Brunch parties can be a much easier way of entertaining friends.
Lately we’ve found that big dinner parties can put a lot of stress on the house, so we’ve switched to holding informal brunch parties for four or six. A check through the well filled hospitality book reveals that several guests have already enjoyed the gamut of my brunch offerings, so there’s no alternative but to come up with a new staple.
Originally, I bought some mini quiches from the farmers’ market, but Diane deemed the pastry too greasy and I thought the filling not to my taste, so there was no alternative but to make them from scratch. This seemed more fun than a slice of pie, but required some ingenuity as my pie dish is 10 inches across. The bought quiches were about 4 1/2 inches across, which seemed like a good size to aim for, but in the time available no pie dishes of that size were to be found.
So good old ingenuity was called for. A large storage pot lid served as the template for the base. After rolling out the pastry, I cut around the lid with a knife and put the base on a piece of parchment paper. Then I rolled out the left over pastry into a long strip, trimmed the sides for neatness and made the sides of the pie about an inch or so high. The sides were glued to the base with egg wash applied with a pastry brush. Any gaps or defects were filled with more pastry glued in place.
The sides of the prototype sagged in, so for the next version I used aluminum foil to keep them upright. The easiest way seemed to be to make a form over a small pot and wedge it in place, pressing the sides carefully against the foil. I pricked it all over to allow air to escape during baking. After baking, I cooled the shells for a few minutes and then carefully removed the foil. At this stage the shells are quite delicate, but after cooling they became much stronger, when I was able to make repairs unseen from my guests.
For the pastry, I used Paula Bambrick’s “never fail” recipe, which I’d mastered at the Loblaws cooking school. The filling was a trial and error combination of quiche custards I’d made before (see QUICHE LORRAINE and CHEESE AND SPINACH QUICHE) with a quick check back to that encyclopedia of French cooking, La Rousse Gastronomique.
Making the pie shells the night before, utterly removed the stress on brunch day and my guests unanimously enjoyed their individual quiches. As Julia Child would say: “Bon appétit!”
Author: Paula Bambrick, Loblaws Cooking School
Prep time: 1 hour 30 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins
• 3 cups cake and pastry (not all-purpose) flour
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 10 tbsp cold unsalted butter
• 6 tbsp cold vegetable shortening
• 8 – 9 tbsp cold water (about 1/2 cup)
• Pam spray vegetable oil
• 1 egg (beaten)
1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt.
2. Cut the cold butter and shortening into small pieces and add to the flour. Using your fingers (don’t be afraid to get messy!) rub in the fat until the mixture is grainy and resembles oatmeal.
3. While tossing the mixture with a fork, gradually add the cold water, until it begins to cling to itself. Don’t add too much. The amount will vary with the moisture content of your flour and general humidity in your kitchen.
4. Use your hands to form this into a smooth ball. Divide the dough into six equal portions, tightly cover in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 mins. TIP: It is critical to keep everything cool when making pie pastry. An overheated kitchen, hot hands, or a warm counter top can all conspire to end in an unsatisfactory result. If necessary put your rolling pin in the freezer, cool your hands under running water and simply open the kitchen window, or turn up the air conditioning.
5. When everything is ready and cool, set the oven to 400°F/205°C and while it is heating up take each ball and first kneed it out into a disc using your knuckles. Then on a floured surface roll it into a disc about ¼ in thick. Using a round object such as a lid as a guide, cut a circle in the pastry to form the bottom of each pie. Then use the balance of the pastry to form a wall about 1 inch high. Use a small brush to cover any edges with the beaten egg mixture so they will stick. The first shell may take you 10 minutes to assemble, but don’t despair – it will get quicker and easier with practice.
6. Cover the pastry with aluminum foil and push it carefully down inside the shell. Prick all over with the fork.
7. Bake the pie shell for 10 mins. This is called “blind” baking and allows the pastry to partially cook so that when you add your pie ingredients the base is already firm. If you skip this step your pie may turn out soggy.
8. Now take it out of the oven, remove the foil and let the pie shell cool a bit before adding your chosen ingredients.
9. You can make the shells the day before your event. Leave them on a cooling rack and cover with a clean dry dish cloth overnight. TIP: If you have any pastry left over, roll it out about ¼ inch thick. Cut off small shapes to repair any damaged pie shell edges. Moisten the small piece of pastry to stick it well in place and add the repair to the inside of the shell where it will later be covered by custard.
by Nigel Napier-Andrews
- 2 cups (473 ml) 35% whipping cream
- 3 large fresh eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- Pinch salt, white ground pepper, nutmeg
- 6 thick cut rashers of bacon
- 1 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
- 6 red cherry tomatoes
- 6 yellow cherry tomatoes
- Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Prepare two baking trays with parchments paper. Set the cooled pie shells on the tray. Don’t crowd them. Three should fit on each tray.
- Cut the bacon rashers into strips approx. 1 in by 1/4 in and simmer n a saucepan of water for 5 mins. Remove, dry and brown the lardons in a frying pan until they are brown. Set aside on a paper towel to drain. Then portion out into the pie shells.
- Portion out the grated cheese.
- Prepare the custard: warm the cream in a saucepan, but do not boil. Take off the heat. Lightly beat the eggs and add to the mixture. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix in well. Use a jug to portion the custard out into the pie shells. Don’t overfill the pies.
- Cut the tomatoes in half and float cut side up in the custard. If you are using red and yellow tomatoes, alternate the colours to make a nice pattern.
- Bake the pies for 30 to 35 mins or until the custard is all puffed up and golden brown on top. Make sure you switch the top and bottom trays around during baking to ensure both sets cook evenly.
- When the pies are done, they can be removed directly to plates, or cooled on a cooling rack to eat warm or reheated.
Serve with a green garnish, such as raw sprouts, or asparagus spears and French fries, or a green salad.
NEWS UPDATE: My fully illustrated e-book, Market to Table: The Cookbook started as a project for novice cooks, but after I was picked to host a cooking show featuring food bought at farmers’ markets, developed into a more complete collection of the recipes from the series, including some from guest chefs on the show, as well as those from my well-read foodie blog. It is easy to read, divided into chapters that cover the main mealtimes of the day, and into recipes that are concise and guaranteed to work. Most recipes are accompanied by an entertaining story. Brilliant young Chef Dan Frenette, who now hosts the TV series, has written the Foreword and contributes to the book.
Categories: Market to Table