For the Pastry
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter
- 2 cups flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup ice cold water and possibly some more
For the Filling
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup half and half — we had cream from a dairy farm, but it was on a thin side
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
- 3-4 oz sharp cheese with distinct flavor, such as smoked Cheddar or Gouda, grated
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- A generous pinch of sweet Hungarian paprika
- Mix flour with salt and dump out on a chopping board.
- Using a pastry cutter or a knife, cut in the cold butter until pea-size crumbs form.
- Make an indentation in the middle of the crumb pile.
- Pour about ¼ cup ice cold water in and using the knife or your hands, mix it in to form the dough. Do not knead the dough, we are trying to preserve the crumbliness, not to achieve elasticity. Keep adding cold water in very small quantities and pat the dough together, just until it forms a ball without falling apart.
- Flatten the dough ball into a disk, cover with plastic and chill for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Remove the dough from the fridge, roll it out on a board into a ¼ inch (or slightly thinner) crust.
- Using a 4 inch cutter or a glass with a similar size rim, cut out 12 circles. You first can cut out about 9 circles, then re-roll the dough scraps quickly and cut more.
- Using a medium muffin tin (12 slots) turned upside down crown each muffin slot with a circle of dough, molding the dough around the slots to form an upside down basket.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the little baskets are pale golden. Let cool on rack. Arrange the pie shells, now properly turned bottom down, on a baking sheet, or set them into the muffin slots.
- Prepare the filling by whisking the eggs with cream until uniform and smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and stir carefully.
- Pour the filling into the pie shells, dividing it as evenly as possible, and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the custard is set in the middle. The custard may puff up and then fall.
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