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For our second Craftsy review I took a class on Savory Tarts, Quiches and Galettes and invited two young friends to join me. Thirteen year-old Sofia (right in image) has been helping at photo shoots here at the Test Kitchen and twelve year-old Lily (on the left) loves to cook. I figured it would be interesting to see how all three of us experienced the class coming from such different perspectives. Usually within these Craftsy posts we will provide you a link to sign up. This time around we have a free Craftsy class to giveaway. Enter here to win this online class! Read more about the class to see what we were all excited about. In our main image you can see the girls with our finished hot mini quiches, but I am getting head of myself!
Martha Holmberg is the class presenter and I have known her work for years. She is a great teacher in print, which I knew from reading her voluminous work in everything from Fine Cooking magazine to her own books. I guessed correctly that her no frills approach would work great within the Craftsy video platform.
This class introduces working with frozen puff pastry and filo dough and also shows us how to make a classic pâtebrisée, a hearty whole-wheat walnut pâtebrisée and a rough puff pastry. Then, there are 9 recipes to choose from that use one of the aforementioned doughs. Many have do-ahead components, which makes this class a great primer for savory entertaining recipes. The flavors are fairly sophisticated, calling for anchovies and pancetta, artichoke hearts and prosciutto, smoked gouda and fresh herbs, but once you understand the basics of working with these doughs it is pretty easy to see how to vary toppings and filling to suit your palate.
The girls gravitated towards the mini Pancetta, Parmesan & Pepper Quiches, the Mushroom, Cabbage & Sausage Strudel and the Leek, Spinach and Green Chile Torte. This was a great sampling because they would get to roll and cut the puff pastry with cookie cutters for the quiches, learn how to work with filo and create a strudel roll and make pâtebrisée for the torte and work with a springform pan. We had our work cut out for us!
Pancetta, Parmesan & Pepper Quiches
First up we made the quiches. The girls were entranced with the mini size and I was excited about the fact that they can be frozen (more on that later).
Martha helpfully explains how to defrost the frozen puff pastry and how to tell if it is the right texture and how to deal with any holes or tears. We liked Martha’s tip about how to judge which cookie cutter would be the best size for your mini-muffin pan. The recipe recommended a 3-inch. Not all mini-muffins tins are the same size and we found that a 2 5/8-inch was the size that fit our tin. (We used the one in the center of the image below).
We used a flour wand to sprinkle flour on our work surface, which evenly distributes flour.
We all took turns cutting out the rounds and once the girls got into a rhythm they were working fast with assembly like precision. One would cut and hand off the round of puff pastry while the other pressed it into the lightly greased pan.
The filling has all the main ingredients listed in its title, but really, the proportions of egg, cream and cheese are what are important and you could tweak the other flavors to your liking. It was easy for me to find the pancetta at the deli counter of my supermarket, but if you can’t find it, try an equal amount of meaty bacon. Below you can see how we used a tiny scoop to get the filling into the cups.
At this point in the video Martha alerts us to the fact that the raw dough can be placed in the muffin tins, filled with the egg mixture and then be placed in the freezer. Once frozen solid, the little cups can be popped out and stored in a zipper-top bag until needed. Then, you can take out as few or as many as you need, place them back in their muffin tins and bake for a super-easy and quick hors d’oeuvres. This is a really helpful idea for last minute entertaining.
We all loved the way the quiches looked when done. The pastry puffs up and turns golden brown and the filling expands too, almost like a mini-soufflé, and they look very fancy. We all enjoyed these both warm and at room temperature.
Mushroom, Cabbage & Sausage Strudel
When I read the title of this recipe the flavors started dancing in my head and I could taste the mélange of ingredients and knew I had to try it. Filo is one of those things that seems tricky to work with but it really isn’t and this is one case where seeing – especially a video – is worth a thousand words. Once you see how to handle it, you get it and then a world of recipes opens up to you. Martha is thorough in her description and the visuals stress the important points, like keeping the filo under a damp towel while working with it to prevent it from drying out. In this pic below you can see Sofia holding the damp towel we used to protect the filo while we worked with it and Lily getting one of the thin sheets off of the stack.
Martha’s recipe includes breadcrumbs, which are used as a binder for the filling. When you work with filo you don’t want the filling to be too juicy or it will overly dampen the filo and make it soggy. We liked Martha’s suggestion to sauté the breadcrumbs until golden because this not only added the needed bulk, but added flavor as well.
The girls didn’t have much experience with filo before but were quickly adept at brushing the filo with butter, gauging how much filling to place on the pastry, and then rolling it up.
I showed the girls how to roll up the strudel dough and in the image above you can see the breadcrumbs through the gossamer thin filo. Always place your strudel roll seam side down so it doesn’t unravel! Little tips like this might seem trivial, but they can make or break the result. The teachers that lead Craftsy cooking videos are filled with such expert tips and tricks that I highly recommend that you Sign Up for a chance to Win this online class in our Giveaway! I am always saying how I don’t do enough savory baking and this class got me motivated.
FYI, although I always tell people to make a recipe as written first before switching it up I admit that I used a mild chicken sausage for this dish and it came out wonderfully. Also, leftovers were great re-heated in the toaster oven. Don’t reheat in the microwave though because you want to preserve the crispy, flaky layers of filo.
Leek, Spinach and Green Chile Torte
The picture of this dish got me going immediately. I love the look of the deep, thick filling completely encased in the pâtebrisée pastry. We were all wondering whether ours would look as good and hold up once sliced.
Lily helped roll out the pastry.
Fitting the pastry into the pan seemed a bit daunting, but once we saw Martha do it on the video it all made sense and we liked the challenge of making it as neat as possible. First we followed her tip of using the rolling pin to get the dough from the work surface to the pan.
Martha’s tip to about getting the pastry down into the bottom edges and corners of the pan was a good one. Since this torte is formed in a springform pan and unmolded for serving, the look of the pastry on the outside is important.
We talked a lot about the filling, as it is so interesting! The ingredients and flavors are basic enough but the technique is unusual. Some of the eggs are cooked into omelets (2 of them) and those are layered with the sautéed vegetables and then there is also an egg and cheese custard that binds it all together – all within the pastry crust. I loved the accent of lemon.
Sofia cut the slits in the top of the pastry, which Martha cautions is very important to allow steam to escape. Especially with such a deep, dense filling, steam must escape so that it bakes evenly.
One tip with this pastry is that it is best to allow it to cool for at least an hour before slicing. We didn’t want to wait but I cautioned the girls about how a hot filling might spill forth. In order for it to slice neatly and look as good as the picture you do need to allow the filling time to set. I let is sit in the pan for 30 minutes and then unmolded for another 30 minutes. This would make great picnic dish; so unexpected and better than sandwiches any day!
From the deep-dish style of the pastry in the springform pan, to the use of eggs as omelets and custard, to the final assembly of the torte, this is one recipe where seeing really is believing and being able to refer to the video was quite re-assuring.
Once we had waited for the torte to cool, we sliced into it and voila! We were pretty impressed with ourselves.
At the end of our day cooking together the girls thought the quiches were the best and that being able to see how filo is handled made all the difference. They both thought that the filo was going to be difficult and both ended up saying that it was quite easy to work with and are looking forward to trying other filo recipes. The course offers a Mediterranean Greens & Feta Pie, so maybe that’s next. Whether you are new to the kitchen, been around the stove a while or are a teenager just beginning to cook, this class has something for everyone. Enter here to win this online class and you will be well on your way to working with puff, filo and pâte brisée and have several savory recipes in your repertoire as well as many basic skills under your belt.
Images: Amy Wasserman