The storefront of The Buttery Biscuit sported huge glass windows, a pale yellow and black striped awning, and a neon sign with a fluffy buttermilk biscuit and a bright yellow pat of melting butter dripping down the sides of the carbtastic sign. Every time Mona pulled up to her shop she had to pinch herself. Was this really happening? Had she really left her law firm partnership to wake up in the earliest parts of the morning to play with pastry dough and fondle room-temperature European butter?
“I don’t miss that life,” Mona said to herself quietly as she parallel parked between the back alley and the side street bordering her bakery. She listened to the last eerie note of “She’s Not There,” and turned the ignition off.
South First Street was still sleeping. No cars or bicycles buzzed down the street, and Mona’s part-time bakers wouldn’t arrive until 6a.m. Two blissful hours to figure out all of the plans for the morning, to make the chocolate ganache and caramel from scratch, to get the quiches and cinnamon rolls in the oven, and to listen to funk, zydeco, and jazz until one of the bakers turned NPR on and the reporters and commentators of Morning Edition and Science Friday drowned out the heady rhythms Mona loved to sift powdered sugar and all-purpose flour to – rapping her hand against the mesh strainer and losing herself in the sweet, mindful moment.
After opening the door and locking it behind her, Mona flipped on the back kitchen’s lights. Everything was neat and tidy. She flipped on the ovens and turned on the exhaust fan. Galactic’s “Start From Scratch” began to play on the bakery’s internal speakers.
When I look outside my window
I see troubles in my past
I’ve got this strange feeling inside
Better get up because this day could be my last…
As the small kitchen began to heat up, Mona opened the back door between the kitchen and the back alley and latched the screen door shut so fresh air could circulate before the air conditioning had to be turned on at 6 a.m.
The first thing Mona tackled after starting the ganache and the caramel was the quiche of the day: center-cut bacon, sun dried tomatoes, Fontina, and spinach folded into a fluffy-eggy goodness and surrounded by buttery, dense pie crust. She took her chef’s knife off of her magnetized bamboo wall strip, sharpened it with her sharpening stone, and began dicing bacon, tomatoes, cheese, and spinach to fold into the egg mixture.
Mona’s Start-from-Scratch Quiche
Yields 6 to 8 servings
Ingredients – Quiche Innards
½ pound center-cut bacon, fried and then crumbled
½ cup chopped yellow onions
8 ounces shredded Fontina cheese
2 ounces shredded Parmesan Reggiano cheese
8 ounces sun dried tomatoes, diced
8 ounces baby spinach, chiffonade
4 large eggs lightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half cream
Ingredients – Pie Crust
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons cold fresh lard, diced
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup vodka, chilled
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- For the crust, sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together. Slowly add bits of diced lard and butter, and using your hands, assimilate the butter and lard with the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles the consistency of bubble tapioca. Add the chilled vodka and handle the mixture only enough to moisten the dough and bind the ingredients together.
- Dump the dough on a floured surface and knead into a ball (four or five quick counter-clockwise turns will do the job).
- Wrap the pastry dough in plastic wrap (makes two quiche crusts) and allow it to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge. Once that’s done, line a 10-inch spring form pan with one ball of the dough.
- In a medium bowl, mix the crumbled bacon, shredded cheeses, chopped onions, sun dried tomatoes, and spinach together. Place this mixture in the spring form pan with the pastry dough.
- Lightly whisk large eggs and then slowly beat in half-and-half. Pour the egg mixture over the bacon-cheese-onion-tomato mixture in the pie-crust-covered spring form pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for 35 more minutes or until the top of the quiche turns a golden brown.
After getting the quiche in the oven, “Cold, Cold Feeling” played next on the bakery speakers. Mona began to sing along with Albert Collins: “I’ve got a cold, cold feelin’; it’s just like ice around my heart.” Sure, she was off-key but passionate in her sing-along; she rarely sang once others arrived at The Buttery Biscuit, which was a bit of a shame. Too many thought Mona a bit uptight and too serious, which really was a dual decoy for her shyness. Only one hour and thirty minutes before Mona’s solo-baking reverie was broken. She reveled in the blues, the smell of melting butter, and the breeze from the back alley. “This is why I left the practice,” Mona said as she hummed Collins’ sad, sad song.
Knife maintenance and sharpening: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/