Real Men eat Quiche

Ok here we go again, I have read some of my early posts and realise that they are peppered with bad puns ( sorry ), some quite obscure references* and that I seem to regularly lambaste and offend without even trying. I really did not wish to do that today but the choice of title was just too easy an option. I eat quiche, in fact, I adore quiche and so questions concerning the nature of whether I am or not ‘ a real man ‘ must be addressed to my long-suffering partner. I do however have a couple of reservations.

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I like proper quiche, the Quiche Lorraine, rustic French cooking, crisp pastry filled with a thick layer of creamy, wobbly egg custard flavoured only with some fried cubes of really good bacon. That is it, nothing more, not a single thing, not even parsley. I am not a fan of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quiche of the salmon, broccoli, blue cheese and anchovy variety.  I am in luck then that I have in my possession a very battered but beautiful French cookery book with just the most perfect recipe. At this point take a bow Annie who scoured a Paris flea market to procure it for me as a gift. Everybody a big hand for my friend, thank you so much.

Quiche Lorraine was originally an open pie, rustic in style, made with bread dough for the crust, in a cast iron pan. Today a rich short-crust or flaky rough puff pastry is used to line a pie dish. Regional variations include adding Gruyère cheese which makes a quiche Vosgienne and onions a quiche Alsacienne. Adding tomato to the recipe creates a quiche Provençal and spinach a quiche Florentine.

 *Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche is the name of a book Bruce Feirstein

Quiche Lorraine                            serves 8 – 10

for the pastry

250 gr strong White Flour

75 gr cold Beef Dripping, cut into small pieces

50 gr cold unsalted Butter, diced

1-2 tablespoons ice cold Water

A generous pinch of Salt

Quiche 2

for the filling

150 gr Bacon Lardons preferably cut from a thick piece of bacon

1 medium sized White Onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 free range Eggs

250 ml  Double Cream

25 gr Butter

1 tablespoon quality  Olive Oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped Parsley

2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and pureed

¼ teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg

A generous pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8-inch flan ring ( at least 1 inch deep )

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add both fats and rub together with the fingertips lifting and separating the fat with the flour until you achieve the texture of breadcrumbs. Add the Parmesan and pour in one tablespoon of water and gentle form together as a dough. Use more water as required. Do not knead the dough and treat gently for the best results.

Pastry

Alternatively, blitz ingredients to the crumb stage in a food processor, then add water until you get the same result. Wrap in cling film and chill in the refrigerator to relax for at least half an hour.

Rolling Pastry

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Roll out the chilled pastry on a clean, floured, work surface to a thickness of approximately a quarter of an inch. The pastry will need to be wide enough to line the bottom of the tin, the sides and provide a little overhang that will reduce as the pastry shrinks during cooking.

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Butter a flan dish or pie ring and carefully roll the pastry onto your rolling pin. Roll back over the flan dish and push to the edges trying not to split the pastry. If you do tear the pastry take a little surplus from the edge and gently push over the gap to patch the hole. Trim the edges leaving a half inch overhang over the lip of the pie dish.

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Chill again for half an hour then cover the pastry with a sheet of baking parchment and fill the dish with rice or baking beans.

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Place on a baking tray and put in the oven. After ten minutes turn the oven down to 375°F/fan 190°C/gas mark 5 and bake for fifteen more minutes. Carefully take out from the oven and remove the baking parchment and rice or beans. Beat up one of the eggs with a fork and brush the inside of the pastry case with a soft pastry brush . Bake in the oven for a further ten minutes until light gold in colour, this is to seal the tart. Take out and set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. When cool trim off any excess pastry.

In a medium sized heavy bottomed frying pan, melt the butter in the olive oil over a low heat. Cook the onion for ten minutes without colouring then remove. Replace the onion with the bacon lardons and fry until crispy and light brown, add garlic and cook for one more minute then mix together with the onions. In a large bowl beat the remaining eggs with nutmeg, cayenne pepper and season sparingly as the bacon will naturally add salt. Whisk in the double cream and then strain into a jug to remove any strands of thick egg white. Take the pastry case and evenly spread with the cooked onion and bacon. Place baking tray with the pastry case onto the oven shelf, then pour in the custard mix, filling the case right to the top. Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, or until the filling has just set and is slightly wobbly to the touch and the top of the quiche is lovely and golden brown.

 

 

Meringues

I come from a family of serious meringue fans, the marriage of whisked egg whites and caster sugar, the crispy meringue shells, dried in the oven overnight and sandwiched with thick cream and topped with fresh berries and the show-stopping Pavlova with its chewy, marshmallow-like center. To make them chewy, we add cornflour and vinegar to the whipped-up sugar and egg whites. My mum makes an epic Pavlova and my Aunty Mary ate nearly a whole one for her eightieth birthday.

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There is an old saying that you need ‘old eggs and a clear day’ to make a good meringue, certainly meringues are best made from older eggs, the runny whites are easier to whisk up, and frozen egg whites work very well so keep them from other recipes such a Sable pastry labelled in the freezer until needed, but allow to thoroughly defrost and reach room temperature before attempting the recipe.

There are several recipes for meringue in a professional kitchen including using super-hot sugar syrup ( Italian or Swiss Meringue ) but you can use one technique and warm your caster sugar on a baking tray in a hot oven, before adding to the egg whites, this helps the sugar dissolve quicker and the finished meringue will shrink less ( ideal for when you are making a Lemon Meringue Pie ). Golden caster sugar will make your finished meringue a darker colour but adds a delicious caramel flavour.

Finally, your meringues don’t have to be picture perfect remember you can just use some more cream to cover up cracks and flaws and if in the worst case just turn them into Eton Mess.

Top Tips

Use scrupulously clean bowls, any grease in the bowl will stop your egg whites properly expanding. Rubbing your bowl with half a cut lemon can help, but make sure you wipe it really dry with kitchen roll afterward.

It is an old habit I have but whenever I am baking I always crack the eggs individually into a small separate bowl. This means if you get a bad egg which happens occasionally you can avoid contaminating the rest of a bake. If a little egg yolk gets into the white, try to remove it with half of the cracked eggshell. If the yolk gets broken and mixed into the white, start again.

Be careful not to over-beat the egg whites. Whisk them until they hold firm peaks when the whisk is removed from the bowl. If you over‑whip them the finished texture will be grainy.

Cooking meringues is a process of trial and error and getting to know your oven. You don’t need a fan just an even heat. I have relatives and friends who have used the warm section of an Aga cooker, a plate warmer and an airing cupboard to dry out their meringues!

Classic Meringue Recipe

The simple ratio to remember is double the weight of sugar to egg whites.

300 gr Caster Sugar ( golden if you prefer a more caramelised flavour and colour )
The whites of 5 free-range Eggs, at room temperature
Half a fresh Lemon

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas Mark 6, and spread the Caster sugar over an oven tray lined with baking paper and heat in the oven for five minutes. Meanwhile, wipe the inside of your mixing bowl with the cut lemon and add the egg whites. Whisk up to a foam, then carefully remove the sugar from the oven and tip a third into the egg whites continuing to mix constantly ( you may need help if you are using a hand mixer ). Add the remaining sugar and continue whisking until the mixture has cooled, and is glossy and will hold its shape.

Turn the oven down to its lowest setting. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper, and spoon the meringue mix on, remember to leave sufficient gaps as they will increase in size as they dry out. Place them into the oven and bake until they are crisp on the outside, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, depending on their size, this could take four to six hours. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in there until it has cooled, then immediately transfer to an air-tight container.

Strawberry Milkshake and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Gosh doesn’t everyone love milkshake, as a child I was so spoilt, with thick shakes made with fresh strawberries, just picked, washed and hulled, scoops of ice cream and a splash or two of full fat, gold top milk? They were so thick you could barely suck them up the straw. Even now I’m quite partial when we are out to a froth, ice cold milkshake, although they are made with syrup or powder. So, when I saw a Strawberry Milkshake cupcake in a magazine, well, I just had to have a try myself.

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Cupcakes are a phenomenon, they have become so popular, and are fun and versatile and very easy to make. Next week I will be baking lots of Halloween themed cupcakes topped with sugar pumpkins, ghosts, and witches’ hats. The secret of this recipe to use Nesquik milkshake powder which gives a real milkshake flavour to both the cake and the topping and I added another childhood favourite some white chocolate buttons to give it my own little twist.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Milkshake Cupcakes    makes 18

For the Cupcakes

210 ml Full fat Milk

210 gr Plain Flour

220 gr Caster Sugar

120 gr White Chocolate Buttons

70g soft Unsalted Butter

75 gr Strawberry Milkshake Powder

2 large free-range Eggs

1 scant tablespoon of Baking Powder

A good pinch of Salt

For the Icing

500 gr Icing Sugar

160 gr soft Unsalted Butter

100 gr Strawberry Milkshake Powder

50 ml Full Fat Milk

Red Gel Food Colouring

Cupcake or deep Muffin Tins

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 / 170°C / 330 °F and line the baking trays with large paper cases. Using an electric mixer or food processor mix the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together until they form a sandy, crumb-like texture. In a bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and strawberry milkshake powder together. With the mixer on a slow speed, gradually pour half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and mix thoroughly until combined and the batter is smooth and thick. Once all the lumps are gone gradually pour in the remaining liquid and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in half of the white chocolate buttons.

Evenly divide the cake batter between the prepared cases and bake in the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before removing them from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the butter, beat together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. In a jug, mix together the milk and strawberry milkshake powder, then gradually pour the liquid into the icing while mixing on a slow speed. Add a little red food colouring to colour the icing pink. Turn the mixer up to a high speed and beat the icing until light and fluffy. Scoop the whipped-up icing into a piping bag with a star nozzle, ready to ice the completely cool cupcakes. To get the two-tone effect I diluted a little more food colouring with a little water and brushed around the inside of the piping bag before piping the frosting onto the cakes.

Decorate with the remaining white chocolate buttons, some fresh or freeze-dried strawberries and a dust of icing sugar.