S’mores Pie

S'mores Pie

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you did, too!  I got to spend it with my whole family!  Both my brothers came down with their children and with them and my parents, there were 16 of us bedding down in our old childhood home! I got to see my grandmother and my sweet Aunt Mary, too!  I really don’t think I’ve seen that much family in one weekend in several years. It was good for the soul and I don’t feel like I even overate as much as I usually do, which enabled me to enjoy the heck out of this pie I created on Friday night.

S’mores pie!  When we showed Olive s’mores for the first time this summer, we made them with dark chocolate.  I loved the balance the dark chocolate gave to the super sweet marshmallow and graham cracker.  So when thinking of a pie to make for Thanksgiving, I thought of doing the darkest chocolate pie I knew how to do and topping it with my favorite meringue and then torch the heck out of the top.

Best.  Chocolate Pie. Ever.

Seriously, if you want to win some kind of chocolate pie award, this is your pie.  Make it with a traditional crust and serve it with soft whipped cream and that is all you’ll need for ultimate bragging rights.  I nearly skipped out on the meringue, but I wanted that dramatic torched effect so I went with it.  I think if I were to do this pie over, I would give it more s’moresy flavor by just dumping a bunch of marshmallows on top and burning them to a crisp.  Because I’m that s’mores gal – the one who likes to eat slightly sweet bits of char instead of marshmallows.  I’d say most people aren’t like this or don’t have a coal deficiency or whatever, so I erred on the side of not-too-burnt.  The results were great and I will definitely make this pie again at Christmas!

torching the smores pie helping torch the pie
My nephew, Landon, helped me torch it!

aerial s'mores pie

S’mores Pie

2 eggs, beaten
1-5 ounce can of evaporated milk
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 TBS cocoa powder
1 TBS instant coffee granules
3.5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup butter
2 TBS corn meal
For the crust:
1 and a half packages of graham crackers, crushed fine (12 large)
2 TBS sugar
4 TBS butter, melted
2 TBS water
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the crushed graham crackers, sugar, salt and butter until it’s well combined.  If it doesn’t hold together when you press it between your fingers, add the tablespoons of water.  Press into a 9″ pie plate and set aside.
Combine the eggs, evaporated milk and sugars until smooth.  Put the cocoa powder and instant coffee in a small cup and add a tablespoon of water and whip it into a paste.  Whisk this paste into the egg/milk mixture.  Melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a microwave at 30 second increments, stirring after each time until completely smooth and glossy.  Add the chocolate and butter to the egg mixture and then whisk in the corn meal until smooth.
Pour into the pie shell and place your pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the middle doesn’t jiggle anymore.  Let the pie come to room temp before making the meringue!
For the meringue:
5 egg whites, room temp (room temp is important)
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup water
Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil till the temp reaches 250 on a candy thermometer.  While it’s boiling, put the egg whites in a mixer at medium speed and beat with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form.  When the sugar is up to temp, remove from heat and while the mixer is going on medium, drizzle the syrup in a very thin stream until completely incorporated and then increase speed to high and whip until the bowl cools down.  This takes a while so be patient.
Assemble!
Dump ALL the meringue on top of your ROOM TEMP pie and with a blow torch (such a great addition to any kitchen) or a dainty creme brulee torch (not as fun) torch the meringue until evenly browned.  If you have neither, you can brown it in the oven under the broiler but you have to be VIGILANT as to not burn the meringue.  A broiler works scary fast.
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Sweet Potato Pie with Butter Rum Sauce

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Last weekend we were invited to our friends’ house for a dinner party.  The theme was Cajun and so Matt made a humongous pot of gumbo, which has been many meals this week and is very good, and I made this sweet potato pie that was obliterated by the end of the night and I sadly didn’t have any leftovers for breakfast.  I’m actually glad it got gobbled up because that’s instant portion control. I shared one slice of this pie with Olive, she ate most of it, and I enjoyed every bit.   I had a lady at church last night say, “I’d love to live in your house so that I could eat your food, but then I’d be 7,000 pounds.”  I’m not exactly sure this blog is conveying the truth if that’s the overall sentiment!   I’m also not sure I’m conveying properly the amounts of these foods I DON’T eat.  I made three batches of The Cinnamon Rolls over the course of two weeks and I think overall, I ate two whole cinnamon rolls, maybe three.  But it wasn’t a couple each batch, or “the whole pan” like a lot of people swear they’d eat if they made it themselves at home.  I don’t think people give themselves enough credit.  Of course you wouldn’t eat the whole pan.  How on earth would that be enjoyable to have a stomach ache because of something you baked?  Maybe that’s the whole problem with portion control with indulgent foods.  People get a feeling like they need to “eat the whole thing” to pretend like it never happened, to remove it from sight and further temptation.  They feel “bad” eating it in the first place and so why not eat it badly?!  Whatever the reason, it’s a wrong mindset.  And one I hope to never impose on Olive-that rich foods are somehow bad and we should feel guilty or gain 7,000 pounds for eating them on a weekly basis.

During the week, we eat simply.  Bowls full of beans, rice, sauteed chard and potatoes and steamed fish, beet pasta, roasted carrots, butternut squash soup-that was this week.  These do not make the most riveting blog posts, nor do I always remember to take pictures of “regular” meals.  Perhaps I should!  Maybe it would help balance out peoples’ fear of the occasional pie or butter sauce.  My hope for myself and anyone who loves to cook is that we find a good balance and that we effectively remove all GUILT from eating.  Find a way.  Whether that’s eating smaller portions or just meals made from fresh, good ingredients that couldn’t live in a box if they tried.  Maybe if that was the norm, and eating at home was what we did 6 days out of the week, than a crazy good, gooey brownie on the weekend or a night out at a restaurant would seem like the treat it is, instead of the impending portion of guilt that it’s come to be.

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This pie was light and fluffy almost like a souffle.  It wasn’t overly sweet and so it went AMAZINGLY well with the butter rum sauce I decided to make at the last minute.   I think it would be perfect without the sauce, but it was the gilding of the lily for a festive occasion like a dinner get-together.   I also adore the website I adapted this from – The Gumbo Pages!  That is the best website name, possibly ever.  And the recipe was clearly from someone who never had to write it down.  A lot of “approximate” measurements and “about this much” kinda talk.  I love the nature of a recipe like that.  And I love that this recipe came from someone with the nickname “Pie Man.”  Honestly, how can you go wrong with that combination?

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Sweet Potato Pie with Butter Rum Sauce
makes one, 9″ pie

3 cups cooked, peeled and mashed sweet potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
dash of salt
1/2 cup sugar

Boil the potatoes whole in plenty of water (covering them by about two inches) for about 30 minutes, until tender all the way through.  Peel them after they’ve cooled a bit and give them a rough dice.  Mix the potatoes in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until they are smooth and very few lumps remain.  Mix the eggs with the cream and spices, lemon juice and vanilla until smooth and gradually mix it into the potatoes.  Add the salt and sugar and let the mixture blend on medium for about 5 minutes. Pour filling into UNbaked 9″ pie shell, bake for 40-45 minutes at 350-325.  Serve with butter rum sauce or whipped cream!

Butter Rum Sauce

1 stick of butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
a few pinches of kosher salt to taste
2 tbs rum

Let the butter melt with the cream and sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add salt until it tastes right to you – let it take some of the sweetness away and give it some depth.  Add the rum and mix well and serve!

Black Plum and Blackberry Galette

black plum galette
I’m in love with this pie.  It’s a galette – a free-form pie that is usually very rustic and can be sweet or savory, or even resemble a thin pancake in some regions of France.  I love it because it eliminates the pressure to make a pretty pie crust.  So many people struggle with pie crust, and when the edges crack, it can make even the most tempered person lose their cool.  But the galette solves all that.  You simply roll out your dough, fill it up and fold the edges over.  If you add an egg wash and some crunchy sugar sprinkled over the dough, no one in the world will care that it isn’t in a pie plate!  We enjoyed plums and a few blackberries in this pie because they were ripe and in season and cheap!  I really don’t buy fruit if it isn’t on sale.  I just figure that sale price tells me what’s in abundance and that’s an easy way to know what’s in season!

I served this over the course of a few days to a few different friends.  I love that one dish can unite so many.  I believe five different friends, total, shared this pie at different times over the weekend.  This is my very favorite thing about cooking and sharing meals.  And yes, a plum galette and a cup of coffee is a meal 🙂 I think people stay longer and open up quicker and are more at ease if you have something to offer them to eat and drink.  I’m not always good about doing this, especially for the most frequent friends.  And how awful to treat the frequent friends less special!  It’s hard for those of us who can’t be trusted with baked goods in the house, to have them in the house during the week.  But, maybe you could consider it a bit of a social challenge for yourself to bake this pie and then see how many different friends you can get to share it with you.  🙂

plum galette

Plum and Blackberry Galette*

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ice water
1/4 cup whole, skin-on almonds, toasted
5 to 6 plums, halved, pitted, and sliced 1/4 inch thick (keep slices together if possible – this was hard for me because my plums were cling and didn’t come away from the pit very easy.  I just sliced them as best I could – still pretty)
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a food processor, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, butter, 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/4 cup remaining ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Don’t overmix! Remove dough from processor and shape into a disk; wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. Meanwhile, wipe bowl of food processor clean and add almonds, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons flour; pulse until ground to a coarse meal.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet; sprinkle almond mixture over dough (this is necessary for absorbing the juices from the fruit so your crust won’t be a soggy mess.  Plus, it tastes great.)  With a spatula, transfer plums to dough; press lightly to fan out, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edge of dough over fruit. Refrigerate 20 minutes (this is so your butter doesn’t leak out). Brush crust with cream (I used an egg); sprinkle galette with 2 tablespoons sugar (I used super crunchy sugar!)  Bake until crust is golden and underside is cooked through, about 70 minutes.

*I made this from Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts cookbook, which, is a book I could look at for hours on end, reading it like a novel.  That’s one way to get better at cooking, by the way – read cookbooks like they’re novels 🙂

Mini Cherry Pies with Brown Sugar Meringue

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I fulfilled a little dream, today.  I baked with my daughter.  And she even wore a mini-apron. In just a few more months, she’ll be able to stand beside me on her stool and really help.  Today, she got to sit on the counter, play with the rolling pin, say, “row, row, row” as she rolled the dough and even properly sneaked little bites of the raw dough to eat.  This girl knows how to live.  And I’m so happy that she’s teaching me how to live mine, all over again.

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I found cherries on sale for $2.97, regularly over $7!  Cherries are in season in May, so I really hope they stay cheap for a few more weeks!  I did a couple things with my purchase.  First, I put a few whole in a jar and covered them with bourbon.

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A great addition to cocktails in a few weeks, I’m sure!  Or a grown up ice cream Sunday.  Or, a merciful substitution for those horrid Maraschino circles of candy that call themselves cherries.

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For my second act, I overcooked a batch of cherry pie filling so much that it resembled bits of dried cherries, resting comfortably in glue.  (I’d left it on the stove to “simmer” while I went to see my friend in the hospital.  Um, don’t ask why I did that.)  Matt rescued my near-break down by going and getting me another pound at 10:00 last night, then helped me pit every last one of them so I could start over.  That’s true love.

So I had a vague vision of what I wanted to do.  I wanted to make mini pies, fill them with tart cherry filling and use a brown sugar meringue that I’ve used before and wanted to make again because it’s close to perfection and is SO SWEET that it can really only be paired with something tart.  So these little devils are a combination of three recipes: Martha Stewart’s hand pie dough, My Baking Addiction’s cherry pie filling and Cindy Pawlcyn’s brown sugar meringue that she uses on her mile high lemon meringue pie at her amazing restaurant, Mustards Grill in Napa Valley (we went! we ate! we went into a food coma!)

The results were pretty great.  I think next time, I’d use my tried and true pie crust recipe and just add lemon zest to it.  Other than that, this recipe is a winner!  Especially for this super hot weekend that reminds us all too well that we live in the desert and it is officially summer.

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Mini Cherry Pies with Brown Sugar Meringue
makes two dozen

For the Crust

3 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon zest (this microplane works best!)
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup, room temp)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 oz. cream cheese at room temp
2 tbs buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and zest.

With an electric mixer on high speed (I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment), beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the egg and beat until just combined.  Add cream cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla; beat until well combined.  Add reserved flour mixture, and beat until smooth.  Form dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and flatten into a disc.  Refrigerate 1 hour, up to overnight or freeze up to 1 month.

Let the dough come up to room temp and then roll out into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out 4″ rounds and press them into a standard muffin tin, making sure to patch up any holes that form.  This dough is kind of crackly, so don’t fret.  It patches up pretty easily.  Prick the bottom of each pie with a fork and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Some of the bottoms of the pies will puff up, but when they’ve cooled just press the puffed up centers down a bit before filling.  I wasn’t about to cut 24 parchment rounds and fill each cup with pie weights.  I’m not THAT dedicated to perfection.

For the Filling

5 to 6 cups fresh, pitted cherries
1/2 cup water
2 tbs lemon juice (fresh!)
2/3 cup sugar
4 tbs constarch
1/2 tsp almond extract

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.  Stir in the almond extract and cool slightly before using.

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I really love using my copper jam pot – (pardon the iPhone pic) The copper heats up almost instantly, as do the sides, so it cooks jam more evenly.  There are lovely, affordable ones here!

For the Meringue:

3/4 cup egg whites (about 6 large)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Place the brown sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan with high sides (that sugar will boil up and scare the meringue right out of you if you have a small pan), add water to cover, attach a candy thermometer to the pan, and turn the heat on high. When the sugar is at about 240 degrees, start whipping the whites on high speed (they should be foamy and starting to thicken before you add the sugar). When the sugar is at the high soft-ball stage (245 degrees), remove the thermometer from the sugar and, with the mixer still running, carefully avoiding the whip, pour the sugar into the egg whites in a thin stream. When steam starts to come off the whites, add the sugar more quickly. When all sugar has been added, continue whipping until firm but soft peaks form.

Assemble!

Fill each pie shell with the filling.  Then top each with a generous dollop of meringue (you’ll have leftover meringue) and then get a torch and torch those suckers.  I don’t like toasting meringue in my oven because I inevitably scorch them and that makes me feel like a failure and I try to avoid that feeling whenever possible.  It’s all about setting yourself up to succeed in the kitchen that will keep you coming back.

I think these are best served with iced coffee because that’s what you need on a 100 degree day like today!

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Little fingers are very curious 🙂

 

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JOY!

The Battle of the Quiches

Quiche

My friend, Summer, hates quiche.  The very word gives her mock dry heaves.  We’ve all had a traumatic experience with some kind of food; whether it be an ingredient (dill for me, pomegranate juice for Matt) or an entire meal ruined by getting sick later in the evening, it’s hard to come back to good terms with the food after the trauma.  I’m not sure why Summer hates quiche, but according to her, the description she gives is of a “rubbery filling, soggy crust, gross texture” and what comes to mind, for me, is the mini-quiches you find at baby showers the world over, or the frozen pie-sized quiches that could double as semi-wet Frisbees.  Either way, it’s not a huge shock that a lot of people have a bad connotation when they hear the word.

Thomas Keller is here to save the day, once again.

He sees the problem with the American version/view of quiche, as well:

“Why didn’t the French quiche ever really translate to America? American culinary culture embraced it, then trashed it without ever knowing what it was…I think it was a mechanical problem, not having the right tool–a ring mold about two inches high.  When the modern quiche took off here in the 1970s, that wasn’t widely available.  Instead, a pie pan was commonly substituted for the two-inch ring mold.  And then came the premade pie shell.  Who would want to eat quiche made in that? A quiche has to have a specific thickness or you cannot cook it properly: It must be two inches high, in a crust thick enough to remain crisp, and not become soggy, during cooking.  Custard in a pie shell invariably overcooks (if you cooked it slowly enough, the crust would become soggy).” — Thomas Keller, Bouchon Cookbook, page 86

We’ve made Keller’s quiche several times.  The foundation is a good crust and so we go back to the crust I will rely on for the rest of my life – the same crust used in my strawberry pie a few posts ago.  It’s perfect, it flakes, it is sturdy without being tough, and it tastes like butter because that’s the only fat used.  Why look elsewhere?  The key is to completely bake the crust first, with plenty of overhang so that it doesn’t shrink while baking.  And I’m sorry you’ll have to buy a special tool to make it, but a 2 inch ring mold is necessary.  Not expensive and if you want to really make this recipe correctly, you need one.

We decided for this post, that we’d compare a store-bought quiche with Keller’s quiche.  I didn’t buy the most disgusting one I could find, either.  I actually bought probably the best a grocery store has to offer.  An in-house made quiche Florentine (bacon/cheese) baked in a pre-made pie shell (assuming.)  It was set in a metal pie tin with holes poked all in the bottom.  I appreciated that effort, because at least someone is acknowledging that quiche shells go soggy.  Didn’t quite work, though.  Here they are, back to back:

Battle of the Quiches

Store bought on the left, Keller on the right.
You can’t tell much, texture-wise, so I’ll tell you.  And again, I’m fairly impressed with the grocery store made quiche.  It’s about as good as a pre-made, American pie version gets.  However, the crust was really wet and soggy on the bottom. Couldn’t exactly pick it up without it sagging, whereas the Keller quiche’s crust is very crispy and fully cooked on the bottom (you can tell by the color and how it even stands away from the plate a bit.)  The Keller quiche has almost a half inch more custard and the store bought quiche’s crust tasted like sand.  Honestly.  Sand held together by water.  It really wasn’t good.  Now, the store-bought quiche’s filling was fine, taste-wise.  It had bacon – how can that not be at least decent?  (I could imagine a frozen mini-version would find a way) but anyway, it was a good effort, but the crust was awful and it was wet, just like you don’t want it to be.  It also had that over cooked texture – kind of rubbery- that eggs get if cooked too long.  I swear to you, I am not making this up, after a few days and microwaving the leftover Keller quiche, it STILL had a smooth, silky, custard-like texture.  Almost creme brulee texture.  It’s so darn good.

Fun experiment and I would say that if you’re interested in doing something for the sake of the experiment and doing things properly, buy yourself a ring mold and get after it.  And remember – a Keller quiche takes two days.  So if this is for Sunday brunch, start it on Saturday afternoon.

Roquefort and Leek Quiche

I also want to add, for the sake of The Family Meal, that Olive ate on both quiches with  much enthusiasm.  Yes, even those big chunks of Roquefort.  She leaned forward and said, “mmmmm!” to both.  Eggs are awesome.  Oh, and she also said, “Quiche” perfectly.  I think because “quiche” sounds like her version of the word “cheese”.  Whatever works, Ollie.

For the crust:

2 cups AP flour, plus extra for rolling out
1 tsp kosher salt
8 ounces chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ pieces
1/4 cup ice water

Place 1 cup of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Turn the mixer to low and add the butter a small handful at a time.  When all the butter has been added, increase the speed to medium and mix until the butter is completely blended with the flour.  Reduce the speed, add the remaining flour, and mix just to combine.  Add the water and mix until incorporated.  The dough will come around the paddle and should feel smooth, not sticky, to the touch.
Remove the dough from the mixer and check to be certain that there are no visible pieces of butter remaining.  Pat the dough into a 7-8″ disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to a day.

Lightly brush the inside of a 9×2″ ring mold with canola oil (or cooking spray works) and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Place the dough on a floured work space and rub all sides with flour.  Roll out the dough into about a 14″ diameter circle.  Lift the dough into the ring, centering it carefully and pressing it gently against the sides and bottom edges of the ring.  Trim any dough that extends more than an inch outside the ring.  Carefully check for crack in your dough and patch any cracks with your trimmed dough (I DIDN’T DO THIS AND OUR QUICHE LEAKED ALL OVER THE PLACE)
Refrigerate your dough for 10 minutes to resolidify your butter (if you don’t do this, the butter will drain out of your dough as it bakes.  Done it; learn from my mistakes)
Line the bottom of your crust with parchment and fill with pie weights (our pie weights are dry beans – a whole pound of them.  We just keep them for use in pies).  Bake shell in a preheated 375F oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the edges of the dough are lightly browned.  Carefully remove the parchment and the weights.  Check the dough for cracks and patch with reserved dough trimmings (DO THIS STEP) Return the shell to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until the bottom is rich golden brown.  Remove from oven and let the shell cool completely on the baking sheet.

Basic Quiche Batter

2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
6 large eggs
1 tbs kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
A few gratings of fresh nutmeg, or 1/8 tsp of ground nutmeg

Combine the milk and cream in a large saucepan over medium heat and heat until a skin begins to form on the surface of the milk.  Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes before continuing.  If you have an immersion blender, add the rest of your ingredients to the saucepan and blend for about a minute to fully aerate the batter and make it light and foamy.  Pour the batter into your quiche shell (which is still on your lined, rimmed baking sheet – this thing inevitably will leak a tish.)
At this point, if you’d like to add ingredients, go for it.  Be creative.  We did his blue cheese and leek version and it was awesome.  You simply add these ingredients (about a cup of each ingredient, chopped fine and cooked properly) to the quiche batter as you’re pouring it into the shell.  Try crumbled, cooked bacon and cheddar cheese, or caramelized onion and grated swiss.  The options are endless.
Bake for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, or until the top of the quiche is browned and the custard is set when the pan is jiggled.  Remove and let cool to room temp on a cooling rack.  Refrigerate until chilled, at least one day, up to 3 days.  Once the quiche is thoroughly chilled, scrape away the excess crust from the top edge of the quiche.  Set the quiche down and carefully lift off the ring.  Preheat the oven to 375F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the quiche into 8 pieces.  Place the pieces on a baking sheet and reheat for 15 minutes, or until hot throughout.  Serve immediately.

Quiche shell