It is known as Tarte Flambée in France and as Flammkuchen in Germany. The dish is popular in both countries and there are many variations for the dough as well as for the toppings. Traditional basic version is made with thinly rolled rectangle of dough, which is covered with a generous layer of schmand/crème fraîche/20-30% butterfat sour cream, topped with onions and speck/lardons/small strips of lightly smoked uncured meaty bacon, seasoned with pepper and salt, and baked in a wood-fire oven.
Before tasting it for the first time in Germany, I tried making it in Texas. According to one of the recipes available online, the crust was supposed to be thin, but made with yeast, so there was a resemblance with thin-crust pizza. My thinly spread crème fraîche completely melted during the cooking, and my choice of bacon and the amount of onions resulted in something that didn’t impress me. I’ve never made it again.
Two weeks ago, in Germany I tried my friend Anna’s version, and it was one of those “Oh Yeah! That’s what it is!” moments. We made it at home with pre-made and pre-rolled dough. Anna was giving me instructions, I was following them to the letter. “Sauté leeks until they start caramelizing and don’t be shy with butter!” “Spread more schmand, thicker!” “Less speck and leeks, make sure they are not covered by each other.” “Just a little bit of shredded cheese on top…” The highest oven temperature, baking stone, 12-13 minutes. It was perfect! The dough was slightly layered and soft enough to chew it with pleasure. It was also crispy on the edges and firm enough not to fold when holding a slice. All the flavors and textures were balanced and pronounced. The result had nothing to do with any kind of pizza. It had its own flammkuchenish excitement!
What Friends Are For!
Flammkuchen was the first thing I wanted to recreate at home after my trip. The goal was to find the right recipe for the dough and the best local ingredients for the toppings. I tried many variations until the same friend, Anna, asked a local pro for Hessen regional recipe. With additional helpful notes from her Mom, I was finally able to come very close to the original I enjoyed. The recipe below is the best version of flammkuchen I could make so far in Texas and it is part of my Mosel & Alsace Menu.
Measure all ingredients. In a bowl, mix flour and SAF yeast. In a cup, mix water, salt, and sugar. Stir, until salt and sugar are dissolved. Stir in oil and add to the flour. Knead a soft dough.
Lightly oil a container with lid. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the container. Keep closed in room temperature for 1 hour to let the yeast start working. The amount of yeast in this recipe is very small. Its purpose is to leaven the dough just enough to produce a lighter, more easily chewed, but still very thin crust.
Slice and wash leeks, white part only. Shake leeks well in a strainer to remove extra water before cooking them.
Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium-high and sauté leeks till tender and sweet, with first signs of caramelization. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and let them cool to room temperature. They can be cooked in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 425F, baking stone on the middle rack. Slice bacon strips.
Divide the dough in half and shape each one into a ball. On a dusted with flour work surface, roll each ball of the dough in three steps, giving the dough a few minutes to rest after every step of stretching. Roll one ball to ~1/4" thick rectangular, than repeat with a second one. Roll the first one ~1/8" thick, repeat with the second one. Finally, roll them for the third time to ~1/16" thickness. The flammkuchen shape is usually rectangular or oval. Transfer rolled dough on parchment paper and prick it with a fork.
Mix creme fraiche with egg yolks, divide in 2 portions, and spread the mixture on both crusts to the edge. Arrange half of the leeks and bacon evenly. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with half of shredded cheese.
Bake on hot stone for 8-9 minutes. Repeat with the second flammkuchen.
Slice and serve hot with a glass of cold riesling.
Featuring Rouge de Bordeaux whole wheat flour by Barton Springs Mill
- 250 g RdeB whole wheat
- 250 g King Arthur bread flour
- 100 g rye sourdough starter
- 1 tbsp barley malt
- 12 g fine sea salt
- 350 g water
Homemade creme fraiche + 4.5% fat yogurt for the dairy part.
Cold fermentation, stretch and fold. Half of it was used for flammkuchen, and another half was shaped into a loaf. It’s definitely better, with deeper and richer flavors.