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How to bake a summer picnic quiche

My quiche always turns out stodgy or watery. Where am I going wrong?
Rosie, Bicester, Oxfordshire 

“Quiche has been a great boon these last few months,” says Jeremy Lee, head chef of London’s Quo Vadis, whose lockdown adventures have included classic lorraine, greens, potato and cheddar, and asparagus. Done correctly, Lee says, quiche is a thing of beauty, but its reputation has been bruised by indigestible, meanly filled supermarket offerings (or, as he puts it, “utterly lifeless matter”), so Rosie is right to persevere.

The path to a rich yet light custard that holds just so starts with a change of mindset, says Feast perfectionist Felicity Cloake: “I understood quiche a lot better once I stopped thinking of it as a tart in which the ingredients are bound together by egg, and started thinking of it as a baked custard in a pastry shell.”

There’s nowhere to hide when it comes to that custard, however, and its success for the most part comes down to the dairy. “We’ve become so nervous of dairy that folk have forgotten how good cream is,” says Lee, who uses 300ml double cream, three egg yolks, one whole egg, a scrape of nutmeg and some salt and pepper. More specifically, Cloake adds, being heavy handed with egg (the white contains a lot of protein) or opting for milk or low-fat dairy can result in a rubbery or watery custard. Creme fraiche is another option, but Lee finds it “too tangy. It’s cream or bust.”

Depending on what you have to hand, you could then add cooked asparagus, peas, spinach, broad beans or jersey royals – and lots of cheese. “It’s a great vehicle for whatever’s in the fridge,” Lee says. “A chunk of gruyère, parmesan or cheddar all work incredibly well.” Cloake, however, is a purist and keeps the contents of her filling to a minimum: “Let the custard be the star.”

Next, the baking. To achieve that wonderful wobble and prevent overcooking, use a deep tart tin, Cloake says, before suggesting an alternative approach: “The Brotherhood of the Quiche Lorraine do not blind bake the case, so only the outside is lovely and crisp, and the bottom a bit doughy. It’s a matter of taste, but know that it is sanctioned by the authorities.”

For those looking to stand on safer ground, Lee makes a shortcrust pastry with 300g butter to 500g flour, plus egg and milk. After chilling, he lets the pastry come up to ambient temperature before rolling, to preventing cracking. He then blind bakes at 180C fan for 35-40 minutes to get a really crisp shell, before lowering the heat to 150C fan, adding the custard and baking for 25-35 minutes. “It’s never quite the same twice, but that’s part of the fun,” he says. Once your quiche is puffed and golden, don’t ruin your efforts by tucking in immediately: “Just warm is ideal, so give it 15-20 minutes to settle,” Lee says.

A quiche deserves to be surrounded by salads or sliced up for a socially distanced picnic, though for Lee it’s the ideal companion to watching a film on the sofa, with “little slices to nibble on throughout the day, should there be any left … which I always find quite remarkable”.

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