Because I am so fond of her, I knew I had to participate in this week's #SundaySupper event, despite a nasty flu-like bug that has left me aching and feverish. This week's #SundaySupper is all about honoring Julia Child, who would have turned 100 years on August 15, by cooking some of her recipes. The last words of her introduction to The Way to Cook express some of the ideals of the #SundaySupper group: "The pleasures of the table--that lovely old-fashioned phrase--depict food as an art form, as a delightful part of civilized life. In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal."
After flipping through my copy of The Way to Cook, I decided to make a bacon and cheese quiche with a scratch-made crust, which may have been a little ambitious given the fever I've had all day, but hey, it's Julia, you know? How could I possibly just go and buy a crust?
This is the first pastry crust I have ever made, and I am happy to have finally tried it. I feel capable of making more pies, tarts, and quiches now (honestly, if I didn't have a bunch of book chapters to clean up for a client, I'd do it again tomorrow). Let me be clear, this wasn't easy. Making a good pie or tart crust is a difficult, fiddly business. But it's remarkably satisfying. And it tastes good and buttery, and it's nice, crisp, and flaky. The base recipe is also easy to repurpose for savory or sweet uses, so if you learn to make this one crust, you can make a lot of different tasty treats.
For the quiche shells, I deviated only in one respect from Julia's recipe. In place of the vegetable shortening required in the recipe (which I don't feel comfortable using because it's a mystery ingredient to me), I used lard. (I was so excited to find a source for local, grass-fed pork lard at the farmers market this morning; I know, call me a food nerd, it'll make me happy.) Let me explain a little about lard. Before the invention of hydrogenation, "shortening" was equivalent to "lard," which is white pork fat. Lard doesn't taste porky at all, it is a clean fat that is solid at room temperature (and very easy to make yourself). It prevents the formation of long strings of gluten, which means that your dough will be tender, not chewy like bread. If you don't want to use lard, just swap it out with vegetable shortening.
OK, so let's get to work. (And don't forget to skip to the end of this post and check out all the other tasty recipes and blog posts that are part of today's #SundaySupper #CookForJulia event!)
Ingredients for the Quiche Shells (Butter Dough)
- 1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) cake flour
- 1 tsp salt (for savory tarts) OR 1/4 tsp salt and 2 Tbsps sugar (for sweet tarts)
- 6 ounces chilled, unsalted butter, diced
- 2 ounces chilled lard (or vegetable shortening, if you must)
- 1/2 cup ice water (plus a few extra drops as needed)
Instructions for the Quiche Shells
I recommend making the shells at least a day before you plan to make the quiche. You can also shape the crust in the tart pan and freeze it for another day.
First, mix together the dry ingredients: the flours and the salt (or the flours, the salt, and the sugar).
Then, add the flour mixture and the diced cold butter to a food processor. Pulse the flour and the butter about 5 to 6 times (don't overwork this). Next, with the food processor running, add the lard (or shortening). Then add the ice water and pulse again about 5 to 6 times. The mass in the bowl should be loose and clumpy.
If you pick up a fist-sized clump of the dough, it should just come together. If it's too dry, add a few more drops of water.
Turn the loose, clumpy mass out onto a baking board (if you have a marble board, now's the time to use it). Just barely mash it all together and make two flat discs. (Keep in mind that you want to work this dough as little as possible.) Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least two hours and up to two days to let the gluten relax.
After you've let the dough chill, roll it out on a floured board. (Keep the dough cold. If it gets too soft to work with, just chill the dough again for 20-30 minutes and start over.) Roll it out to a diameter of about 12 inches (about an inch larger than the tart pan). Then roll the dough onto the rolling pin. Butter the tart pan.
Gently roll the dough on top of the buttered tart pan.
Push down the extra dough to thicken the side walls of the tarts. Cut off any excess dough by rolling the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan. Use any extra dough to fill holes as needed. Prick the dough all over and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Here's where you can freeze the dough to bake it another time.)
When it's time to bake the shells, preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a sheet of tinfoil and place it butter side down on top of the raw dough. Place either dried beans or pie weights on top of the foil, filling the pan. Slide the pan into the oven.
After 15 minutes, take the pan out of the oven (be very careful if you have a pan with a bottom that separates from the ring). Remove the pie weights or beans and the tinfoil. Prick the dough again and slide back into the oven for another 4 to 5 minutes to get some nice color.
After you take the shells out of the oven, let them cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then remove the pan and let them cool completely.
Ingredients for the Bacon and Cheese Quiche Filling
(This is enough for one shell. Feel free to use the second shell for another filling, or wrap it carefully and freeze it.)
- 6 slices bacon, sliced into pieces (of course, I used the Haskins' incomparable bacon)
- 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese (cheddar would be good too)
- salt, pepper, grated nutmeg
- 3 large eggs plus enough heavy cream, half and half, or milk to get 1 1/2 cups
Place the shell back into the tart ring or pan for stability.
Cook the bacon until it's crispy and let it drain a bit on paper towels. Line the bottom of the quiche shell with the pieces of bacon.
Sprinkle all but a tablespoon of the cheese on top of the bacon.
Mix the eggs with the cream, half and half, or milk (just enough to break up the yolks and disperse them evenly throughout the custard). Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. I also added some fresh thyme from the garden. Pour the eggs into the shell and sprinkle the reserved cheese on top. Slide into the oven for 30-35 minutes until the eggs have puffed and browned.
Let the cooked quiche cool on a rack for a little while, slice, and enjoy.
You can find other quiche fillings and lots of other great Julia Child recipes at these #SundaySupper blogs: