Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Real Women Eat Quiche

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
It was my turn to host book club, and, since we were reading a book where the action takes place in France, I decided to bake a few quiches. I read Rose's The Pie and Pastry Bible on quiches, and, since Rose recommends a lard crust for a quiche, that's what it had to be.

When I was growing up, I heard about lard pie crusts. My reaction to putting lard in anything was "Eeewwww--lard. How gross!" I was thankful that I was in a modern household and that my mother used Crisco instead of disgustingly old-fashioned lard. Lard--the look and sound of the word itself was repellent. Then, when I started baking myself, I gradually changed from Crisco to butter (on the rare occasions I tried to make pastry). I was very pleased with myself that I now used butter instead of disgusting lardy-looking Crisco. But, as you know, lard is becoming fashionable again, but I didn't want just any old lard. I wanted fine lard--lard de cuisine. I went to Clancy's Meat Market, which not only has fine lard, it has locally produced lard from happy pigs.
I was so thrilled that I went around all last week telling people about my upcoming lard crusts. Oddly, many people, especially those picky vegetarians, did not share my enthusiasm.
I made the tart crust last night (not just pie crust, you may note, but tart crust) when Sarah came over to watch Big Love with me. She watched me put it together, but was not impressed with my technique, which did leave something to be desired, I'll admit, or with the bacony smell of the lard. "Don't get me wrong, Mom, I love bacon--I'm just not so sure I love it in my pie crust."
Heat and humidity are enemies of good pie crust--that's what Rose told me when I emailed her to ask if there were any special tips. "Work quickly and freeze your flour." I did freeze the flour, but nothing was going to make me work quickly. I am a novice, after all. I did come up with two very soft discs of pie dough, which I refrigerated overnight, hoping that they would firm up a bit overnight.
Today I came home early from work to make the quiches. Rose also recommended a rolling pin sleeve, so I went to Kitchen Window to make that purchase. Unlike most special purchases, the rolling pin sleeve was dirt cheap--about $2.00. In order to make the trip worth my while, I also bought another tart pan, some ceramic pie weights, and a pastry cloth. (I told the clerk at Kitchen Window that these purchases were meant for making lard pie crusts. She was unimpressed).
The rolling pin sleeve was well worth the money, but the pastry cloth was a loser; instead of sticking to the counter, the crust stuck to the cloth. I had to scrape it off, shape it into another disc, and put it back in the refrigerator. At this point, it was starting to look like only disaster was in the cards, and I thought about making a quick run to the grocery store to pick up some Betty Crocker pie crust, but I thought I might as well make sure that nothing could be salvaged before I took such a drastic step.
And a good thing I kept at it. Not only did the quiches turn out to be delicious, but they also didn't look too bad. I made one caramelized onion quiche and one spicy spinach quiche, both from TP&PB.

The crusts were decent, but it was the fillings that were fabulous. Both are easy to make, although it takes more than an hour to properly caramelize the onions. And making two things at a time is always confusing to me because I tend to get the two recipes mixed up. Again, though, nothing bad happened. My book club was properly in awe of the two beautiful quiches. I did not announce that the pie crusts were made of lard because I have finally come to understand that hardly anyone thinks this is a good thing.

Here are some conclusions I have drawn after my two-day quiche-making adventure: pastry is much more difficult than bread. Bread pretty much does what you want it to do, and if it doesn't, you can just tell yourself that it looks rustic. You have to be much more skilled, practiced, and artistic than I am to make pastry look good. Also, it is very easy to justify baking at least one loaf of bread every week. Bread is the staff of life. No one has ever called banana cream pie the staff of life. And if I tried to bake every pie in The Pie and Pastry Bible in one year, I'd probably get better at baking pies, but I'd also get considerably fatter. (After all, the pejorative term is "lardbutt," not "breadbutt.) I don't know how Rose manages to keep so slim.


Melinda said...

You are so funny! Every older lady here in UK swears by lard for making a good savoury pie crust. I guess trans-fats will put an end to the shortening craze!
I think pies can be a lot harder to get right. That soggy bottom can be real problem even for experts.
I always roll my pastry between parchment and it is so easy. No need for a pastry mat or pin cover and I also use very little additional flour; which can make the pastry tough. I wonder why you don't see it recommended more?
Perhaps I have it wrong? My pastry turns out quite nice though.
Your quiches look delicious. I love the fillings in Rose's book too.
This post still has me giggling! Lardbutt/breadbutt indeed!

evil cake lady said...

I must have a cakebutt.

The few times I've made a pie crust I've rolled the dough between two pieces of lightly greased plastic wrap...that worked out pretty well.

Your quiches look fabulous!

evil cake lady said...

actually, what i meant to say is that i roll out the dough between lightly floured pieces of plastic wrap.

Susan said...

Beautiful quiches! I've never made a lard crust but I'm inspired to try it.

I'm curious: what was the book?

extrastorchy said...

I've been baking bread for the past couple of months, but I've avoided venturing into pie and pastry territory for the very reason you described.

When I first moved to the South, fried chicken was the staff of life around here for a while. That was the best year of my life, despite the fact that I'm still trying to lose my fried chicken butt seven years later. Once my arteries unclog, though, I swear I'll do it all over again. Don't think I won't.

breadbasketcase said...

Ah, yes--the soggy bottom problem. I'm so happy that you've come up with a solution for it. I've never tried the rolling- between-parchment solution, but I do think that parchment is a miracle, so I may try it next time. I've seen pictures of your cakes, and I think you're more artistic than I am.

You know, I have tried the plastic wrap idea, but have always just become frustrated when the plastic wrap becomes entangled in the dough. If you have it figured out, you should post a video on YouTube, showing how it's done. Seriously.

The book was The Tenth Man, a novelette by Graham Greene, which takes place in post-war France. It is The Tenth Man, by the way, not The Third Man. I first bought The Third Man and read it, then I realized it was The Tenth, so I read that too. I don't think he wrote any other numbered man books.

I love fried chicken, and I never make it. It's sort of in the same category as lard, isn't it? Something that might be good, but you're embarrassed to admit a connection with it for fear that the cholesterol police might come after you.

jini said...

how hilarious! lard de cuisine butt is much more upper crust! :)
i am much more comfortable with pie crust than with bread....guess i need to get busy with bread baking, huh?
my mother gave me what she referred to as a no fail recipe, and it is easy, and i use it for most pies.
if i ever decide to use lard at least i know that clancy's has the good stuff!

extrastorchy said...

Oh, if there are cholesterol police, I've been on the lam for years.

breadbasketcase said...

Care to share your no-fail pie crust recipe?

You know the cholesterol police--they're all wrapped up with the fat police, the sugar police, and the fun police. You'll never catch them enjoying themselves and they try to make sure no one else does either.

Chubbypanda said...

I'm right there with you. I love pies, quiche, cheesecake, and pastries, which is why I never make them. I'm trying to keep temptation at bay.

breadbasketcase said...

At what age do you think you can just say "what the hell," and start eating all the pie, cheesecake, etc., that you want. I used to think I'd hit that age at 60; now I'm hoping for 65.

Anonymous said...

pies look great. the crust is beautiful. only snag was when you made a generalization that vegetarians are picky. vegetarians have an arguably much broader palette than the average omnivore who focuses solely on meat for sustenance . moral, thoughtful and conscientiousness are perhaps better adjectives than picky.