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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Make mini quiches for a fun, flexible family meal

    If you needed any further convincing that good things come in small packages, allow me to steer you to these Mini Quiches With Phyllo Crust.

    They feature a tender, custardy egg filling surrounded by frilly edges of golden, crisp phyllo. When you pull them out of the oven, they smile back at you like a field of friendly flowers.

    Quiche was already a popular dinner option in my house, so I started wondering whether there was a way to riff on them in a smaller package that would make it easy to customize to different tastes. I pulled out my muffin tin to make some mini quiches.

    At first, I couldn't resist the siren song of store-bought pie dough. Punch out rounds of pastry, press into a muffin tin, fill and bake. Sadly, the crust proved more resistant to pressing into the tin than I anticipated. Then after several rounds of testing, I didn't love the ratio of crust to egg — too much of the former, not enough of the latter. And even with par-baking the crusts, a step I started to resent, I still couldn't achieve the pretty golden shell I was after.

    What about phyllo? This extremely thin pastry dough is another store-bought staple (find it in the freezer section) and, better yet, much easier to mold into muffin cups. You do need to stack and cut the sheets, of course, but I had six layers of phyllo assembled, sliced and pressed into the pan in no time. It was simpler and less stressful than the pie dough.

    At that point, all I had to do was pour in the filling. For 12 mini quiches, I went with a half-dozen eggs, which despite the higher prices these days, seemed like a reasonable investment that stretched the recipe to 4 to 6 servings. Before adding a cup of milk or other dairy (or nondairy alternative), I whisked the liquid with a small amount of cornstarch, a tip I picked up from a Cook's Country full-size quiche recipe I've been playing around with for a while. The cornstarch helps the eggs set and stay tender as it buffers the proteins in the eggs from bonding too tightly and squeezing out moisture. That's especially helpful in such a small format where overcooking is a real risk. Success! Even when the filling reached a higher temperature than you'd ordinarily want for eggs — you do want those crisp phyllo edges, after all — the eggs were not the least bit rubbery.

    Once the custard is in the shells, then comes the fun part of letting everyone customize their quiches. Just about anything you can think of will work: cheese, salsa, meat, vegetables, herbs. Keep in mind the relatively brief cook time as a guide on how much to prep these ingredients. Diced ham works great, but bacon will be best if it's already crisped. Finely chopped crisp vegetables can work okay raw, although they will release a bit more liquid. Firmer vegetables, such as winter squash, or more potent ones, such as onions, will benefit from precooking.

    While these are elegant enough for a party hors d'oeuvre or nibble for a champagne brunch, I like the extra flair when there's no special occasion other than sitting down to a family meal.

    - - -

    Mini Quiches With Phyllo Crust

    Active time: 30 minutes

    Total time: 45 minutes

    4 to 6 servings (makes 12 muffin-size quiches)

    Want to skip the crust? Bake the quiches in paper muffin cups. The bake time may be a few minutes shorter.

    Prefer a more traditional pastry crust? Cut approximately 4-1/2-inch rounds of store-bought pie crust dough (use a large glass or mug as a template). Press into the wells, prick the dough all over with a fork and bake (without the filling) for about 15 minutes, until the crust begins to dry out and turn light golden. Then add the filling and toppings before baking for an additional 15 minutes or so, until the crust is rich golden and the eggs puffed and set.

    To avoid dairy use a nondairy milk and vegan cheese.

    For smaller families this recipe halves easily. Use three sheets of phyllo instead of six. Follow the same steps to brush the sheets with olive oil, but then cut the pile in half and stack the halves on top of each other, forming six layers. Then cut the stack into six rectangles and proceed with shaping and filling.

    Making the phyllo cups is faster and easier than you may realize. You will probably end up with extra sheets of phyllo dough, which can be refrozen for future recipes.

    Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven for the best texture.

    INGREDIENTS

    Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan

    6 (14-by-17-inch) sheets phyllo dough, defrosted

    1/4 cup olive oil

    1 cup milk (any fat; nondairy is fine), heavy cream or half-and-half

    2 teaspoons cornstarch

    6 large eggs

    3/4 teaspoon fine salt

    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    Cooked diced meat or vegetables, shredded or crumbled cheese, salsa, herbs and/or other add-ins of your choice (optional)

    Minced fresh herbs, for serving (optional)

    DIRECTIONS

    Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, place a pizza stone or a large, rimmed baking sheet on it, and preheat to 375 degrees. Lightly grease the wells of a standard muffin tin with butter.

    Set the stack of phyllo dough on a clean work surface and cover with damp towels, keeping the stack covered as much as possible as you work. Transfer one sheet of the phyllo to a large cutting board and brush the top with the oil. Don't feel the need to overdo it or cover every inch, as too much oil can weigh the layers down. Lay another sheet directly on top of the first and brush it with the oil. Repeat with the remaining sheets of phyllo; there's no need to brush the top sheet.

    Use a sharp knife to cut the phyllo stack into 12 even rectangles, roughly 4-1/2 by 4-2/3 inches (the exact dimensions may vary because of the size of your phyllo, so don't sweat it). Press one stack of the rectangles into each well of the muffin pan, folding or fluting the edges slightly to make an attractive cup.

    In a large liquid measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the milk and cornstarch until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs, salt and pepper, and whisk again until uniform.

    Carefully pour the milk mixture into each of the phyllo cups, dividing as evenly as you can - aim to have them two-thirds to three-quarters full. Drop your desired add-ins into any or all of the quiches. This is your family's opportunity to customize!

    Set the pan on the preheated stone or sheet and bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the edges of the phyllo are a rich golden brown and the centers of the egg are puffed and mostly set. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing. The puffed centers may deflate a bit; that's okay.

    Serve warm with additional toppings, such as more fresh herbs, if you'd like.

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