The Amazing Shrinking Pastry Crust

In all my adventures in cooking and baking, I hadn’t yet tackled a baked egg dish. What could be better for a Sunday brunch/lunch than fluffy baked eggs, loaded with cheese, veggies and meat? For my introduction to this wonderfulness, I decided to go with a classic – Quiche Lorraine. On the side, I served up a simple green salad dressed with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Delicious! Light but satisfying at the same time. :)

Quiche Lorraine is a classic French dish that combines a flaky pastry crust with eggs, milk or cream, Swiss or Gruyere cheese and bacon. Some recipes call for onion as well. It’s all baked in the oven until warm and golden and then sliced and served like a piece of pie.

Here’s an example of where I had every intention of taking a store bought shortcut but ended up making everything from scratch instead. How often does that happen? It’s usually the other way around! I debated back and forth about making my own pastry. After much consideration, I decided I would use store bought pie crust this go round and save the pastry for another time. Well. I forgot to BUY the pie crust. D’oh! But I had the butter, flour and ice water necessary to make my own so rather than go back to the store, I decided I’d just make it myself.

I baked my pastry and quiche in a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom as suggested in the recipe because I thought it would make for a prettier presentation than a standard pie plate. I ran into a pretty major snafu – my crust SHRANK LIKE CRAZY! Blast!

I noticed it the minute I took it out of the oven – a HUGE gap between the pastry and the pan on one side of the pie. I had one of those “this can’t be good” moments, but moved forward anyway thinking I could somehow carefully pour the egg mixture into the crust and NOT have it overflow and run into that space.

Um. Yeah. That’s impossible. Can’t be done. I poured the eggs into the crust, where they immediately spilled over the pastry like a river flooding its bank and started leaking out the bottom of my tart pan, which luckily, was already on a baking sheet covered in foil.

Eep. :-|

I tossed that thing in the oven to bake and immediately set out to find out what in the world causes insane pastry shrinkage. Ha. That makes me think of Seinfeld. Maybe my pastry decided to go swimming and the water was too cold?

Anyway…

I couldn’t really come up with a definitive answer. I got everything from the dough wasn’t cold enough, to it was too wet, to I stretched it too much in the pan. I swear I didn’t make any of these mistakes along the way, but maybe I did. Oh well.

In the end, the half of my quiche that was not overrun by runny eggs was quite good! The pastry actually had a really great flavor and flake to it. It paired very well with other ingredients, all of which brought their own flavor to the table – salty, crispy bacon, creamy cheese, a slight bite from the scallions. We both enjoyed it very much. The other half…well…it was a little more frittata-like than quiche-like. It still ate, but the crust just got lost inside the egg and it certainly wasn’t as pretty.

So, pastry experts! Any tips for a Newb? Is there a way to insure butter pastry won’t shrink? Any tricks of the trade to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

QUICHE LORRAINE WITH A SIMPLE SALAD (Recipe Adapted From: Emeril Lagasse via Foodnetwork.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 recipe for Flaky Butter Crust, recipe follows
  • 6 ounces thick cut bacon, cut into narrow strips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups half-and-half (I used fat free)
  • 3 scallions, white and greens, chopped.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss
  • 1 recipe for Simple Salad, recipe follows

DIRECTIONS:

On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry dough in to an 11-inch circle. Fit into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and trim the edges. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is set, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon until crisp and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Discard the fat or reserve for another use.

Arrange the bacon evenly over the bottom of the baked crust.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, and half and half. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour into the prepared crust and bake until the custard is golden, puffed, and set yet still slightly wiggly in the center, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with Simple Salad.

FLAKY BUTTER CRUST:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed (I needed about 4)

To make the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and butter in the processor and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and pulse quickly 5 or 6 times, or until the dough comes together and starts to pull away from the sides of the container. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface according to the recipe, fit it into the pan, and allow to rest again in the refrigerator before baking.

Yield: one 9-inch tart or pie crust

SIMPLE SALAD

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Assorted salad greens, for accompaniment

Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the sugar, garlic, salt and pepper until sugar and salt dissolves. Then beat in the oil by droplets, whisking constantly. (Or place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake to combine.) Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Toss a few tablespoons of the dressing with the salad mix and serve immediately.

If not using dressing right away, cover and refrigerate, whisking or shaking again before use.

ENJOY! :)

One Year Ago: Chicken Piccata

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8 Comments

Filed under breakfast, veggies

8 responses to “The Amazing Shrinking Pastry Crust

  1. The quiche looks delicious. When I make butter crusts, I do the blind bake with dry beans (which I have rinsed and dried for this purpose only) in side the crust. They weigh it down just enoug to prevent major shrinkage.

  2. Kate

    Like Kelsey suggested, I’d say you need to use some form of pie weights. Dry beans are much cheaper than commercial pie weights, obviously. On the other hand, pie weights are evenly-weighted. It’s all in what you prefer!

  3. themilkmanswife

    Thanks ladies! Yeah, I tried to rig up a pretty junky “pie weight” thing involving several layers of aluminum foil wrapped around some loose change. LOL. I’m sure the weight wasn’t evenly distributed. I’ll have to get to try the actual pie weights or beans. :)

  4. hobbes

    Yes.. the other comments are correct, in that using weights to press down the pie will minimise the shrinkage.

    However, the underlying reason why the crust shrank is because the dough contains gluten, which is an elastic molecule, so the dough acted like a giant rubber band. I’m guessing you moulded the dough into the pie tray straight after you rolled it out?

    You should let the rolled out dough sit around for about 5-10 minutes so that it will relax and shrink back to a more natural and less taut shape. Only after this delay, should you mould the dough into the pie tray. Otherwise, the crust will just shrink while you bake it.

    Hope my guess is correct and this helps!

    • themilkmanswife

      Oh, thanks so much for the tips! Yeah, I did kind of shape the dough into the pie plate…I will try this next time. Appreciate it!!

  5. Well I’m a bit late, but I’m a pastry chef and can tell you that far and away the most common cause of pastry shrinkage in any type of pastry is under-resting.

    When you pin out a piece of pastry the strands of gluten are stretched like rubber bands, and want to come back to their original shape. So to avoid shrinkage, pin it out, loosen it from the table so that it can shrink itself, then leave it for a few minutes underneath a damp towel to avoid skinning. Come back to it and pin it out again. Do this two or three times and you should get less shrinkage.

    Also, if I am using old pastry (especially short pastry, which is notorious for shrinking) I will push down on the sides as I am lining it into the tin so that the sides are a bit thicker. This will help pack it in, and also reduces shrinkage.

  6. Pingback: Milk & Honey

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