On our way to visiting Stefan and Ariane in Baden-Baden for Christmas, we stopped off in Strasbourgh in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. We read about a regional specialty called Tarte Flambée that we just had to try. The place to get this unique flatbread is La Binchstub, a crowded little counter with a great beer and wine list and slamming flatbreads with creative toppings.
Once we were over the border into the Black Forest region of Germany, we learned that they shared an identical regional specialty called Flammeküche. Stefan explained that this region of southwestern Germany is more closely related to Alsace-Lorraine to the west than to Bavaria to the east.
Tarte Flambée originated as a snack for bread bakers who would use it to test whether their ovens were hot enough. If the crust came out crispy while the toppings were still moist, then all was well with the oven temperature. Even though home ovens will rarely reach the levels of commercial bread baking varieties, you can get a pretty close result by using a pizza stone or an overturned baking sheet and your oven's highest possible setting.
I have searched around for recipes and am still experimenting with just the right combinations. Stefan shared his Flammeküche recipe with us and added these interesting notes:
Real Flammekuche is a rather messy affair and has to be eaten fresh from the oven with the cream still liquid on top. If you eat it in Alsace, they would never bring the complete order at once since it would not taste good even after 10 minutes of standing somewhere. Thus, many places (professional or private) actually let the cream solidify thereby making it a much more manageable thing - it can even be reheated and is not messy at all. However, it is not the same that way ... really !! While it is still good, it is more what we Germans would call Speckkuchen ("Bacony cake").
The recipe presented here is a distillation of ideas I've come across, but is mostly thanks to Stefan.
You can use your own favorite bread or pizza dough recipe, or even prepared dough from a supermarket. But for the size I prefer, you should use only 1/2 lb. of dough per flatbread in order to get the traditional really thin crust. I make a batch of dough, cut it into 1/2 lb. balls, and store in the refrigerator in plastic sandwich bags. This way I can whip up a flatbread quickly - something we find ourselves doing multiple times a week!
If you need a dough recipe, here's a list of ingredients that makes about 2 lbs. (enough for 4 balls). You can use a bread-making machine on "dough only" cycle, the dough hook of a Kitchenaid mixer, or knead by hand the old-fashioned way.
Mix first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bowl (or large measuring cup), mix last 3 ingredients. Add wet ingredients to the dry and stir to fully combine. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Let it rise covered in a warm place for about 45 minutes, punch it down and give it a little more kneading, then let it rise another 45 minutes or so. Then cut into four equal balls.
Here is an area where different recipes diverge. Some use Crème Fraîche; others add "fromage blanc", cream cheese, or even ricotta to the Crème Fraîche; and Stefan's uses a combination of sour and heavy cream. In the end I find Stefan's formula to yield an almost identical result and is far easier to find in the USA. The quantities here will top about 4 pies - which for me is just right because I have my 4 balls of dough. I just put the mixture back into the sour creme container and keep it in the refrigerator.
The traditional version is just Onions and "Lardons" (small pieces of bacon). But you can branch off from there as you might when you make pizza. In addition to "Traditionelle", for example, at La Binchstub you might find, as Nancy did, an amazing combination of Blue Cheese, Pears, and Arugula; or even sweet pies with bananas and Toblerone!
For ONE traditional pie, you would need:
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