Quiche, that culinary darling of the 1970s, suddenly seems to be appearing on menus everywhere.
At Empire Coffee + Pastry in northeast Minneapolis, quiche — truly impressive quiche, it must be said — has been a top seller since sisters Amy and Chrissy Kelsch opened for business in December.
And why not? “It’s a classic,” said Amy Kelsch, the shop’s baker. “I’m always surprised by the wide range of people who get really excited about it. You know, young dudes who walk in and say, ‘Wow, you have quiche.’ ”
What the restaurant industry might not want the world to know is that this open-faced custard pie is a snap to prepare, even for novice bakers. Here’s Amy Kelsch’s quick tutorial:
Step away from the pie crust: For quiche, Kelsch prefers an eggy, tart-like crust. “An all-butter pie crust with a quiche custard is really, really rich,” she said. “This dough is crumblier — which is great for quiche — and I like the lemon in it.” Another bonus, for the rolling-pin wary: “It’s not as fragile as pie crust; it’s much sturdier,” she said. “So rolling it out is easier.”
Go handle-free: Forget about using those rolling pin handles. “You get so much more force — and so much more control — if you push from the middle of the pin” when rolling, Kelsch said. To prevent cracking, place the roller in the center of the dough and move the roller outward, rather than rolling from edge to edge across the length of the dough. With every roll, turn the dough a quarter-turn.
Smooth it out: After mixing the custard, Kelsch enlists a mesh strainer. “I really push the custard through,” she said. “It doesn’t take any time, and it makes the custard super-smooth. I’m paranoid about chunks of egg in custard.”
Fill it up: Most quiche ingredients should be precooked: sautéed onions, blanched kale, steamed broccoli, fried bacon, roast chicken. The trick is to select ingredients that will add big flavors but not a lot of moisture. At Empire, recent combinations have included leek-feta-lemon zest, butternut squash-Parmesan-caramelized onion, bacon-chèvre-leek and ham-Gruyère-leek. “Quiche is incredibly flexible,” said Kelsch. “We use whatever is on hand, and whatever is in season.”
Add dairy: For the vast majority of the quiche community, grated or crumbled cheese is an essential quiche filling. Basics include Cheddar, provolone, Monterey Jack and Swiss. The classic quiche Lorraine contains bacon but no cheese.
Make ahead: Quiche works at breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, served warm or at room temperature, and it’s definitely a friend of the time-crunched. Un-rolled dough can be refrigerated overnight; remove it from the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling. It will keep in the freezer for a month; let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and remove it for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling. The rolled-out dough can also be par-baked in advance and frozen for up to a month; thaw to room temperature before adding the custard. Once the custard is baked, a quiche can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.
Warm it up: Kelsch rolled her eyes at the mention of a microwave oven. “No, absolutely not,” she said with a laugh. “Microwaves have their place, but they turn anything with a crust instantly soggy and rubbery.” Instead, allow the refrigerated quiche to come to room temperature (about 15 minutes), then bake in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes. “It’s a perfect make-ahead dish,” she said. “You just pop that guy in the oven and you’re ready to go.”
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A one-woman baked-goods empire
For those unfamiliar with Empire, Amy Kelsch’s work is a real find. After eight years of baking around Chicago — from a Michelin two-star restaurant to a neighborhood French bakery — the Twin Cities native returned to Minnesota last year to create an outlet for her plain-spoken, bursting-with-deliciousness baked goods, both savory and sweet: a modest selection of turnovers, scones, biscuits, coffee cakes, pies, sticky buns, cookies, Danish and a nothing-short-of-glorious a.m. muffin brimming with bacon, green onions and Cheddar. Quiche, too. If the prospect of preparing a quiche is as daunting as proving the existence of the Higgs boson (not to worry, it’s a nearly foolproof recipe), then let Kelsch handle the details, at $4 per slice, or $30 for a whole pie.
Empire Coffee + Pastry, 451 NE. Stinson Blvd., Mpls., 612-331-3877, www.empireminneapolis.com.