Others may disagree, but Christopher Thé says a quiche crust should be as light and delicate as the fillings it holds. He talks us through his take on the much-loved quiche.
About Christopher Thé
Christopher Thé is the owner and chef at Black Star Pastry. After working as a kitchen hand to pay his way through a degree in psychology at Sydney University, he decided his path lay in cooking.
He has worked as a pastry chef at Bel Mondo, Claude’s and Quay Restaurants and he opened his own boutique patisserie, Black Star Pastry, in 2008 in Newtown, Sydney.
Black Star Pastry now also has stores in Rosebury, Sydney CBD and the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park, which is where production for all the patisseries is centralised (and where we photographed this master class).
Chris is driven by a taste-up philosophy of food design rather than relying on appearance. He is famous for creating the Strawberry Watermelon Cake, one of the most photographed cakes in Australia.
Chris recently launched Black Star Pastry’s new Dragon Fruit Cake, which has scales of finely sliced dragon fruit layered over a sponge with pineapple vanilla cream and pomegranate jelly ripples on a biscuit crumb base.
WHAT TO DO
1. Preparing the dough
Quiche, to me, because it has a delicate filling, pairs with a lighter-baked crust. The delicateness of the egg mixture, when it’s done well, is like a perfectly scrambled egg set and I think that marries better with a light caramel crust as opposed to a dark bake.
But you can use any shortcrust recipe for the dough. Use something that has a bit of gluten development so that you can roll it in, and roll it to 1.5 millimetres.
Make sure your dough is well floured because the discs are so thin that if they get stuck to the bench you can pull them out of shape.
You want your pastry to be between 8 and 16 degrees for lining. If the pastry gets near 20 degrees it becomes too soft and stretchy, and if it’s too cold it will crack.
We separate the dough into two trays. Then, as the one we’re using warms up and becomes too soft to use, we put that back in the fridge and we have another tray that’s at the right temperature—that’s how we keep going nice and quickly.
2. Lining the tins
Make sure that your disc is well centred before you attempt to line your tins. That way you don’t have to readjust the position once it’s in there.
It’s important that the pastry dish is very well centred so you don’t have one side higher than the other, because you’re trying to hold in liquid. If there’s a little drop in one side, all your liquid is going to run out and that will be a baking disaster.
We use canola oil spray but we find that if the pastry is at the right temperature when you’re lining, the tins don’t really need all that much oil. If your pastry is too warm and you continue to line it, then you get the pastry sticking, because you’re kind of smearing it into the tin. The pastry also has to be perfectly dry because any of drops of water will make it stick hard and fast to the tin.
3. Choosing your fillings
To me, a quiche is meant to be a delicate dish, so I keep everything quite delicate based. I wouldn’t go with too many strong flavours. Your smoked salmons are beautiful, but I wouldn’t go with tuna, and I wouldn’t use hard beef but I would go with bacon. If you want a strong flavour, you would bake it into a pie with gravy.
The right filling is about balance in the mouth. It’s like you’re making a scrambled egg mix and you’re putting flavouring into it; too little flavouring and it becomes too rich in the mouth.
4. Filling the tins
For each quiche, we use one whole egg and 80 grams of cream-custard.
We warm the cream to about 50 degrees to take the chill from the cream. Pastry will brown in the oven at about 150 degrees so if you pour a whole lot of fridge-cold ingredients onto the pastry, it just can’t get to a temperature where browning will happen.
We use thickened cream because we find that the ingredients are more buoyant. If we use fresh cream then the fillings tend to sink to the bottom and it affects how the quiche bakes.
You don’t have to aerate the eggs; you’re just fixing the eggs into the cream so that they’re homogenous.
5. Pouring the cream-custard
It’s important to mix the cream-custard with the fillings as you pour it into the tins; I use a little palette knife to do this. If you just pour the cream on top of the fillings, you’ll get a layer of filling at the bottom and a layer of cream-custard at the top; they’ll bake like two separate elements and the eggs will overcook really easily.
Also, when cheese melts it stretches and pulls downwards. If this happens in your quiche you can have a collapsed centre.
By mixing the ingredients through well when you’re pouring in the cream-custard you will get a more predictable bake.
6. Garnishing and seasoning
We don’t season the custard because it’s hard to do that evenly when you’re making 200 quiches. I’m not saying it’s impossible but it’s hard to do. If you season your custard, we find that the top of the jug has less seasoning and the bottom of the jug has all the salt and pepper.
We put salt and pepper in the bottom of each tin and then pour the custard on. Then we season the top as well; that gives us a perfect amount of seasoning.
7. Baking the quiches
The construction is easy, but to bake well, that’s the hard bit with the quiche.
You’ve got a pastry case, which needs a high heat and you’ve got a filling, which just needs a setting heat. The successful quiche bake keeps both of these two elements happy—and that’s hard to do.
Generally, you do the hard baking in a blind bake, so you get your colour on your tin and then you pour your filling in and just set it, but to keep the labour down we bake together.
You need to start with a high heat but turn down the heat in time so that the filling doesn’t overcook. We bake at 200 degrees for 12 minutes, and then we turn the oven down to 100 degrees for 15 minutes.
That’s how we bake but everyone will have their own baking program. If you’re baking 100 quiches it’s different to baking 50 quiches, which is different to baking 20 quiches. That’s the real skill in baking.