottom of each crust. It helps prevent the egg mixture from seeping into the crust, and they rise to the top as the quiche cooks anyway. I then pour some of the egg mixture on top of the vegetables, avoiding pouring any between the crust and the pan because it will cook and make it extremely difficult to remove the tarts later. Finally, I bake them until they are just set in the middle. You don't want to overcook or undercook them, so go by texture rather than time. I estimate about 20 minutes, but start with 15 and check every few minutes until they barely jiggle.

That whole description makes these quiches sound extremely difficult, which isn't exactly what you want if you wake up at 6 a.m. to make breakfast in bed for your mom. I'll admit that these do take a while to make, but there are ways to make it easier. Although my crust recipe only takes a few minutes to throw together, you can save time by using a pre-made crust and cutting it into the proper shapes. Or you could skip the individual tartlets altogether and go with a full-size pie pan quiche. It may take longer to cook (about 40-45 minutes), but you won't have to cut and press each crust and shingle on vegetable slices for each individual tartlet. Finally, you can saute the vegetables in advance and use them later on. My family snacked on leftover squash and zucchini for days because I made extra, so I know they keep well. I'm sure the quiches do, too, but we managed to eat an entire batch in one sitting, so I wouldn't know for sure.

1 Recipe Savory Pie Crust Dough, Blind Baked in 10 Tartlet Pans (See Below)
½ lb Yellow Squash, Sliced
½ lb Zucchini, Sliced
½ lb Mushrooms, Sliced
2 Small Shallots, Minced
1 T Fresh Thyme
¾ Cup Milk
4 Eggs
¾ Cup Shredded Mozzarella

Heat oven to 350ºF.

Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the squash, zucchini, and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 4 minutes. Add the shallots and thyme and cook for 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk the milk and eggs together. Season with salt and pepper and add the mozzarella.

Spread a few slices of squash, zucchini, and mushrooms in the bottom of each tartlet pan. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Bake for 20 minutes or until just set.

For the Pie Crust:
1 ¼ Cups Flour
1 ½ tsp Sugar
½ tsp Salt
1 Stick Butter, Chilled & Cubed

Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor to combine. Add the butter and pulse until small lumps remain, then drizzle in cold water until it clumps together.

Grease a pie plate, tart pan, or tartlet pans. Roll the dough to fit, then press lightly to adhere. Chill until cold and firm, then prick with a fork. Heat oven to 375°F and blind bake for 20 minutes. Bake for another 5 minutes or until golden.

Makes 10 Individual Quiches

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