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why is my made-up egg dish 'sweaty'?

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I wanted to make a quiche but had no pastry for the crust (sorry, I don't do pastry - but that's a whole other thread).

So - filled with inspiration, I thought, why can't I just make the 'guts' of the quiche, in a glass baking dish and forget the crust? I'm sure someone else has thought of this and named it, but humour me, OK?

I whisked up three eggs, some cream, cubed ham and grated Jarlsburg, with some freshly-ground black pepper and a bit of nutmeg (my secret weapon - adds that je ne sais quoi) and poured it into a baking dish, baked at 150C for 40 minutes until the top was nicely browned and the fork came out clean, just like I do for Quiche Lorraine.

But when I dug in, the bottom was sort of soggy. The eggs were set and it was definitely evenly cooked through. But under the contents, the glass had lots of condensation I think from the eggs...it was as if they had sweated! (Tasted great though...I'd serve it again if I could perfect it...any ideas about the 'science' behind this? What can I do to avoid this next time?

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  1. Why not try Betty's recipe posted elsewhere on this site? She made a pumpkin pie without crust by greasing pie pan with butter, then sprinkling corn meal on butter. Then she filled pie pan and baked it as if it were a pie with crust. Maybe that would work. Sounds good if it works, because I hate bottom pie crusts. Always so soggy, I don't eat them anyway.

    1. Here is a theory based on no scientific knowledge whatsoever. Exposed to the direct heat, the top of the quiche begins to form a crust/skin before the inside is cooked, which prevents excess moisture from escaping and it is trapped at the bottom. Maybe in a regular quiche, the pastry helps sop up the liquid, which is why the bottom crust is often soggy.

      By the way, if you have a food processor, pastry is extremely easy to make. Just whiz around cold butter, flour and a little salt for a bit, then add cold water until it begins to stick together.

      1. Hi Magnolia: Your "made-up" egg dish sounds a lot like a fritatta to me. I make one with brie, mushrooms and spinach that is very nice. Why did yours weep? No idea. Mine do too, sometimes. I like the idea of using the cornmeal. But somehow I think the filling might be too liquid. I'm an absolute failure with quiche. Good luck next time! pat

        1 Reply
        1. re: pat hammond

          I agree, it does sound like a frittata. So what you might want to do is start it in a pan on the stovetop to set the bottom, and then just put the whole pan into the oven to finish cooking.

        2. After reading through what Harold McGee (On Food and Cooking) and and Shirley Corriher (Cookwise) have to say about custards, here's what I learned: a baked custard is a very delicate structure. When a custard is overcooked, even by just a little bit, the proteins in the egg continue to tighten and squeeze out the liquid from the custard. (So you're right, in a a way, about them "sweating"). The only advice Corriher gives (she's talking about sweet custards here, but I think it would hold for a crustless quiche as well) is to be sure to use a water bath -- when you have a crust for your quiche, it protects the quiche from overcooking the same way a water bath does. She also talks about adding starch to a custard to make it more stable (the starch binds the liquid more firmly to the eggs, or something like that), so maybe you could beat in a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch or flour to your custard. (I have a sort of crustless quiche recipe that calls for a tablespoon or so of flour in the custard.) Finally, and I'm just making an educated guess here, maybe if you unmolded the quiche after baking, the excess liquid would just evaporate rather than pooling in the baking pan.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Janet

            If you baked a custard until it was brown, undoubtedly it was overcooked. Probably pie crusts you have used in the past tended to absorb the liquid freed by overcooking, which made the crust soggy, but the filling less so. Bake your custard in a hot water bath. Use a knife to make a small cut in the center of the custard and peek down inside. It is done when there is no more unbaked mixture in there.

            If you bake a pie crust until it is cooked but not brown, then fill it with custard and bake the pie at a lower temperature, the crust should be more dry and the filling more delicate.

            1. re: Katherine

              But if you pre-baked an empty pie shell, put some wax or parchment paper into it filled with dried beans or those fancy pie weights, so that it will remain flat while cooking. p.

          2. Thanks for all that. Normally I do pre-bake the crust, and you guys are right - the pastry probably absorbs the liquid. I guess a quiche is close to a frittata but made entirely in the oven.

            Pat - I can make about three things, and quiche is one of them! It's really easy. It's meant to make use of whatever you've got left over. What goes wrong when you do it?

            My fool-proof recipe:

            I usually make two at a time but you can halve the recipe (if you do, use three eggs for one quiche - makes it fluffy) Sorry my measurements for cheese, ham or whatever are not exact - I do this on instinct but you should have enough "solids" to fill 1/3 to 1/2 of the pie crust

            ingredients

            two par baked two pie crusts (home made or not)

            five large eggs

            a chunk of jarlsburg, roughly grated (or other similar cheese - gruyere or swiss for example)

            cubed ham OR lightly steamed asparagus OR lightly steamed red peppers (in "rings" they look really pretty when the float to the top of the liquid) OR frozen spinach with ALL of the water squeezed out...OR really, anything you think would go well with cheese. (I'm not a big fan of seafood - somehow I can never reconcile fish and cheese together - but I've seen salmon quiches, prawn quiches, etc.)

            3/4 of a pint of half & half or cream

            fresh black pepper and nutmeg to taste

            a bit of flour or cornstarch?? these were suggested in the responses to my sweaty eggs question: I've never made it with this but I will try next time...

            THEN:
            put solids in bottom of pie crusts

            whisk together eggs, cream, pepper & nutmeg

            pour liquid over solids, filling quiche to 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up.

            Put a bit of tin foil over the edges of the pie crust if yours tend to cook unevenly when there's filling covering the rest but the edges are "exposed" -- my edges tend to burn.

            Bake at 250-275F for 30 minutes until it begins to smell divine...then check to make sure it's cooked through, and maybe give it a few more minutes to brown the top a bit.

            It will be lovely and puffed up when it comes out of the oven but sadly the top will sink fast enough.
            These freeze very, very well.