Herein lies all the secrets in baking the perfect centerpiece for brunch or your next book club meeting.
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Baking a traditional quiche is one of those recipes that is a labor of love for a special occasion. Quiche can make a high-class dish for a spring picnic, special guests, brunch with friends, or a book club meetup. Whatever your reason for baking a quiche, you want it to be delicious. So before we dive into what makes a quiche delicious, it’s a good idea to brush up on our basic quiche knowledge!
Is quiche considered a pie?
The first bite of any quiche should be a delightful experience. As your mouth enjoys the silky creamy custard, the savory fillings entrapped in a buttery-flakey crust, you may wonder: “Is quiche just a fancy pie?” I’m happy to answer that question for you!
Even though pies and quiche both have a buttery flakey crust and a filling, the culinary world considers quiche to be in the ‘tart’ family and not a pie. Traditional quiche is a savory tart utilizing a buttery crust without sugar, and should be baked in a shorter tart pan with a removable bottom so the quiche can be lifted out to display the fluted crust for a more sophisticated presentation.
The lines between quiche and pie easily become blurred because most home cooks in the United States don’t possess a traditional tart pan. If you’re going to make quiche, you really should use a tart pan. This 9″ Tart pan is my favorite!
You’ll also need weights to “blind bake” your crispy quiche crust. Dry beans or pennies can be used, but I enjoy using ceramic pie weights that are made for the job. Here’s a link to the ones I use; they come in their own container and give you just the right amount for a standard quiche or pie pan.
However, most people do possess a pie plate (or pan), and choose to bake their quiche in their pie plate. The big orange Baking Illustrated cookbook has been my go-to for all my baking recipes and knowledge for years. Here’s what they had to say about tarts:
Tarts are similar to pies in that they contain crust and filling, but the dough is usually sweeter than pie dough and the amount of filling is reduced. The overall effect is generally more sophisticated. Most tarts are baked in a shallow ring pan with a removable bottom. Some tarts are baked free-form on a baking sheet, with the crust folded up and over the edges of the filling.Baking Illustrated 2004, by the editors of Cooks Illustrated Magazine
So in other words, quiche is more like pie’s rich cousin comin’ round to flaunt its dough. hehehe :0)
How healthy is quiche?
“Healthy” is a subjective word these days with so many different kinds of popular diets. To answer this question I’m using the food pyramid as a reference. Just remember to practice “all things in moderation”.
So how healthy is quiche? The answer can vary greatly depending on the recipe. A traditional quiche with a butter/flour crust and an egg-dairy custard filling is a bit high in fat calories. Some recipes add vegetables to the egg custard, swap out the cream for lighter dairy options, and forgo a crust to help quiche become ‘more healthy’.
I know people really like the idea of a ‘healthy’ quiche, but is it really a quiche after so much of the recipe has changed? In my opinion, swapping out the heavy cream and nixing the crust to trim calories and fat takes away the delicate creamy enjoyment of a quiche perfectly paired with a savory crust.
I don’t mind vegetables and spinach being mixed into my quiche, heck I’m mixing in loads of fire-roasted Hatch green chile! This is the middle of the road ‘healthy’ for me. Trying to incorporate more vegetables and greens into the food we eat is always a good thing.
What is the secret to a good quiche?
So what are the secrets to baking a good quiche? It’s all about chemistry and heat.
A good quiche needs four things; a prebaked pie shell to stay crisp, have cornstarch mixed into the custard to keep it from cracking, will avoid mixing in raw vegetables (which don’t cook very well inside the quiche), and should be baked at 375 degrees F until the center reaches 170 degrees F.
- A good quiche will use a prebaked pie shell to keep it from getting soggy in the oven. You should never pour raw egg filling over raw pie dough and expect it to bake up with a nice crispy shell in the center. The wet filling will quickly soak into the raw dough making it mushy. A crisp crust makes a delicious quiche! Blind baking the shell beforehand is essential, as is using enough pie weights to fill the entire pan to ensure the crust won’t shrink too much while baking.
- Pastry chefs know this secret: a little cornstarch mixed into custards will prevent the eggs from curdling. The starch molecules mixed into the egg proteins help to diffuse the heat and get in the way of the proteins in the eggs curling too quickly (which can cause cracking).
- Quiche has a Goldilocks baking temperature of 375 degrees F. Quiches must bake slowly enough that they don’t dry out and become rubbery, yet hot enough to just set the egg so it preserves it’s silky texture.
- Avoid adding raw vegetables or meats. There are a few exceptions to this, such as peas and cured meats like prosciutto. If you want to add spinach, use frozen that has been thawed and the liquid squeezed out. Par cook all hard vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, and leeks. Fully cook items like diced onions, sliced mushrooms, and bacon. Adding cooked/caramelized veggies takes advantage of the Maillard reaction (science), creating more complex flavor compounds to add more flavor to your quiche!
Yummiest Quiche Filling Ideas
The great thing about quiche is that you can add lots of different ingredients to the custard filling and customize it to your liking. Below you’ll find a list of the most delicious quiche filling ideas! Feel free to mix and match veggies, meats and cheeses but don’t go too crazy- if you add too much to your quiche it will overflow your prepared pastry shell!
You can use the Green Chile Bacon Quiche recipe included below as a guide and swap out veggies/meat/cheeses however you like.
- Roasted Hatch green chile
- Crumbled cooked bacon
- Shredded Gruyére cheese
- Sautéed wilted Swiss chard
- Blanched chopped asparagus
- Caramelized chopped onions
- Cooked crumbled crab meat
- Minced fresh herbs, any kind
- Sautéed wilted spinach
- Thawed frozen spinach (with moisture wrung out first)
- Sautéed chopped leeks
- Goat cheese
- Cubed ham
- Sauteed sliced mushrooms
- Cheddar cheese
- Sliced green onion
- chopped prosciutto
- Blanched chopped broccoli
- Sliced cherry tomatoes
- Shredded mozzarella
- Shredded parmesan
- Chopped cooked salmon
- Blanched chopped carrot
- Cooked beans (drain liquid if using canned)
- Roasted red bell pepper (blot with paper towels if using from a jar)
- Blanched chopped bell pepper
- Cooked crumbled sausage
- Smoked salmon
- Laughing cow light cheese
- Sautéed chopped fennel
- Artichoke hearts, chopped fine
- Sautéed chopped zucchini
- Sautéed minced garlic
- Sautéed chopped shallots
- Fresh Peas
- Roasted roma tomatoes
- Sautéed brussel sprouts
- Chopped cooked lobster pieces
- Wilted sautéed Swiss Chard
- Sautéed green beans
Again, the ideal quiche will have at least one type of cheese along with any other vegetables and/or proteins that you like. One of my personal favorite combos is mozzarella, onion, mushroom, bacon and Hatch green chile! If you’ve never heard of Hatch green chile, let me fill you in!
Why are Hatch Chiles so special?
Hatch Chile is world renown for it’s delicious flavor, due to the unique climate, soil composition, and cultivars that exist only in the Hatch valley of New Mexico. These factors combine to grow exceptional chile peppers with the perfect blend of smoky, sweet and hot flavor notes. More people discover Hatch Chiles each year, and their popularity continues to grow.
Growing up in New Mexico where chile peppers are an integral part of the culture, I know that Hatch chiles have earned a reputation for being the best of the best. I personally only use authentic Hatch in all my cooking because it simply tastes amazing. You should be able to find canned Hatch chile in any supermarket these days, or you can order it directly like I do. Frozen chile is much, much better tasting than canned!
The Hatch Chile Store is the premiere website for ordering your Hatch chile– they are incredibly good at shipping fresh authentic chile right to your door, whatever variety and hotness lever you prefer. It’s where I get all my Hatch Chile, and I must say the flavor really does stand out above any other chile pepper variety.
Head on over now to The Hatch Chile Store to stock up on the most delicious Hatch chile you can buy anywhere- they’ve always got great deals on your favorite products!
Did you know I have a full-color cookbook with lots more easy and delicious New Mexican recipes? You can learn more about it here!Print