I really like baking but don’t like that I always have to follow a recipe. I have trouble memorizing them and always need to keep referring to one in a book, scribbled on a piece of paper or on my phone or computer which inevitably means there are clumps of some kind of baking mix stuck to everything. I guess if I baked often enough I could actually remember the recipes, but alas that is not the case. So when I came across an article on the NPR website about a new cookbook that teaches you to cook using ratios, I thought it was something I should try. I figured it would be a lot easier to remember two parts of this to that, than whether it was 1/4 or 1/3 cup of some ingredient.
In the cookbook Ratios author Michael Ruhlman describes the basic ratios of fundamental ingredients used in recipes, which he says is what is the most important thing to remember when cooking. For example, bread is broken down to just a ratio of 5 parts flour: 3 parts water. The exact measurements of the other items, such as yeast, are not so crucial and you just need a small amount. This idea of ratios seemed really appealing, especially since I use them a lot for my work, and thought this approach would solve my issues with baking.
For my ratio experiment, I decided to try and make a quiche. Why a quiche? Well, there was a recipe for pâte brisée on the NPR website and one for quiche so that was one reason. Quiche is easy to make and also involves ratios (of milk to eggs). Plus quiche is really tasty. So it was a perfect choice.
I started off by making pâte brisée for the crust using the recipe that NPR posted from the Ratios cookbook.
3:2:1 Pie Dough (Pâte Brisée)
- 12 ounces flour
- 8 ounces butter (or lard, shortening or any combination thereof), cut into small pieces, cold or even frozen
- 2 to 4 ounces of ice water (quantity depends on the fat — whole butter has water in it so you only need a couple ounces; shortening and lard do not contain water)
- three-finger pinch of salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)
So the ratio here is 3:2:1 for flour: fat (butter, lard, shortening): water. If you use butter, the ratio becomes 3:2:0.5 because you need less water. So basically to make a pie crust, you just need to remember the ratio of those three ingredients. Simple enough.
- Combine flour and fat in a mixing bowl and rub the fat between your fingers until you have small beads of fat and plenty of pea-sized chunks (if you’re making a bigger batch, this can be done in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment — but remember not to paddle too much after you add the water, just enough so that it comes together.
- Add the ice water gradually and a good pinch of salt, and mix gently, just until combined — if you work the dough too hard it will become tough.
- Shape into two equal discs and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until ready to roll.
- When cooled, take the dough out of the fridge, roll it out to make a 9-inch pie crust and place dough in a pie pan.
The recipe says that when you use the dough for a quiche or a liquid batter, you need to do something called “blind baking”, which is where you bake the pie first before adding the filling.
To blind bake the crust:
- The pie crust needs to be filled with something heavy to prevent the crust from rising during blind baking. You can use pie weights or if you don’t have those, you can use something like dried beans.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Place the pie weights or beans at the bottom of the crust (use aluminum foil or parchment paper to line the bottom first) and bake for 15-20 minutes. Cover the top edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil so that they do not brown too much.
The above is slightly modified from the recipe on the NPR page. I tried blind baking the pie crust (using beans) the way it’s described there, but the edges of the pie crust browned too quickly. This made me worried about what would happen to the crust when I needed to bake the quiche since it needs to be in the oven for at least 30 minutes during that stage. So I remade the crust and shortened the blind baking time, making sure to cover the pie crust edge with aluminum foil prior to putting it in the oven.
Now for the quiche filling. In reading about how to make the perfect consistency of the custard portion of the quiche, many people refer to the French method which calls for 2 eggs per cup of milk. Some people like their quiche a little firmer or “eggier” so they bump up the egg amount (for ex. 3 eggs per cup of milk). The 3:1 ratio was the one I used.
As for the other ingredients, I feel you can add in whatever you think goes well with eggs and adjust the amount you add depending on whether you want more of the egg taste to come through or a heartier quiche with more ingredients added. For the quiche I made, I decided to add spinach, bacon, onions, Monterrey Jack and Parmesan cheese. Instead of just using milk, I used 1/2 cream and 1/2 milk for the liquid portion.
Bacon, spinach & onion quiche
- 4-6 slices of bacon
- 1/2 white onion
- 1 to 2 handfuls of chopped spinach
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 pie crust
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cook 4-6 slices of bacon in a large skillet/pan until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Chop up bacon into small pieces. Set aside. Save the bacon grease.
- Chop onions into small pieces and sautee them on medium heat in a pan using about 1-2 tbsp of the bacon grease. Sautee until the onion appears translucent and slightly golden brown in color (about 5 minutes). Remove from pan and set aside to cool.
- Wash and chop spinach. Sautee in pan until it begins to wilt slightly. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Place the cooked ingredients at the bottom of the pie crust. Add 1/2 of the Jack and Parmesan cheese.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them. Add milk and cream and whisk together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into the pie crust.
- Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top.
- Place in oven and bake for 30-45 minutes until firm. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5-10 min. Then cut, serve and eat!