Monday, May 2, 2011

Pre-Baking Quiche/Pie Crust: How-To

Photo 1: Rolled-out pastry dough
New Photography ... 

Eeesh, it's rough when your photographer friend who's been taking the photos posted on your blog has a life and can't be available at all hours of the day and night for taking beautiful photos at the random times you decide to cook.  And then you decide to try to take matters into your own hands, using a little point-and-shoot deal that you're trying on for size after not owning a camera for the last 3 years, and even before that one got stolen back then you didn't know much about technology and photography anyway.

In light of that, I thought it made sense to do a post with photos better for their explanatory rather than aesthetic value, while I figure out how my camera works and try to learn something about taking photos.    

Homemade Vs. Pre-made Crusts

I made a quiche with roasted sweet potatoes and sage last week, which I'll post about soon.  But in order to make a quiche, you need a pastry crust.

When I first started this baking frenzy I've been in for the last year and a half, quiche was one of my favorite things to make.  I caught sight of Elise Bauer's recipe for a carmelized onion quiche, and I couldn't even tell you how many times I made it.  It is delicious.  It was good for other people, too; one friend requested it while she was recovering from surgery and I stayed up late one night baking one to hand-deliver the following day.

Photo 2: Forming the pastry
But the thing about making a crust for quiche is that it is SO time-consuming.  First you mix the dough.  Then it has to chill.  Then you roll it out.  Then you have to form the ridges along the sides.  Then you have to pre-bake it, first using pastry weights, then just on its own.  And that requires either having pastry weights on hand, or figuring out a good substitute.  And only then can you actually put the custard inside it and bake the actual quiche.  It takes SO LONG.

So this new year I resolved to test out some pre-made crusts and see whether I could get a decent enough result.

My neighborhood grocery store has a pretty pathetic supply of pre-made crusts, so maybe twice I made quiche using those crusts that come already made and formed inside an aluminum pie tin.  Those were okay and didn't stop me or anyone else from eating the quiche, but you could really taste that the crust wasn't homemade.  Plus, they look pretty industrial, too, since the edges are kind of pressed into the pan and a little too uniform to have been made by hand.  And it's usually a bummer to me when food isn't pretty ... especially a quiche, which can be really gorgeous.

My next stop was to try pie crusts from Trader Joe's, which are what you see in these photos.  These come already rolled out, folded in the wax paper you see in the first photo (you can see the lines where it was folded up).  These aren't pre-baked like the ones in the aluminum tins are, but they do cut out the first few steps, which can take about an hour once you factor in chilling the dough you've mixed.(I know that other companies make frozen pie crusts like these, and I've seen them at other grocery stores.  So don't think it has to be Trader Joe's ... hopefully your neighborhood grocery store is more well-stocked than mine in this area).

Baking the Crust, Step by Step

Photo 3: Pre-baking the pastry with weights
It was simple to unwrap the pastry (Photo1), place it in the dish and form the ridges along the sides that you see in Photo 2, above.

Then for the pre-baking (also referred to as blind baking).  Sheesh, I really should get some pastry weights, for all the times I find myself trying to pre-bake a crust and having to scavenge around my kitchen for something to use for this.  Beans work great, but I guess I must have used those up.  I've used rice, too, but rice seems to have a way of escaping the parchment paper and sticking itself to the crust at some point in the process, then you have to tediously try to pull grains of rice off the crust without messing up the pastry.  Plus, on this occasion I didn't seem to have any rice, even so.  What I did have was a bag of dried split peas, which you can see in Photo 3.  These worked perfectly well, plus I liked the color!

I cut a large square of parchment paper from a roll, placed it over the formed crust, then trimmed the corners so that it became a circular shape.  You can see some slits along the sides of the paper; I cut these so that I could press the paper into the crust.  I  like to keep some of the edges of the paper so that I can fold them over the sides of the pie dish as the crust cooks.  This way the sides of the pastry are covered and don't brown more than the rest of it.  

Photo 4: The finished, pre-baked crust
After filling the parchment-lined pastry with the dried split peas, I cooked the crust at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Then I removed the crust from the oven and lifted out the the whole parchment-paper-split-peas ensemble at once by lifting it up by the sides of the parchment paper.  You want to be careful here, because you want to see that the crust is somewhat cooked - e.g., it's not still that completely dough-y texture, but rather is starting to look a bit flaky.  If you remove the paper and weights too early, when the dough hasn't cooked much, the dough will slip down the sides of the pan as it cooks without any filling in it, and you'll end up with a crust that tastes fine but which has short sides - more like the shape of a tart crust.  I've gotten a few questions about this issue (e.g., how to make sure the pie crust doesn't slip down the sides of the pan during the pre-baking phase) and I think it's generally an issue with not letting the crust bake enough before taking out the weights, rather than any issue with a particular recipe.  

Before putting the crust back in the oven without the weights, I poked holes in the bottom and sides of the crust with the tines of a fork, to allow air to escape as the pastry bakes.  You can leave the crust in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until it's golden brown.  The edges brown up a little more as the quiche is baking, so you don't want it to get too brown before you add the custard.  You can see the finished product in Photo 4.  I thought this crust actually tasted pretty close to a homemade one, especially since the texture and appearance could pass. 

More on the quiche filling to come soon!


  1. Thank you , lots of great ideas.
    I used the large "washers" from the Throw the washers in the hole- game.
    They worked great.
    Get at hardware store, cheaper that way.

  2. Good idea. Those are actually a lot like the bona fide baking weights I've seen but have never actually used; just a different shape, I guess. Thanks!

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