“Oh what kind of pizza is that?” Yes, alright, the concept at first sight may be similar – a flat dough with toppings baked in an oven – but that’s about it. Flammkuchen is definitely it’s very own, extremely delicious dish and not a counterpart to the Italian icon. To be fair though, Flammkuchen was for most of the time a homemade dish and only made it to restaurants due to the “pizza craze” of the 1960s.

Flammkuchen consists of a waferthin base of bread dough. The traditional and most classic topping contains fine rings of onions and bacon cubes on a layer of sour cream. Also known as Tarte Flambée in French, it is a specialty from the regions of Alsace, Baden and the Palatinate along the Rhine river between Germany and France. Created during a time in the 19th century when national borders constantly changed between the two countries. Therefore, the origin of the traditional dish can hardly be attributed to one of the neighboring countries. But who cares anyway since all that counts is its amazing taste!

The main ingredients for Flammkuchen are typical of the region and are also used in combination for other traditional dishes like Zwiebelkuchen. As the region is also famous for its cultivation of wine, a great drink to accompany any Tarte Flambée is Federweißer. The sweet, semi-fermented grape juice is only available in fall and perfectly complements the Flammkuchen’s hearty taste.
 

 

A versatile dish for every preference and occasion

Flammkuchen is simply a great dish all around. Whether as a main course or starter, Tarte Flambée is the perfect food for a social get-together with family or friends. Simply put the waferthin deliciousness in the middle of the table for everybody to share. Since the base is always the same, you can easily make different versions that everybody can try from and wait for the next round.

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There are several regional specialties and typical variations from the classic to choose from. The most common ones are Gratinée with Gruyère cheese, Forestière with mushrooms, and Münster with Münster cheese. Even sweet versions are popular for dessert, often containing apple slices and cinnamon or berries which are flambéed with Calvados. But of course – like with Pizza – there are basically no limits to your imagination when it comes to the toppings. Think of exceptional combos like beets and pears, goat cheese, honey and walnuts or ham, green asparagus and a dash of Sauce Hollandaise. Just go wild – arguably the classic Flammkuchen is still the best though! But the versatility of this great dish comes with another benefit. While the classic comes with cubes of bacon, there are also endless delicious meatless versions of Flammkuchen suitable for vegetarians!

Flammkuchen evolved from a clever byproduct to a culinary star

Think of a village in the rural region between France and Germany during the 19th century. Once a week, the farmers’ wives would come together in the center to bake bread in the big oven for the entire village. Back then, it wasn’t as easy to regulate the heat in the wood-fired ovens. And while thermometers had already been invented, they hadn’t yet made their way to those rural areas. However, nobody wanted rock-hard or half-baked bread, in case the bakers would take out the loafs too early or too late. For that reason, the women had to think of other ways to find out when the oven had the right temperature. Thus, Flammkuchen was born.

Originally it was only a thin piece of the same bread dough that should protect the bread from burning. The women would place the thin dough in the flames of the wood-fired oven. If it burnt quickly, it was clear that they had to wait a bit for the oven to cool down. Like that, only a tiny piece of the dough was lost instead of burning all the bread. On the other hand, if this predecessor of Flammkuchen took too long, the women had to add more wood. Due to this procedure, Flammkuchen – literally translating to “flame cake” – received its name as the flat dough was baked right inside the blazing flames.

But this was just the dough. Where did the topping come from? Well, instead of throwing away the test pieces of baked dough, the farmers’ wives would snack on them while waiting for the bread. As the crust was rather dry and boring, they started bringing sour cream as a spread. With time, the women became more creative and added other ingredients like bacon and onions. Thus, out of a mere “tool” to help their bread baking, they created what is today the region’s signature dish.

Now, did we intrigue you and get your mouth watering? Good, because below you find the recipe for the classic Flammkuchen. For any variation – whether savory or sweet – you can use the same dough for the base and alternate the topping.

Flammkuchen - The Classic

Flammkuchen - The Classic

Ingredients

    For the dough
  • 220 g flour
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100 ml warm water
    For the topping
  • 300 g onions
  • 250 g smoked, streaky bacon
  • 250 g sour cream
  • 150 g Crème fraîche
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. Mix flour, 2 table spoons olive oil, egg yolks and water and knead everything until to get smooth dough
  2. Coat the dough with the remaining olive oil, wrap it in cling film and let it rest at room temperature for approx. 30 minutes
  3. Unwrap the dough, cut it in quarters and roll it out so that you get four waferthin patches
  4. Peel the onions, cut them in half and slice them finely
  5. Cut the bacon into small cubes or thin stripes
  6. Mix the Crème fraîche with sour cream and season with salt and pepper
  7. Spread some of the creamy sour cream mix on the dough and top it with onions and bacon
  8. Bake the Flammkuchen for 10-12 minutes at 250°C in the electric oven. Alternatively use a wood-fired oven and bake until the dough is crunchy and the toppings well cooked


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Find more food and drinks from Germany here.

Go to other interesting articles on Germany: Events, Traditional Costumes
Cover Photo by Jay F Kay

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