Bacon and Leek Quiche, with two cheeses and a simple four-ingredient crust, makes a satisfying lunch or dinner with the addition of a side salad. Recipe below.
As much as feminists—myself included, the proud, vigilant father of two daughters—would like to believe otherwise, men and women are different. Equal, but different. Men are from Mars, women aren’t afraid to make pie crust.
That’s the only reason I can think of that I haven’t made quiche before now. Yeah, a lot of recipes let you cop out with store-bought crusts, but I told myself that if I was going to make a quiche, I was going to make the crust too.
While we’re at it, let’s deal with the other elephant in the room. Men and quiche. As Epicurious.com says, “Quiche made its way from France to our shores in the sixties, but it was in the seventies that its popularity soared.” By the early eighties, it became the target for a tongue-in-cheek book on manhood that apparently too many readers took seriously, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. The title became a battle cry against anything deemed sophisticated and therefore somehow unmanly.
Funny thing is, on its home turf, quiche is anything but sophisticated. It is rustic French comfort food at its most honest and elemental, pie made with dough and eggs and cheese and, often [as in this case], bacon. A Denny’s grand slam breakfast in pie form. What could be more manly than that?
Now back to the challenge. Crust. I’m not sure why baking intimidates me so, but it does. And while there are any number of men who bake and do it well, I suspect they are far outnumbered by women who do so. Still, every time I have quiche, I find myself wanting to make it. Sometimes because the quiche I’m having is so delicious and sometimes, quite frankly, because it’s not very good and I know I can do better. So it was time to man up and make some pie crust.
This post seems to keep toying with male stereotypes. A couple of ways I go against stereotypes is that I read instructions—and I ask for directions when I’m lost. I did both of these to overcome my fear of crust. First, I read lots of recipes for pâte brisée, French for “short pastry,” a rich, flaky, [usually all butter] dough used for sweet and savory crusts. There were many variations—a bewildering number, in fact. Even Deb over at Smitten Kitchen had a number of versions posted over the years, each touted as the pâte brisée when posted. But there were certain constants too.
Armed with those constants and differences, I asked for directions—from Marion, the baker of countless wonderful cakes, pies, tarts, galettes, etcetera in our household. She guided me knowledgeably and patiently through the entire process. Here are some tips on crust making, gleaned from Marion, the various recipes and my one successful attempt, in that order.
Keep things cool. This is crucial. If the dough stays cold until it goes into the oven, the butter and flour won’t completely blend—this is what makes the crust flaky and light. After cutting the butter into small pieces—about 1/2-inch cubes—I put it in a bowl and stuck it in the freezer while I measured and mixed the dry ingredients. Use the pulse button instead of the on button on your food processor—the less you work the butter, the colder it stays. Use iced water as the recipe calls for, not tap water. And refrigerate the dough before rolling it out, at least one hour. Before rolling out the dough, pop your rolling pin and pie plate in the fridge too. Sounds excessive, but it helps. Marion said that some people who bake a lot store marble rolling pins in the freezer or fridge.
Work fast. This does a couple of things. First it helps the pâte brisée stay cool; second, it keeps you from overworking and therefore overblending it.
And while I’m at it, a couple of tips on quiche in general. These were gleaned in equal parts from talking with Marion and quiches I’ve eaten, both good and bad.
Go big with the cheese. Go for sharp-flavored cheeses like Gruyère, Parmesan and sharper varieties of Swiss. And use plenty. Using bland cheeses or not enough cheese will result in your quiche tasting like very hard-cooked scrambled eggs.
Accentuate the cheese flavor with mustard. This is a trick I learned from Marion. A little Dijon, dry mustard or even whole grain mustard will sharpen the cheese flavor without adding any telltale mustard taste. Trust me on this.
Bacon and Leek Quiche
9 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces and chilled, plus extra
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 to 7 tablespoons iced water
4 slices bacon
2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese [about 1/4-pound]
1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup half & half
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence [optional—see Kitchen Notes]
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Make the dough. Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes, place in a small bowl and chill in freezer or fridge. Place flour and salt in food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter butter over flour mixture and pulse several times, until it resembles a coarse, crumblike meal. Working quickly, add 4 tablespoons of iced water and pulse several times. Add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of water and pulse again, with slightly longer pulses. If necessary, add more iced water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse until mixture forms large dough balls. The change will be quick and dramatic—you’ll know when it’s happened.
Form dough into a flattened patty—again, work quickly and handle the dough as little as possible—and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
Par-bake the crust. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a quiche or pie pan lightly with butter [many recipes call for a 9- or 10-inch pie pan, or a tart pan with a removable bottom—I used an 11-inch quiche plate]. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/8-inch thickness [more important, it should obviously be larger than your pie plate]. Gently transfer it to the pie pan; Marion showed me a trick of folding it back over the rolling pin to lift it. You may also need a spatula to unstick it from the table or other surface. Gently press it into the bottom and inner edges of the pan.
If the dough is very thin, you can fold some of the excess over and press it into the sides to strengthen them. Marion will sometimes fold just a bit of dough over the edge of a pie pan to help reduce the inevitable shrinkage that happens when it bakes. Or you can trim it off. With straight-sided tart pans and quiche plates, lightly press the sides of the crust so the dough extends 1/8-inch or so above the edge of the plate, again because of inevitable shrinkage during baking.
Prick the bottom of the crust at 1/2-inch intervals with a fork [or as Marion put it, pierce the really bad word out of it]. Lightly press a sheet of aluminum foil inside the crust and fill it with pie weights or uncooked rice or dried beans. Bake for about 20 minutes, until edges are slightly colored.
Prepare the filling. While the crust is par-baking, slice leeks lengthwise and carefully rinse, fanning leeks under cold running water. Then slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Fry bacon over medium heat until crisp and drain on paper towel; crumble into small pieces. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and add leeks to pan. Sauté until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little canola oil if pan seems too dry.
Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl and add half & half, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. When crust is ready, place it on a cooling rack and remove foil with weights. Spread Dijon mustard in bottom of crust. Add leeks to crust, then layer on bacon, then cheese. Carefully pour egg mixture over everything, gently working the cheese with a fork to allow eggs to settle in around cheese, bacon and leeks.
Bake the quiche. Transfer pan to oven and bake until filling puffs up and browns slightly, about 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve. Quiche may be served warm—my preference—or at room temperature.
Herbs or no herbs? I said the Herbes de Provence were optional in this dish, but I would use them—or some herbs—in it. It’s another way to avoid a bland quiche that tastes like nothing more than overcooked scrambled eggs. But use an extremely light hand. Even the 1/2 teaspoon I used here made its presence known nicely.