There are many names for an open-top pastry case and its filling. In our house, if the filling is a savoury custard, we tend to call it quiche. If it's a sweet filling, it's a tart, and on occasion, if the filling is suitably American (like pumpkin), I can have my arm twisted in to calling it a pie. (But I'm telling you, a pie has a lid - be it pastry or mashed potato.)
The weather has been pretty pants in England this week. It's been very close, grey and muggy. Headache weather. The only thing to do was to eat carbs and cheese (and feel sorry for ourselves). One of my favourite things to make is shortcrust pastry. It's always the beginning of something really delicious, and I find the repetitive flicking of the cold butter in flour very therapeutic. Granted, it's a bit of an arse to do when the weather is warm, but having made a few batches in my time and reading up on the subject, my go-to method taken mainly from Richard Bertinet hasn't failed me yet, even with my accursed warm hands.
Just a heads-up, this is a pretty in-depth pastry method, but I hope you'll find it useful.
250g plain flour
Pinch of salt
125g slightly salted butter
35ml cold water
N.B. This should make enough for 1 deep 20cm quiche or approx. 8 small ones, but I generally double my recipe and freeze the leftover pastry for another time.
Firstly, measure out all your ingredients and put the flour and salt into a large, cold mixing bowl.
Take 2 pieces of baking paper or butter wrappers, put your cold butter between them, and go to town on it with a rolling pin until it's a centimetre or so thick. This softens the butter without warming it, and makes it easier to work into the flour.
Put the flattened butter into the flour, coating it thoroughly, and tearing it into large pieces. Flake the butter and flour together using a light flicking motion. Keep turning the mixture with your hands, coating the butter, and flicking until the largest flakes are about the size of a small finger nail. Try not to press or squeeze the butter - we're trying to keep it from getting sticky!
Add the egg and water, and mix it all together to create a rough dough. Press into the dough with your thumbs and turn a few times in the bowl to bring it together, before turning out on to a clean work surface. Continue pressing and turning four or five more times.
Fold the pastry over itself and press it down with your fingers. If it's a bit sticky, lightly flour the work surface. Repeat the folding and pressing until your pastry looks like plasticine, and finally pick it up and tap each side on the work surface to square it off for chilling. I sometimes roll it out a little to make the block thinner. This way it chills faster and is easier to roll.
Wrap the block in greaseproof paper (clingfilm makes it sweaty) and rest in the fridge for at least an hour, or preferably overnight if you're really prepared.
When rested, roll out your pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 5mm thick (2-3mm for small cases), making sure not to press down too hard or stretch the pastry. Keep lifting and turning so it doesn't stick to the worktop.
Line a lightly greased or buttered case with your rolled out pastry, being careful not to stretch it or tear it. I usually leave the overhang in place and trim later. Give the tin a tap on the work surface to settle the pastry.
To blind bake the case, start by pricking the base to stop it bubbling up. Next, take a large sheet of baking paper or tin foil, line your case with it, and pack it out with flour. You could use baking beans, but I've started using flour because I find it keeps the shape a lot neater. Rest in the fridge again for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C and bake the case for around 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it, however, because no two ovens are the same. As scientific as baking can be, there is also an art to knowing when your bakes are ready. We're looking for the case to be dry and lightly coloured.
At this point, remove your flour/baking beans and give the case an egg wash to seal it and add some colour. Pop it back in the oven for 10 minutes or so, and there you have your pastry case ready to fill. At this point, I carefully trim the overhang with a sharp knife.
200ml double cream
100g bacon, cooked (we used both back and streaky, smoked)
50g goats cheese, sliced (we used leftover Pouligny St Pierre)
Salt & pepper
Turn the oven down to 160°C.
Combine the eggs, milk and cream in a large jug, and season well.
Sprinkle the cheddar into the bottom of the case, followed by the crispy bacon, and then the spinach to create layers. (This also ensures every slice has a bit of everything!)
When you're ready to bake, pull out an oven shelf part way and sit your quiche on it, ready to pour your cream and egg mixture in. Fill the case as close to the brim as you dare, top the quiche with sliced goats cheese, and carefully push the shelf back into the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes, or until set.