It's a new year, and a new source for the Avid Baker's Challenge recipes. This year we've chosen The Smitten Kitchen.
This first challenge was easy, but really nice for a cold winter morning. I find traditional quiche too rich with all the pie crust and eggs and cheese and fatty meats, so I usually make this one using tofu and vegetables. I knew I'd need to modify this recipe to my tastes. The first thing was to oust the crust, and then substitute milk for the half-and-half. (I used whole milk, but I suspect I could have gotten away with 2%.) I'm not a fan of cheesy food, so although I didn't specifically reduce the amount of cheese, I measured the cheddar very lightly in the cup and didn't weigh it, so it was probably less than the recipe intended. I substituted out some of the black pepper for white, and though I didn't think to add the red pepper, with my first bite I immediately wished I had, so I've listed it in the recipe. (As an alternative to the heat, I think some herbs would be a nice addition, so I've listed that as well. It all depends on whether you want a robust flavor or a delicate one.) The switch to pecorino Romano was simply because I prefer the taste over Parmesan and always have it on hand.
I cut the recipe in half, which fit nicely in 3, 4.5-inch ceramic tart pans. (I used a large, 1/2-cup spoon to ladle the filling in. Each tart took one healthy spoonful.) I also changed up the directions slightly; it seems like it would be easier to emulsify the eggs into the cream cheese before adding the milk. I added the salt and spices earlier to give the salt a chance to dissolve and fully incorporate (so one didn't get bursts of salt grains) and for the spices to give up their essence. Although it's probably not necessary to use a bain-marie, since I wasn't using a crust and it happened to be a convenient thing to do at the moment, I figured it wouldn't hurt to have the quiches protected by a water bath.
Here's what I used:
3 ounces (3/8 cup) cream cheese, very soft
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper or chipotle pepper OR 1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence (optional)
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (see note)
1/2 cup grated medium cheddar
1/4 cup finely grated
3-5 green onions (according to taste), thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 425F. Whisk cream cheese in a medium-sized bowl until smooth and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one by one, blending well between each, then add the salt and peppers/herbe. Continue whisking while adding the milk. Fold in the remaining ingredients until they are evenly distributed. Pour into greased tart pans and place them in a small, shallow baking pan. Add boiling water to the pan to about half way up the sides. Bake about 20 minutes, checking after 15. The quiche should look firm but still moist. Serve warm.
Note: to fully dry out thawed spinach, I squeeze out as much as I can with my hands, then put it in a cotton kitchen towel and wring out the remaining water.
I tested some nutmeg in one of the quiches (because I think nutmeg belongs in custards), but couldn't really detect what I'd added. Just as well, as I don't think it would have mixed well with the cheddar. I normally buy mild cheddar in 2-pound blocks, but last time I accidentally bought medium cheddar. I found the cheddar flavor a little strong, but by no means excessive. I think the strong cheese flavor is what demanded some chile heat, but if using mild cheddar either the red pepper or the herbes would be fine. When I saw the recipe called for kosher salt, I wondered if it were measured for large-grain salt. (Kosher comes small grain as well.) Since I wanted the salt fully incorporated, I used small-grained sea salt, but worried the measurement might be off. It was---the quiche was a little too salty. I've adjusted the recipe above to reduce the salt content. Lastly, I messed up on the timing and overcooked the quiche slightly. I initially set the timer for 13 minutes. They weren't nearly done, so I set it again for 10 minutes... or so I thought. When it didn't go off after what seemed like 10 minutes, I got up to check and the timer read 9:49. <insert confused emoticon here> I guess I accidentally set it for 10 hours. Oops. So in total it seems the quiche baked for 24 minutes. They could have been moister, but otherwise were fine. I've adjusted the timing in the recipe to what I think would be acceptable.
Recipe: Spinach sheet-pan quiche via Smitten Kitchen