Flammkuchen or flammekueche is essentially a bacon onion flatbread/pizza. It may seem like only a few ingredients, but they are transformed into a truly delicious dish you'll instantly love! And it's easy to make, too.
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I know when you think pizza, you almost certainly think of a traditional Italian pizza with a tomato sauce base. Maybe a "white pizza" with cheese on the bottom as a slight alternative. But many other cultures also have a variation on the theme which can have quite different toppings.
I became a big fan of Catalan coca, a kind of Spanish pizza, when I first lived in Spain. It can have various toppings, but I found the softened pepper and onion the most common and a big favorite. On a visit to Cyprus, I discovered Turkish lahmacun, with a thin tomato-meat topping spread on top of the dough that packs a flavor punch.
Then I came across flammekueche and I knew I needed to give it a try, too. After all, with some of my favorite ingredients on top, it would be hard to go wrong. I certainly wasn't disappointed.
Where is flammekueche from?
This dish is from the Alsace region of France as well as the neighboring Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfaltz areas of Germany. The Alsace region has gone back and forth on which country it is in for centuries between Germany and France. As a result, it definitely has some character from both, language and food included.
Ite seems pretty French in the ingredients, using creme fraiche (or fromage blanc), onions and lardons (strips of bacon). But I for one can't think of them used in quite this way elsewhere in France.
Plus, the fact this dish has multiple names, from the French tarte flambeé, German Flammkuchen and flammekueche and other variations in local dialects, puts it firmly from this border region. Some sources suggest it was originally made by German farmers.
Whatever the debate on origin, though, what you really need to know is this dish is both easy and delicious.
How did tarte flambeé get it's name?
You might be familiar with the term "flambeé" when for example an alcohol is set alight in a pan to add flavor to a dish. While the name for this pizza does comes from flames, it's in a different sense. According to the wikipedia entry, it was made as a way to test the heat of the oven the farmers used to make bread.
The high heat was perfect to cook this "flamed tart", using just enough toppings to make a tasty meal, too.
Tips for making flammkuchen
True to the original, less really is more in this dish. If you try to load this pizza up too much, the base won't crisp up properly and will be soggy. Keep the toppings light and you'll still get plenty of delicious flavor.
Some recipes don't cook the onions or bacon ahead of time. I'm afraid I disagree on this, as while they'll both cook a bit, I think you get a better flavor pre-cooking. If not pre-cooked, the onions might crisp but they'll taste more like slightly charred raw onions.
Don't get me wrong, that can be good, but I prefer the gentle sweetness of softened onions. The bacon, too, I think has a better flavor when pre-cooked.
The base for flammekueche is different from your typical pizza in that there is no yeast or other leavening agent. It's just a pretty simple dough. While it doesn't rise, it does, however, mean the dough rolls out easily and still crisps well. Just don't be scared to roll it as thin as you can.
Nutmeg might sound a little unusual, but believe me it gives a little lift in flavor to the creme fraiche base. If you can't find creme fraiche, try a blend of sour cream and Greek yogurt to get a similar flavor and texture.
You'll find a few variations on this beyond the basic cream/cheese base, onion and bacon. One is adding a little gruyere cheese which was too good not to pass up, to me. You can skip this and it will still be delicious, but it does add a lovely extra flavor.
Flammekueche is easier than your average pizza, and with such fantastic flavors. It may have humble ingredients, but the result is crisp, flavorful and oh so good. Give it a try, and you'll be adding it to your regular list as we have!
Try these other less typical pizzas:
- Bacon corn pizza
- Fall pizza with sausage and squash
- Lahmacun, a Turkish pizza/flatbread topped with a tasty lamb, onion and tomato mix
- Caramelized onion and gorgonzola pizza
- Plus get more main dishes and French recipes in the archives.
Flammkuchen/Flammekueche (tarte flambee)
For the base
- 1 cup all purpose flour plain flour
- 1 tbsp oil (olive oil/vegetable oil as you prefer)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup water or a little more as needed
For the topping
- 2 ½ oz smoked bacon
- ½ onion medium
- ½ tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoon creme fraiche
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- ¼ cup gruyere cheese approx, optional
- Mix together the flour, oil, salt and water in a bowl. If it's too dry and won't come together, add a little more water, but it will be a relatively dry dough. Kneed for a minute then set aside while you prepare the toppings.
- Preheat the oven to 450F/230C. Line a large baking sheet/tray (half sheet) with parchment.
- Cut the bacon in to thin strips ('lardons') and cook in a small skillet/frying pan over a medium heat until they are just starting to brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Add the onions to the pan, along with the butter, and cook a few minutes until the onions have softened but are only just browning.
- Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to the creme fraiche and mix well.
- Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a circle/oval as thin as you can (around ⅛in/3mm).
- Transfer the dough to the lined baking sheet then spread the creme fraiche over the top, leaving a space around the edge without any topping.
- Spread over the sauteed onions then top with the bacon, spreading them as evenly as you can. Top with the gruyere, if using, then bake for around 10 minutes until the edges are lightly brown and crisp and the toppings are just starting to color.
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