Västerbotten Pai (Swedish Cheese Quiche with Mushrooms)
August 25, 2020
Before the seasons begin their visible transition from summer to fall, there’s a lovely tradition that is one of the most charming of Scandinavian celebrations: the kräftskiva, or Swedish crayfish party. A tradition every August in Sweden, it’s one that I’ve tried to embrace here in Seattle over the years, sometimes hosting an event of my own, or attending a very memorable kräftskiva hosted by Old Ballard Liquor Company in Ballard some years ago. Things are a bit different for everyone this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I won’t be hosting one of these events. However, I do want to share with you a very special recipe I would be serving, if I were: Västerbotten Pai.
Essentially a savory, quiche-like pie, it’s typically made with Västerbotten cheese from Sweden. It’s a common feature at at such dinners, as crayfish themselves are hardly enough to fill one up and soak up all the aquavit consumed.
Kräftskiva–as the parties are called–typically take place in August as a throwback to the times when crayfish were limited to this time of year. Sweden used to be the world’s biggest crayfish exporter, I read in Scandinavian Classicsby Niklas Ekstedt, but now–around a century after the crayfish plague there–the country is now the world’s biggest importer. An interesting turn of events, to be sure. Much of the crayfish now comes from China, but that doesn’t stop people in Sweden from going all out and enjoying a Scandinavian feast as festive and abundant as any other.
Västerbotten Pai (Swedish Mushroom and Cheese Quiche)
Recipe by Daytona Strong, excerpted from her book “Modern Scandinavian Baking: A Cookbook of Sweet Treats and Savory Bakes”
Variations of this quiche or savory pie are usually made with Västerbotten cheese, a hard cow's cheese made in the north of Sweden. As I have trouble finding it–even in Seattle, where we have a well-stocked Scandinavian store in my neighborhood–I use extra-sharp Cheddar for this recipe with excellent results. This pie often appears at the kräftskivor–Swedish crayfish parties–that take place each August.
To make the crust: Place the flours, butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Add as much of the ice water as necessary and continue to pulse to make the dough come together, taking care to not overwork it. Gather the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it's a circle 12 to 13 inches in diameter. Transfer to an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and press it in evenly. Line the dough with a sheet of parchment paper or foil, then fill with pie weights or dried beans to weigh down the dough as it bakes. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust begins to brown, then remove the weights, prick the bottom of the curst, and continue to bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until the bottom is golden.
Meanwhile, to make the filling, in a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until they've softened up a bit. Spoon the mushrooms evenly over the crust.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the cheese and milk. Pour this mixture over the mushrooms in the crust. Bake until golden and set, about 25 minutes.
Let the quiche cool to room temperature to serve it the authentic Swedish way.