Classic Cuisine: Quiche Lorraine

Quiche lorraine is making a comeback as bakeries add exciting new ingredients to the egg and cream filling

When Parisians embraced pizza in all its forms quiche lorraine looked at risk of being bumped off fashionable menus for good. Lately, though, this 1980s party staple has been making a comeback. In Paris, the Franco-British Rose Bakery and Tartes Kluger, a caf� devoted to sweet and savoury tarts, have taken the quiche to new heights, filling it with anything from carrot and preserved lemon to artichoke and peas.

I had long thought of quiche lorraine as strictly the standard version involving eggs, cream and smoked bacon baked in a tart shell. A look at my Larousse Gastronomique, though, showed me that even in its native Lorraine, quiche originally served as a convenient way of using up whatever was around. Dating from the 16th century, this variant of German k�chen, or cake, began as a bread dough crust filled with eggs, cream (the mixture is called migaine) and other ingredients, such as cream cheese, Gruy�re, pumpkin, onions or mushrooms.

Quiche came into its own when bakers began replacing the bread dough with pastry: it’s the contrast between the crackly crust and wobbly filling that makes this tart a thing of genius. Chunks of bacon or another salty ingredient, perhaps sun-dried tomatoes or feta cheese in modern versions, cut through the sweetness of the egg-cream mixture. Some bakers use puff pastry, but a flaky shortcrust pastry strikes a better balance with the rich filling.

To make an authentic quiche lorraine filling, only cr�me fra�che will do, creating a thick mixture to pour over the other ingredients. Double or single cream makes an acceptable substitute if you are not a purist, but milk on its own is only for those who are trying to cut back on cost and calories, giving a less velvety result. An extra egg yolk makes for a richer filling; at the Rose Bakery’s formula is four eggs and one egg yolk to 500ml (2 cups) of single cream. To keep the filling creamy, the quiche should never be cooked at more than 180�C (375�F).

If quiche remains fairly ubiquitous in Paris – it’s sold in nearly every charcuterie/traiteur – the quality can vary wildly. Rose Bakery has won a strong following with its individual square quiches, baked in moulds designed for this caf�. Besides the shape, it’s the crisp pastry, the depth of filling and the variety of seasonal additions that keep the customers queuing. Tartes Kluger has understood the appeal of the deep quiche, which can hold any combination of ingredients the cook can dream up. Along with creative tarts such as a variation on poulet basquaise (chicken with bell peppers), owner Catherine Kluger has reinvented the classic quiche with her version featuring three different hams, grainy mustard and Parmesan.

Of the bakeries in Paris, G�rard Mulot probably does the most outstanding classic quiche. Like many French cooks, he blanches the bacon to remove the excess salt and fat before browning it with a little butter and sprinkling it over the pastry. For him, there should be just enough cheese (Comt� in this case) to bring a nice golden colour to the filling; he labels quiche with too much cheese “quiche lorraine parisienne”.

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Once you have understood the basics of how a quiche is constructed, it will be easy to rival the best in Paris: all you need is buttery pastry (preferably home-made), a nicely balanced filling of eggs and cream, cheese of some sort, one or two lightly cooked vegetables and/or fresh herbs, and cooked meat or fish if you wish (salmon is good with dill, spinach or leeks; chicken with curry or North African flavours). It’s a perfect way to bring new life to leftovers, in the thrifty alsacien tradition.

By Rosa Jackson