In the small city I used to live in back home in the Netherlands, there is this little French bakery that sells these incredibly buttery, amazingly creamy, super-cheesy mini artichoke quiches. I’m not sure what it was exactly that made these particular mini quiches so amazing: was it that flakey buttery crust? Or the fact that that crust was filled to the brim with a heavy cheese-and-cream filling and slightly tart artichokes? Probably, it was both. Whatever it was, once in a while I would go and indulge in one of these delicious little pies, but, to be honest… they were kind of expensive and just small enough to make you crave more. “Surely, I can make my own?”, I thought some weeks ago. And yeah, I could! I know… before you laugh at my seemingly preposterous over-estimation of myself: I am painfully aware that I am no French bakery and that baking dainty perfect little buttery pies is a particular skill I do not possess, but let’s just call this a lovely attempt at a rustic, homemade XXL-version of one of those cute little French pies I used to buy.
Since I am no baker, the recipe for the shortcrust pastry used in my recipe here is one that’s been slightly adapted from Mary Berry’s several recipes for quiche-crusts. Baking is still a bit confusing to me and all recipes seem to vary slightly: at times, there is a slight difference in the ratio between flour and butter; other times an egg or just a yolk is added while some omit egg altogether; and some recipes ask for margarine (ew!), but most for butter. I’ve tried many different recipes and technically all of them work, but I definitely have some preferences.
For my crust, I’ve simply added all those ingredients that I believe make a crust good (‘good’ meaning: flakey, flavorful and buttery): plain all-purpose flour, salted butter, a whole egg, some herbs and a bit of patience. I’ve slightly rounded up and down some of the measurements and ratios of Mary’s recipes in order to make weighing a bit easier for myself; I can’t be bothered with uneven numbers and very precise measuring. So far, this crust has been proven to be both delicious and fail-proof even for a baking-novice like myself.
As for the filling, there’s nothing worse than an overly firm, dry, or overly eggy filling. I like my quiche-filling slightly custardy and soft – I mean, who doesn’t? First of all, this can be achieved by simply not overcooking the quiche, as overcooking often causes the egg and cheese to stiffen up and dry out too much. We’ve all been there, right? Slicing open a freshly baked quiche and seeing a filling that is almost grainy, watery and full of little holes, but definitely not creamy at all… no? Is it only me? For a perfectly custardy center, you should start off by blind-baking the crust to ensure it is fully cooked, after which only 25 minutes of final baking should be enough for the filling to set.
Another little trick for that perfect filling: I’ve added some mascarpone to the ‘egg-cheese-and-cream mixture’ to raise the fat and moisture content slightly (read: moisture results in a creamy, rather than firm center) and I’ve picked a semi-hard yellow cheese to add flavor rather than a harder aged cheese such as Parmesan, as aged cheeses do not melt so well and can make the filling grainy. The cheese I’ve picked is a nutty, only-slightly aged Swiss Gruyère. Gruyère is often used in cooking and baking (quiches in particular), since it is a good melting cheese that has enough of a distinctive, savory flavor to add a good amount of cheesiness without overshadowing other ingredients too much. After all, the cheese and salty pancetta in this quiche are simply there to support the main stars of this dish: the fresh artichokes (or is it that crust?).
Tip #1: The key to a perfectly flakey and slightly-crumbly quiche-crust is to start baking it while the dough is cold. After lining the baking-tin with the dough, place it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, or longer before putting it in a preheated oven.
Tip #2: Fresh artichokes will discolor very rapidly after being cut. While removing the leaves and cutting off the edges, rub the artichokes with lemon juice and have a bowl of cold lemony water ready to stop them from turning black.
Artichoke quiche (with Pancetta)
- For the crust:
- 200g all-purpose flour
- 120g chilled salted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- For the filling:
- 6 large whole artichokes (or canned artichoke hearts)
- 1 lemon (if using fresh artichokes)
- 4 eggs
- 200ml whipping cream
- 100g mascarpone
- 150g Gruyère, finely grated
- 100g pancetta
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 28cm spring form pan, or tart tin
- Baking beans, or dry rice
- Parchment paper
MethodNote: prep time listed does not include hands-off waiting time for the pastry.
- Prepare the pastry dough: In a small bowl beat 1 egg and tablespoon of cold water. In a larger bowl, add the flour, dried thyme and cubes of butter. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until it forms large crumbs. Add the beaten egg and knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface (if the butter is melted and it is too sticky to roll out, place dough in the fridge for 10 minutes). Use the dough to line a 28cm tart-tin, or spring cake tin. If you want, clean up the edges by trimming off excess pastry with the back of a butter knife. Lightly prick the dough all over with a fork and place the dough-lined tin in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
- Clean the artichokes [skip this step when using canned artichoke hearts]: Prepare a bowl with cold water and squeeze in some of the lemon juice. Reserve the partly squeezed-out lemon halves. Peel off the tough outer leaves of the artichokes until you get to leaves that are mostly yellow in color. Artichokes can discolor quickly so once you get to the yellow leaves rub the artichoke all around with the cut-side of the lemon-halves. Cut off the pointy top of off the artichoke (about half-way) to reveal the inner purple leaves. Cut off the stem. Then use a small knife to cut off the green bits around the base/heart of the artichoke. For this recipe, I like to then cut the artichokes in half at this point as we will be cutting them up into pieces later anyway, since this makes it easier to remove the fluffy choke and prickly inner leaves. Remove all of the fluffy choke and tough inner leaves and place the cleaned artichokes in the lemony water.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Blind-bake the pastry case: Line the pastry with baking parchment paper and weigh it down with baking beans, or baking bean replacement like dry rice. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the baking beans and parchment paper and return the empty pastry case to the oven for 10 more minutes until it starts to brown slightly, then remove from oven.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C.
- Meanwhile cook the pancetta and artichokes: Place a frying pan over medium-high heat. Cut the pancetta into small pieces and bake in the hot pan until crispy. If you’ve got sliced pancetta, reserve some slices to place on top of the quiche. Remove your cleaned artichokes from the lemon water and cut them into smaller chunks. Add artichoke pieces to the pan and cook for about 15 minutes until tender. When the artichokes are tender, take the pan off the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- Make the egg and cream mixture: in a bowl beat together 4 eggs, the whipping cream, the mascarpone, the grated Gruyère and some black pepper until well combined. Add the cooled down artichokes and pancetta (it’s okay if it’s still slightly warm) to the egg and cream mixture.
- Finishing the quiche: pour the egg-mixture and other ingredients into the blind-baked crust. If you've kept some pancetta slices aside, place them on top of the other ingredients. Place the quiche in the middle of the oven and bake for another 25 - 30 minutes until just set and slightly golden. Serve warm, or cold.