Don’t be fooled by the pictures: this is not a pizza. The mere comparison will get the whole of Alsace on your tail.
This is “Flammkuchen”, which loosely translates as “flamed pie”or “Tarte Fambée”. It’s a wonderful savoury flatbread from, you guessed it, Alsace. But it is an extremely popular fast food throughout Germany and surrounding countries too.
I first came across Flammkuchen at restaurant Moleson in the historic city of Bern in Switserland. Lovely for sharing on a sun-drenched terrace with a tankard of beer or to munch all by your greedy self any time of year (as I do).
Ideally you’d make your own dough, which would be extremely thin and light and crispy. But you can cheat with a good shop bought pizza dough or even a good flatbread if you’re stretched for time (as I was).
Where pizza would usually start with a tomato base, Flammkuchen uses a signature mixture of fromage blanc and creme fraiche. As fromage blanc is difficult to get hold of outside France, I used a similar base as I used for my three cheese white pizza, replacing the ricotta with quark.
Also, contrary to pizza, Flammkuchen is usually served as a rectangle rather than a circle. The traditional topping is simply bacon and onions. Nothing more, nothing less. Surprisingly, this tastes so much better than the sum of its parts suggests.
Of course, there are many variations out there, with Munster cheese, grilled with Gruyère cheese, with mushrooms (“forestière”), and even dessert ones, most notably with apples and cinnamon, flambéed with Calvados.
I’m sticking with the classic today. Because classics are classics for a reason.
Cheat’s Flammkuchen (serves 1 greedy person or 2 normal ones with a side salad)
220 gr of your favourite home made or shop-bought pizza dough (I used rosemary Northern Dough) or a good thin flatbread or 2
120-140 gr thick-cut Pancetta or bacon, cut into lardons (smoked if you like)
2-3 tbsp quark
1-2 tbsp creme fraiche
freshly grated nutmeg
a sprig of fresh thyme
a sprig of fresh rosemary
2 large onions, finely sliced into half moons
80 ml white wine
1 fat clove of garlic
flour to roll out the dough if using dough instead of flatbread.
Heat the oven to 200 C if using flatbread, or as high as it will go if using fresh dough. If using a pizza stone, which I highly recommend, let the stone heat up in the oven while the oven gets to temperature.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the lardons and cook until golden and starting to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving any fat released in the pan and set aside.
Heat the pan again over medium heat. Add 1 sliced onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and season to taste. Turn the heat down to low and cook until the onion is cooked and slightly caramelised. Remove from the pan, fish out the thyme and set aside.
Heat the same pan again and add the second onion. Sauté for a coupe of minutes. Season and add the rosemary. Then add the wine and cover to let steam develop. Turn the heat right down and simmer covered for 8 mins or so until the onion is cooked and the wine has fully disappeared.
If using dough, dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough to as thin as you dare. Transfer to a pizza peel lined with greaseproof paper.
If using a flatbread, place it on greaseproof paper on a pizza peel.
If you don’t have a pizza peel, just place the dough or flatbread on greaseproof paper for easy transferring to the oven later.
Mix the quark and creme fraiche together. Season and add a healthy grating of nutmeg. Spread the mixture onto the dough or flatbread.
Top with the lardons and both the caramelised and the braised onions. Season with extra black pepper if you like.
Transfer to the oven (on the greaseproof paper) and cook for 6-10 minutes or until the dough is cooked, or the flatbread is crispy.