I’m looking out the kitchen window watching huge fluffy snowflakes drift down from the sky. Just two days ago it was so gorgeously warm and sunny that I thought maybe, just maybe we’d escaped winter and spring was on the way. It’s not that I mind winter, but as it reaches the tail end I find myself longing for everything fresh. The first strawberries. Asparagus; both white and green. The first crisp radishes served with a frosty cold beer at the beer garden and all those other signs that spring and summer are on the way.
Still, I’m warm and cosy inside and thanks to the wonders of the modern transport world I have brought spring to myself with a couple of big punnets of strawberries and some bundles of fresh green asparagus in the fridge. Maybe I can bring summer to Munich through sheer cooking willpower? I’m trying, anyway. Today’s recipe for Asparagus and Bacon Quiche is a great way of making a small bunch asparagus go a lot further. Baked with those natural friends of asparagus; egg, bacon and cheese, this is so flavoursome and ideal for a weekend brunch or a simple supper. I’ve given directions here for how to make an easy enriched shortcrust pastry with takes all of a minute in the food processor, though you can use good quality store-bought if you are pushed for time or have a pastry-making phobia. Maybe it is even spring-like enough to banish the snow from outside?
Asparagus and Bacon Quiche
- 35x12cm rectangular tart tin
for the pastry:
- 100 g cold unsalted butter cubed
- 200 g flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 egg beaten
for the quiche filling:
- 12 long asparagus spears ca. 200-250g
- 4 large eggs
- 200 g full cream
- 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
- ¼ of a small leek finely sliced, or 1 medium onion, diced
- 75 g Gruyere Gouda or Edam cheese, grated
- 75 g prosciutto or bacon fat removed and finely diced
- salt & black pepper
- Grease the base and sides of a 35 x 12cm fluted tart tin (see notes). Place the butter, flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor with the blade fitted and process on high until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Pour in the beaten egg, then run the processor until the mixture clumps together and forms a soft dough. This takes longer than you might think, up to a minute or so. If the dough refuses to come together add a little cold water a teaspoon at a time until it does.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to tap it out into the general shape of the tart tin, then roll it out to fit the tin. Place the dough into the tin, pressing it gently but firmly into all the corners. Trim the edges, leaving a small overhang of about half a centimetre to account for the tart shell shrinking. Prick all over with a fork, then place in the freezer for 10 minutes, or the refrigerator for 20. Keep the pastry trimmings aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas 6. and prepare the filling. Trim the asparagus spears so that from each spear you have two evenly sized pieces the width of the tart tin, discarding the woody ends.
- Beat the eggs together with the cream, nutmeg and a few grinds of salt and pepper, then set aside.
- When the pastry has chilled, remove from the freezer or fridge, scrunch up a sheet of baking paper and use it to line the pastry. Line the baking paper with a piece of foil, pressing to the shape of the pastry. Place the tart tin on a baking tray, then blind bake (see notes) for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and baking paper and bake for a further 5 minutes.
- Remove the tray from the oven. Check the pastry case for any cracks - if so, dampen a small amount of pastry trimmings with a little water so it has a paste-like consistency and very gently use this to plug any holes or cracks. Scatter the leek or onion, cheese and prosciutto over the base of the hot pastry case. Half fill the quiche with the beaten egg and cream mixture, then lay the asparagus spears on top, interchanging the tip and middle pieces and top and tailing them decoratively. Top up with any remaining cream mixture, but don’t be tempted to overfill the tin.
- Bake in the oven a further 30-40 minutes until puffed and golden. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
- You can use the above pastry or store-bought for this recipe. 2-3 sheets of frozen or 1 roll of fresh should fit the tin.
- I use this long tart tin here but you can easily use a standard loose-based round tart tin. See frequently asked questions for a further explanation.
- Blind baking is the process of partially cooking the pastry before it is filled. This helps to avoid the dreaded ’soggy bottom’ If you usually use baking weights or beans, that is quite alright, go ahead and use them, I find that a layer of baking paper and a layer of foil works perfectly as long as the tart has been well chilled before blind baking.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can this quiche be made vegetarian?
Of course! Leave out the bacon or prosciutto but add ½-¾ of a teaspoon of salt to the eggs when you beat them to make up for the missing saltiness.
Can this quiche be gluten-free?
While I’ve not experimented much with gluten-free flour, I am sure this pastry could easily be made with GF flour and the same amount of ingredients.
I don’t have a long tart tin! Can I still make this?
Definitely! I make this all the time in a standard round fluted tart tin. Simply leave the asparagus spears long and arrange them as though they are the hands of a clock, tips pointing out. If your tart tin is very deep, increase the number of eggs to 6 and cream to 300g.
Help!? There are cracks in my pastry after blind baking! What can I do?
Don’t worry! Hopefully, all is not lost. If the cracks are not too severe you can plug them with a paste made from the leftover pastry trimmings and a little water. Be gentle though as the case is very fragile until it has cooled. Scattering cheese on the base of the hot tart will also help form a seal to stop any leakage.
Don’t you need to have baking beans or baking weights to blind bake?
I used to think so too, however, I have been using the method of a layer of baking paper and a layer of foil, pressed into the tin to fit for many years now and have never had a problem. The trick is to make sure the pastry is very cold first so at least 10-15 minutes in the freezer or 20-20 minutes in the fridge before you bake it.