Quiche aux Cèpes, the “Pseudoharu Aoki” way
We love Taiwan and had been there more than half a dozen times over the last couple of years. Fabulous food, good shopping and breathtaking scenery, the island country continually astounds us in with her ever-changing facades of beauty, fun and excitment. And that’s basically what keeps us going back. We are never bored there and feel strangely at home all the time. When we got to know that the renowned Japanese patissier Sadaharu Aoki 青木定治 had opened a dessert salon in Taipei, the level of excitement that amounted could barely be contained! This gives us yet another reason to make another trip, this time a pilgrimage, to pay homage to the great Paris based pastry master. It is no secret that I’m in awe of Aoki san’s creations. But travelling frequently to Paris or even Tokyo to try his works proved to be quite a feat. Aoki’s outlet in Taipei is probably our closest pitstop to pastry heaven.
As the date of our trip drew near, I did another search on Aoki’s website and my eyes nearly popped and jaws dropped big time. Aoki had opened yet another dessert boutique in Taipei! This time in Grand Formosa Regent, a 5-star hotel right in the heart of the city area. And to commemorate the opening of this new outlet, Aoki brought several new creations to Taipei, one of which was an entremet named “Trio” limited to this new outlet. Three types of chocolate in varying degrees of cocoa content, and passionfruit compote to cut through all that richness. There’s also “Millefeuille Azuki“, caramelised layers of puff pastry sandwiching red bean custard paste. And its not just all about being sweet it seems. A weekday lunch menu was carefully crafted with savory dishes including slices of egg-washed Brioche carefully seared in salted Echire butter to make some helluva wicked french toast. Then there’s the usual club sandwich to go with an array of mignardies and tea as one wastes a lazy afternoon away to idyllic ambience and piped in music. The finale for me, was a Quiche aux Cèpes which used really simple yet premium gourmet ingredients. I know the title of this post sounded really cheesy and its definitely not from the emmental or gruyere that went into it. Of course Aoki san did not publish any recipe for his quiche, so here’s my humble take of it with some “help” from the pastry master himself. Read on if you wanna know how that happened. 🙂
Cèpes or better known as Porcini being reconstituted
Quiche is a really “rustic” dish in France and every decent housewife would most likely have her very own “secret recipe” for it. But the composition of a quiche is remarkably minimalistic and thankfully Aoki has not tried to reinvent the wheel as some other “itchy-finger” pastry chef would. He kept to it to an almost rudimentary level of simplicity and I glad he had done it that way. The copycat in me echoes from within that I must try out his “recipe”, and I’m sure glad that I did!
Red Onions, sweeter and more flavourful than the white or yellow varieties.
Pâte brisée (yields 500g of dough) from Pierre Herme’s Les Larousse Des Desserts
draining away excess moisture, before giving them a gentle squeeze
sift flour into a bowl
creamy butter until creamy and pale
incoporate salt, sugar, egg yolk and milk until homogeneous
add flour in steps to the wet ingredient mixture until just come together
chill until ready to use
roll chilled shortcrust pastry onto tart pan and return to fridge for shell to firm up. Usually taking half an hour or so. Bake blind at 180C for 15 min, take out and brush with egg wash all over and then return to bake for another 5 min.
Danish bacon, less salty than the usual american ones. Bacon in French is….. still bacon! 🙂
100g streaky bacon
30g dried porcini/cèpes
100g cheese (I used Gruyère + Parmesan 3:1)
150g milk (full-cream!)
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Reconstitute dried porcini in warm water for half an hour. Squeeze to remove excess water.
Peel onion and finely juilenne.
Cut bacon into finger-width strips.
In a saucepan, saute bacon pieces until it begins to brown slightly. Add porcini and give it a good toss. Transfer onto a plate when the porcini begin to exude wafts of heady woodsy perfumes. do not overcook the mushrooms
Add 1 tbsp of olive oil into the same saucepan and saute under low flame until soften and slightly caramelised. Return bacon and porcini into saucepan and mix evenly with onion. Transfer onto same plate, spreading out the filling as much as possible to accelerate the cooling process.
While the filling is cooling, grate cheese.
In a large bowl, combine milk, cream and eggs with a dash of pepper and salt to taste.
After tart shell has cooled, lay half of grated cheese over the base, followed by porcini-bacon-onion mixture. Cover top with remaining half of cheese.
Carefully pour milk and egg mixture over the solid ingredients. Use a spatula or fork to press down the latter slight to ensure everything is well submerged.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 30 min or until the filling has set. Test by inserting a skewer in the middle. It should come out clean if the quiche is ready.
Reflections and Modifications
I’d used from Pierre Herme’s recipe for the shortcrust pastry which I would not bother raving about here as its already recieved countless nods of approval by the very accomplished baking bloggers. His recipe for Pâte brisée varies slightly depending on which publication you are looking at. The one reproduced here comes from “Les Larousse Des Desserts” where it was dubbed as “pâte à foncer“, distinguishable from his regular Pâte brisée recipe by the use of egg yolk. This makes the dough softer and yields an almost melt-in-you-mouth texture. A similar recipe can be found in “Desserts by Pierre Herme” edited by Dorie Greenspan.Pierre Herme’s Pate a foncer is significantly easier to work with than many other pate brisee recipes around, largely because everything is done at room temperature, compared to the “cold butter” treatment some recipes require. And thankfully the dough is not any less pliable. However, one should note that there is a certain level of flexibility to the amount of flour added as it often depends on a myriad of factors i.e. moisture level of flour. Adjust the flour and milk ratio if necessary.
looking like hell, but tasting like heaven…
“Porcini” as it is known in Italy or much of the western culinary circle, or “Cèpes” in France, is much of an acquired taste. Prima facie, I was overwhelmed by its aroma and didn’t like it very much. But as the taste buds got accustomed to its scent, the woodsy overtones that drew from it grew on me with much relish. It is full of character and can hold weight as a centrepiece of its own, perhaps with some lift provided by some auxiliary ingredients, in this case, cheese, bacon and onion. And that is all that’s needed. Truth be told, I didnt add any salt, only some freshly crushed black pepper and that’s all that’s needed.
Gruyère is my savory pie/tart cheese de facto and I’d also added freshly grated parmesan in 3:1 for the edge. Emmental and a whole range of similar swiss cheeses wouldo make a decent choice as well. stay away from the blues though…
During our recent trip to Taiwan, not only did we get a chance to try out almost all of Sadaharu Aoki’s creations available at his two dessert salons, we also got to “observe” them being made. One of the nights when we were in Taipei, there was a program on TV which featuring Sadaharu Aoki and his works with some “behind the scenes” on how some of his creations are made. On the show, he shared some of his culinary inspirations and ideas, including the choice of ingredients, his concept of of flavours. He demonstrated several of his creations on the show and quiche was one of them. The combination of ingredients and flavours used here is inspired by Sadaharu Aoki’s Quiche aux Cèpes which he prepared as an “encore” to enthrall his guests who were there to sample his works.
What looks like charring on the surface are actually bits of porcini which peeked out of the savory custard batter. The woodsy flavours from the mushroom went so well with the smoky aroma of the bacon. On the other hand, the salt used in Gruyère and Parmesan was nicely balanced by sweetness teased out from just caramelised onions. It is important however, not to overdo the “on-the-stove” part as the bulk of the “cooking” comes from the 30 min baking in the oven. If the onions become too soft from the caramelisation or the bacon bits too brown, the textures of the final product would be greatly affected.
I’ll leave you now with some stills from the televised Aoki special feature. Another creation featured on the program was brioche where he talked in detail about butter content, but I’ll save for another day. 🙂