Flammkuchen (Fr. Tarte Flambée) is something I remember eating for the first time with my family on a trip, fourteen years ago, to Strasburg in the Alsace region of France. Strasburg is a bilingual, though mostly French-speaking, city on the border between Germany and France, and is best known for its importance in European politics, hosting among other things the European Union’s Council of Europe. We were there as a family stopping over from a trip back from the Cevennes area (just north of the Provence) and wanted dinner badly. On family trips, dinner has always been a problem for us. Normally the process goes something like this: our blood sugar goes down, our pickiness goes up, we end up not being able to decide on anything to eat, and commonly someone ends up in tears.
Not this time. We went into a well-visited establishment, sat down outside, and my mother ordered us all Tarte Flambée (normally my mom doesn’t order for us all, but her French skills were the best and she knew what the local specialties were. Besides, my sister and I were probably still bickering due to our low blood sugar). We loved it as soon as we bit into it. The incredibly thin, crisp crust delicately covered with a layer of seasoned sour cream, some onions, and bacon were incredible. I don’t have any idea how many of these we ate, but it was quite a few. At the end of the evening the waitress simply tallied up how many we ate according to hatch marks she had made each time she brought us another “tart.”
Flammkuchen is also common in Germany, which is why it has a German name. It’s called by many other names as well, but most people recognize Flammkuchen even if they’re not from the southwest. Literally translated it means “Flame Cake,” and it is presumed that this comes from its original heritage as something put in to test the heat of the oven before baking bread and other foods.
It’s most popular in Germany just after the grape harvest, when the new wine, most popularly known as Federweißer, hits the market and is drunk. Federweißer is a wine that has just begun its first fermentation. The stage it is served in can vary from grape juice to a “young” white wine. The harvest season is beginning now, so restaurants across the Alsace and southwest Germany are beginning to offer Flammkuchen and Federweißer specials. I think the “new wine” is lighter than regular wine, and since its alcohol content is much lower you can drink a lot more. And of course, each time you have another glass you must have another Flammkuchen!
This is a recipe that doesn’t require any yeast, which I find prevents the crust from getting too thick. It’s extremely versatile, and you can put toppings other than the traditional on it. We’ve made it for a dinner party with toppings varying from Greek to Mexican. However, remember that it must be served fresh out of the oven, which may be difficult when serving guests and hosting at the same time. It’s also a nice, quick, thin pizza crust.
250g (ca 2 cups) Flour
2.5 Tbsp Canola Oil
150ml (ca 2/3 cup) Water
Pinch of Salt
250g (ca. 1 cup) Crème Frâiche
1 onion (can be red or sweet onions)
1 Tbsp Butter
125g (ca. 1/4lb) Bacon
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 clove Garlic
Combine ingredients for crust. The dough shouldn’t be sticky. Slice onions into rings and sauté in butter until clear (don’t caramelize). Cook bacon until crisp. Finely chop garlic and add it with seasonings to the cream. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. On the highest heat your oven will go (or around 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit) bake for around 10-15 minutes, or until the dough has begun to create bubbles and you see nice browning (you don’t want burnt!). You will have to keep an eye on this, baking it is an art and each oven is different so watch it carefully the first time you make it. Serve with a green salad and Federweißer or a light white wine (it doesn’t need to be sweet, a dry Riesling will do well, as will a Pinot Gris).