How many times have you pre-baked (or blind baked) your pastry for a quiche or other type of tart, only to discover a shrunken shell? Most “authorities” on the subject seem to attribute the shrinking of the pastry to it being “stretched” as it is rolled out and/or placed in the pie or tart pan.
This never quite made sense to me since the process of rolling the dough must stretch it. I had tried everything that I could think of to stop or at least minimize the shrinking: ensuring that dough was cold before putting it in the pan; ensuring that the dough was cold before putting it in the oven; using weights on the bottom; pre-baking at a high temperature; pre-baking at a moderate temperature; pressing the excess dough down the sides of the pan; handling the dough very little; etc. Then I came across an article (I wish that I could find it again) that really explained, at least to me, why the pie dough shrinks. You see, regardless of your recipe, pie dough has as a minimum flour, salt, fat (shortening and/or butter) and water in it. During the cooking process, some of the water in the dough evaporates, resulting in a reduced volume. Therefore, whatever you do, the pie dough is going to shrink a little or a lot.
Once you recognize this, the solution is simple: Trim the crust after it is baked, as opposed to trimming it before the baking.
Start with your rolled out pie dough – either homemade or store bought. I typically use the store bought because it is convenient and tastes good! Gently place it in your pie or tart pan, leaving the edges sticking up from the top of the pan.
I followed the pre-baking directions on the package of the store bought crust: 450° F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. After the crust is removed from the oven, there’s plenty of it, but it doesn’t look very good. Not a problem! I let the crust thoroughly cool in the pan, knowing that the solution is close at hand.
Once the crust is cooled, I remove the beans and coffee filter, and carefully begin trimming away the excess crust while it is still in the pan. I use a serrated bread knife for this. I suspect, however, that any sharp knife would do. The hardest part is the initial cut, because I don’t want to break the crust. Once I’ve taken enough of the excess crust off, I cut the remaining excess by holding the knife parallel to the top of the tart pan, and gently use a sawing motion.
On this particular occasion, I decided to make a sausage and onion quiche. The ingredients include the baked tart shell, eggs whisked with milk; onions sautéed in a little butter; cooked, crumbled and drained sausage; and shredded gruyère cheese.
I remove the cooled and trimmed the tart shell from the tart pan, and place it on a baking sheet that has been lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Then, I sprinkle the onions on the bottom of the tart shell, followed by the sausage, then the cheese, and finally the egg/milk mixture. Into a 375° F oven the quiche goes. After 35 minutes, I have a perfectly cooked, and absolutely delicious quiche, which I let cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Yum!
1 (9-inch) unbaked pastry shell
3 large eggs
¾ cup milk
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
½ pound (8-ounces) Jimmy Dean pork sausage
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded gruyère cheese
Preheat oven to 450° F. Carefully line a 9-inch tart or pie pan with unbaked pastry. Do not trim. Prick the bottom several times with the tines of a fork. Line with a coffee filter; spread about a cup of dried beans or pie weights on coffee filter. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool completely. Remove coffee filter and beans. While still in the pan, carefully trim away the excess crust with a serrated knife. Set aside.
Whisk together 3 eggs and ¾ cup of milk. Set aside.
Over medium heat, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in a frying pan. Add chopped onions; sauté for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from heat; set aside.
Crumble sausage in a frying pan. Cook over medium heat until the sausage is thoroughly cooked and well crumbled. Drain well on paper towels. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
To assemble the quiche, begin by placing the crust on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Sprinkle sautéed onions evenly over the bottom of the crust, followed by the sausage, and then the shredded cheese. Add the egg/milk mixture. Bake at 375° F for 35 minutes, or until the mixture is set and the top is golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 servings.