14 March 2008
It's All About Attitude - Mushroom and Brie Quiche
Pi Day is here, 3.14, and I am still chasing this week's challenge from Kitchen Parade to make a homemade pie crust. I did make an Upside Down Lemon Meringue Pie earlier this week, with a meringue pie crust. It was homemade, and it tasted good, but it wasn't pastry. That could be seen as a good thing. It saves on calories and grams of fat but, I have to admit, I would like to know how to make a good pie pastry.
I have wonderful memories of helping my aunt make pie pastry when I was a girl. I can remember standing at her small kitchen table, watching her roll out what I remember to be perfect circles of dough and cutting frilly strips of lattice topping. I helped out here and there - getting a tool, turning on the oven, rolling out a small piece of my own dough, eating the scrap pieces baked just for me. I loved the smell and the flaky texture warm from the oven.
But somehow, in the intervening years, we lost the magic. When I got married and hosted a family Thanksgiving at my apartment, I asked my aunt to remind me how to make pie crust and she suggested I buy it ready made from the grocery store instead. She confessed that was what she would usually do. On her advice, I’ve done it that way ever since.
Still, I do have those fond memories of making pie crust and I wanted to give this challenge a try. I began to look for a good recipe. I collected several and then, last Friday, I collected the necessary ingredients and equipment and got busy.
Pie crust disaster 1.1
First, I decided to try the basic pie crust recipe from "Betty Crocker's Cookbook." I have had that cookbook for over twenty-five years and I'm sure I must have tried this recipe before. You wouldn't know it. Not that making it went all that badly but as I was baking the pastry shell it shrank, and then I forgot about it and it burned. I realized this just as I realized I was also running late for an appointment. I took the burned crust from the pie plate and put the pie plate in the sink. When it touched water it shattered. Not an auspicious beginning.
Pie crust disaster 1.2
Next I tried the Foolproof Pie Dough recipe from Cooks' Illustrated that a friend had recommended. This recipe calls for vodka and I was intrigued. I tried mixing it by hand. This seemed to work well enough. My mistake was that I tried to bake it as a pie shell for a Lemon Meringue Pie. I did not use pie weights and it did not bake evenly. While the baked crust tasted okay I realized I needed more instructions for how to prepare a baked pie shell. I also realized I needed to give up for the day.
Pie crust disaster 1.3
Meanwhile I was making a meringue crust as a back up for the Lemon Meringue Pie. The recipe I was using did not specify how to prepare the pan and so I didn't. When the meringue was baked it was absolutely impossible to remove it from the pan without destroying it.
Needless to say, Friday was not my day for making pies. Still I was determined. Saturday I got up and tried again.
Pie crust disaster 2.1
The Foolproof Pie Dough recipe had been the most successful on Friday so I began with it on Saturday morning. This time I decided to follow the instructions exactly. Unfortunately, while my food processor holds all of the ingredients it seems it is not big enough to mix them properly. The pie dough became overworked and I gave up without baking it. I was discouraged.
I decided to let the issue rest and simply made another meringue crust for my Lemon Meringue Pie. This time I greased the pie plate and tweaked the recipe a little and it turned out great. I wrote about it and posted it...but those pie pastry disasters kept nagging at me. Surely, as much as I bake, I could manage to make a respectable enough pie crust....Couldn't I?
Pie crust 3.1
Then I read Cupcake Project's "Pumpkin Cup-Pie" Post. Stef added 18 Tablespoons of water to her pie crust and it was still delicious! That gave me hope. Maybe I was being too hard on myself. Maybe if I just kept going the pie crusts I made might not have been perfect but might have turned out just fine. Maybe pie pastry isn't just about attention to detail but is about attitude too.
It was worth at least one more shot.
As dinner time approached I turned on my Pi Day playlist. I measured the flour and salt and whisked the ingredients together. I cut in the butter and cold shortening until the mixture looked like coarse meal with small pea sized pebbles in it. I sprinkled in the vodka and water, tossed it with a fork, pressed it with my palm and was amazed to see it stick together. I put it in the refrigerator for a while. Then kneaded it two or three times and rolled it out on my Silpat. It was lovely.
At this point I put the Silpat with the rolled crust back in the refrigerator for maybe 10 minutes while I worked on the filling. Then I positioned the Silpat over the pie plate and peeled it away from the crust.
I gently fit the crust into the pie plate and fluted the edge. So far so good! It is amazing what a little confidence and encouragement from the food blog world can do! After my parade of disasters I was actually making a decent pie crust.
All I needed now was a special filling. How about a layer of pungent onions and earthy mushrooms sauteed together to release their soft texture and laced with ribbons of luscious, mellow brie cheese.
Over that I poured a velvety smooth egg and cream filling sprinkled with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and, of course, some leaves of fresh thyme. Soon I had a beautiful "It's All About Attitude" Mushroom and Brie Quiche.
That vodka pie crust was great. Very flaky. Thanks, Robert, for the recommendation. Thanks Kitchen Parade and Smitten Kitchen for great tips and how-tos that got me thinking in the right direction and walked me through it. And thanks Cupcake Project for inspiration.
"It's All About Attitude" Mushroom and Brie Quiche
(Nearly) Foolproof Pie Dough
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
(enough for one single crust pie)
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1-2 tablespoons cold vodka
1-2 tablespoons cold water
Mix together flour and salt with a wire whisk. Cut in 6 tablespoons of cold butter with a pastry blender until butter pieces are the size of M&Ms. Add cold shortening pieces. Continue cutting with the pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the largest pieces are the size of small peas.
Mix vodka and water. Sprinkle approximately two tablespoons over mixture and toss with fork. Press a portion of the mixture against the side of the bowl with your palm. If the dough is not holding together add more liquid, a teaspoon or two at a time, testing after each addition.
Cover dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Place dough on a Silpat mat and roll out in a circle large enough to line the pie plate. Transfer pastry circle to pie plate. Trim and form edges as desired.
Mushroom and Brie Quiche Filling
adapted from "Betty Crocker's Cookbook"
8 ounces brie cheese (rind removed)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Line a 9-inch pie dish with (Nearly) Foolproof Pie Dough. Cut brie into 1/4 inch slices and arrange over the bottom of the unbaked pie shell.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet or saucepan, over medium heat. Saute mushrooms and onion in the oil until they begin to soften. Layer these over the brie.
Beat eggs slightly. Add half-and-half, salt, pepper and thyme, stirring until thoroughly combined. Pour the egg mixture into the shell over the onions, mushrooms and cheese.
Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 300 degrees and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until lightly browned on the top, or a knife inserted halfway between the center and edge of the pie comes out clean. Remove from oven. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Note: This can be partially prepared up to 24 hours in advance. After layering mushrooms and cheese in an unbaked pie shell, cover and refrigerate. Combine the remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate separately. When ready, stir the egg mixture before pouring it into the pie shell. Bake as directed, increasing the baking time at 300 degrees to 45 minutes.