Ancient grains enliven this quiche
Spelt flour is a healthful—and flavorful—complement to asparagus and leek
Maria Stordahl Nelson
Recently I watched a story on a major news network that expounded on the many virtues of the use of spelt, rye, and other “relic crops” and their prominent use in Nordic baking. While not new news to many in the Scandinavian community, it now seems that what many of us have known about these grains is finally being appreciated by a much wider audience.
The presence of rye and spelt in Nordic recipes is something that I have always taken somewhat for granted. Homemade rye bread and spelt crispbread were frequently consumed in my house as a child. And while I always recognized that these flours were widely used in Nordic baking, other than knowing I loved their taste and texture, I didn’t fully appreciate their unique and healthful benefits until I reached adulthood. Among a classification of “ancient grains” (grains whose use dates to antiquity) spelt and rye are relatives of modern wheat. Despite this relationship, however, they share some very important and significant differences. Higher in protein and fiber than wheat, they are considered to help facilitate digestion, lower cholesterol, fight diabetes, boost bone health, regulate hormones, and improve immunity. An impressive list to be sure, but in addition to all of that, when added to recipes they bring a depth of flavor that is unmatched.
Today, spelt flour is widely used in pizza making, as it lends a distinct crispness to the dough when baked. Unfortunately, beyond this it has primarily fallen out of favor and can be somewhat difficult to find commercially. The nutty flavor that is its hallmark works well in all kinds of recipes, both sweet and savory. It’s delicious when used in fruit pies and crisps and works fantastically as a crust for more substantial fillings.
If you’re looking for an excuse to incorporate more spelt in your diet, this savory pie is a great way to do so. For this recipe, I’ve used my traditional pie crust recipe but have substituted the spelt flour one for one. The result is just what you’d expect: nutty with a slightly crisp texture. The asparagus and leeks seem almost an obligatory addition and are the appropriate ingredients for a dish that is a delicious and delightful way to welcome spring.
Spelt Crust, Leek & Asparagus Pie
• 1 cup spelt flour
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• ¾ cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
• 1 tsp. salt
• ¼ cup ice water
• 2 medium leeks, white & pale
green parts thinly sliced
• ½ lb. asparagus stalks, bottoms trimmed to fit size of the pan
• 2 tbsps. unsalted butter
• 4 eggs
• ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
• ¾ cup low fat milk
• 1 cup Jarlsberg cheese, grated
• salt & pepper to taste
Prepare the crust:
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cold butter, salt, and flours until crumbly. Place the mixture in a large bowl and add the ice water a tablespoon at a time and mix until the dough begins to take shape. Remove from the bowl and roll it into a large enough circle to fit into a 9-inch pan with a removable bottom. Prick the dough with a fork and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F.
Prepare the filling:
Preheat a skillet over medium heat and add the butter and leeks. Sauté until the leeks have softened. Add the whole asparagus and cook for 3-4 minutes only. Set aside to cool.
Remove the pastry from the fridge, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the cheese over the bottom of the pastry. Combine the eggs, cream, and milk in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the asparagus and leek mixture over the top of the cheese and pour the egg and milk mixture over all.
Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 50-60 minutes until the pie is set. Cool 10-15 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
Maria Stordahl Nelson is a Seattle-area food writer, photographer, and recipe developer. She shares her love of all things sweet, savory, and sometimes Nordic at www.pinkpatisserie.net.
This article originally appeared in the April 20, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.