Flammkuchen - the Other Type of Pizza

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Introduction: Flammkuchen - the Other Type of Pizza


After baking and eating many traditional pizzas, it was time for Flammkuchen again.
It's extremly delicious and quick and easy to make.

Step 1: History and Definition

Tarte flambée is an Alsatian dish composed of thin bread dough rolled out in a circle or a rectangle, which is covered with crème fraîche, onions, and lardons. It is one of the most famous gastronomical specialties of the region.

Depending on the region, this dish can be called in Alsatian flammekueche, in German Flammkuchen, or in French tarte flambée. There are many variations of the original recipe, in terms both of the dough and of the garniture.

Legend says that the creators of this dish were Alemannic farmers from Alsace, Baden or the Palatinate who used to bake bread once a week. In fact, the tarte was originally a homemade dish which did not make its urban debut until the "pizza craze" of the 1960's. A tarte flambée would be used to test the heat of their wood-fired ovens. At the peak of its temperature, the oven would also have the ideal conditions in which to bake a tarte flambée. The embers would be pushed aside to make room for the tarte in the middle of the oven, and the intense heat would be able to bake it in 1 or 2 minutes. The crust that forms the border of the tarte flambée would be nearly burned by the flames.

The name itself comes from this method of baking, the English translation of the original Alsatian name being "baked in the flames."

In some parts of Alsace, the Palatinate and Baden, the crème fraîche may be replaced by fromage blanc (similar to Quark), or by a mixture of half fromage blanc and half crème fraîche. The result resembles a thin pizza.

My latest variation of it:
https://www.instructables.com/id/Pizza-Salmone/



Step 2: Ingredients


As i wrote in the intro, the Flammkuchen is easy to make and uses very few commonly available ingredients.(at least around here...)

For the dough:   for 4 Flammkuchen

500 g    flour     (bread flour, but general purpose will also work)
300 ml  water
16 g       salt
1 g         active dry yeast
2 tablespoons of olive oil

For the topping:

400 g   Creme fraiche, soured cream, i read it's not as sour and thicker than sour cream
150 g    Quark, fresh cheese, curd cheese, i guess the stuff in a cheese cake
360 g    smoked, salted bacon cubes. You can also cut up breakfast bacon
12          spring onions, but other onions work as well
salt and pepper (on the last ones i added a little chopped fresh thyme, i like it very much)


Step 3: Preparing the Dough

I like doughs with very little yeast, so the dough has to be mixed and kneaded around 6 hours ahead of the bake.

I normally make the dough in my bread maker.
I add all the ingredients, except the oil into the mixing bowl. Then i start the pizza program on my bread maker. After a couple of minutes into kneading, i add the oil.

Step 4: Preparing the Toppings

I chop the spring onions to fine rings.
I mix the creme fraiche and quark in a bowl and pepper and salt it to taste. Don't oversalt the mix, since the bacon adds some more salt.

Step 5: Forming the Crust and Topping It


After the dough had risen for 6 hours, i take it from bowl and onto a floured working surface. (You can prolong this time, by refrigerating the dough
I divide the dough into 4 pieces and form them into balls.
I flour the peel, and start to stretch the dough into it's form.
While stretching the dough, you sometimes need to relax the dough, to be able to further stretch it. (This can be achieved by covering the dough with cling wrap and wait a couple of minutes.)
A Flammkuchen crust is quite thin, like a pizza neapolitana.

Put the stretched dough onto the peel and put the cream-mix on it. Evenly spread the mix on the dough.

Add onion rings and bacon cubes. Pat down on it, to cover the onions and bacon with the cream-mix. This way, the onions won't dry out and burn in the intense heat of the oven.

Step 6: Baking

In my wood fired oven, i heat the oven, so the oven floor is 350 C / 660 F hot.

In the electric oven, it is important to use a pizza stone.
My electric oven goes up to 300 C / 570 F and needs about 30 minutes to preheat.
In order to get a decent bake on the underside of the crust, use the lower heater.

Before i shove the Flammkuchen into the oven, i jerk the peel forth and back in short motions, to make sure it will come free from the peel.

Then i shove it into the oven, by jerking out the peel.

After about 5 minutes in the wood oven, the Flammkuchen is done.
In the electric oven, it takes around 10 minutes. But this can be different in your oven.
It's a good idea to lift it, to see if it's done. You should see brown spots on the underside of the crust.


I only made 2 of the 4 portions yesterday. I slightly oiled the 2 dough balls and put them separately into plastic bags in the fridge.
Since not everyone has a wood fired oven, i want to show you how they come out of a electric oven.
I have added some commented photos of it.
I want to stress again, that a pizza stone is really important for a crunchy fully baked crust.

Special variation with smoked salmon:
https://www.instructables.com/id/Pizza-Salmone/

Link to my pizza oven instructable:
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Pizza-Oven/



Step 7: My Margherita

After baking pizzas for many years with different success, i'm finally happy with my Margherita.

Margherita is the Pizza in its purest form, so it's quite easy to enhance the main pizza ingredients. Crust, pizzaiolo sauce and the cheese.

When i started baking pizza, i cooked the tomatoes in the sauce very long, in order to evaporate.

Then, after i read Peter Reinhart's pizza book, i tried the tomatoes uncooked. I marinated the diced tomatoes with olive oil salt, herbs, spices and a dash of lemon juice.
This was already close to the "perfect pizza".

I used canned, skinned and diced San Marzano tomatoes in spring. Those tomatoes are picked ripe and canned immediately. These are better than fresh tomatoes, that are picked green in order to survive shipment. But if you have access to fresh ripe tomatoes, by all means use them.

I take a can of tomatoes and pour them into a strainer to collect the liquid in a bowl.
Onions and garlic are finely diced and lightly sauteed in olive oil. When the onions get glassy, i pour the liquid onto the onions. Then i add a little concentrated tomatoe puree and let it cook to evaporate half the liquid.

After switching off the heat, i add salt, pepper, oregano (or the herbs and spices of your choice) and a dash of lemon juice. When cooled a little bit, i add the diced tomatoes.

So much for the sauce.

The next thing is the cheese. Pure mozzarella is a pretty bland cheese, even the bufala.
In the supermarkets here, i can buy a grated pizza/gratin mix. It's mozzarella with some Greyerzer.
Lately i used this mix, together with some Taleggio cheese. This made it really, really tasty.

A pizza needs to be balanced. Meaning don't overload the toppings. I like a thin crust, so not too much toppings.

After baking, i add some fresh basil.

From this point, the sky is the limit....

Some commented pictures of our last pizza party.

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    52 Discussions

    Creme fraiche is really easy to make. Here's a recipe: 1 cup whipping cream mixed with 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Combine well in glass jar and cover. Let stand at room temperature (about 70 degrees F.) for 8 to 24 hours, or until thickened. Stir well and refrigerate. Use within 10 days.

    1 reply

    That's cool. I only wonder that commercial buttermilk has live lactic bacteria in it. To be honest, i never tried it

    We've recently move to France, Indre-et-Loire, and the house has a proper bread oven on the side. It's about 2m across at the base. It needs a little repair first but this instructable might just get me moving on with it! should be better than a pizza stone in the oven as I do at the moment.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

    I became obsessed with Flammkuchen while living in Baden a few years ago, and I've made a bunch of different versions. This one is excellent!

    Here's a few things of learned -

    1) It might upset purists, but I've found that if you're short on time, uncooked flour tortillas are a good solution for the crust. Because they're so thin, they get nice and crispy, and cook time is very short.

    2) It can be very hard to get Quark, and to a lesser extent, Creme Fraiche in my area. I've experimented to find a good replacement using more readily available ingredients - Greek Yogurt, Creme Cheese, Sour Cream, etc.

    I've been really pleased with a "base" using 2 parts Philadelphia Cooking Creme (it's a sort of thin cream-cheese variation) and 1 part Sour Cream, to give it a more "quarky" vibe.

    Maybe not totally authentic, but nice if you need to scratch that Flammkuchen itch.

    Viel Spass!

    1 reply

    Hello in Utah...
    It's quite a while, that i was there. (Salt Lake to work, Park City to ski...)

    Last week i drove through Flammkuchen-country. From Basel through the Elsass over the Vosges and on to Brussels.

    Regarding the recipe, it's almost too simple to mention. (But thanks, anyway)
    Sometimes, the simple things are the best.
    Try some thyme, besides salt and pepper.

    For the crust, i really invested some time into enhancing it, since i wrote this ible.
    I'm finally making it with a very mild (french) sourdough culture, that i ordered in the U.S.
    I gave that a try, after reading this page:

    http://varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm

    It really knocks your socks off, and the dough is much easier to form/stretch.

    There certainly are substitutes for the dairy ingredients i use. (Switzerland is somewhat of a dairy-heaven..) I live in a small town of only 11k, but i can buy that stuff in at least 6 shops.
    There are other things, that are harder to obtain locally...

    As for a puristic or authentic Flammkuchen, i don't think there is such a thing. There are many variants. (Try one in Baden ,Ulm or Colmar, they will almost certainly be different, but yummy nonetheless.)
    There is no right or wrong, only your taste should decide.

    Keep on baking!

    This is almost identical and reminds me of the best memory I have of my german Oma. She carefully taught me to make "speckkuchen" in her kitchen in Kassel. The only difference was she did not use cheese. Instead the "filling" was a layer made of moistened day old white bread squeezed out and mixed with beaten eggs seasoned with nutmeg. This filling went on before the toppings of green onions and "speck" or bacon cubes. She made it for my mother and her siblings in the morning and they would get a piece to eat on the way to the market. It was a breakfast treat in 1935 or so. At the time, "creme fraiche" "quark" or any dairy products were scarce so they must have improvised. You could also buy it from a vendor at the open air market.

    1 reply

    Hello farmette
    I wouldn't call this identical, it's much more refined and therefore more "complicated" to make.
    But after looking it up, i definitely have to try it.
    It has it's roots in the process of bread baking as well. (using dough leftovers)
    In one of the recipes i have seen, they breaded the bacon cubes, before topping the kuchen with them.
    I can see it how crunchy they come out of the oven. (gives me a Homer-like drool...)

    Would be a nice first instructable for you...

    This is fantastic … 
    How can we befriend so I can be invited ?…
    :)

    Actually seeing all these feisty and yummy pictures in the middle of january makes me long for the summer to come and the nice parties we have on my backyard in Le Havre !!!…

    3 replies

    In fact, i was "close" to you in Decembre.(Oostende) On my way home, i had a rough driving in the Ardennes with the snow... In those "lowlands", not everyone uses winter tires... For us, it's normal to have some snow on the road, but many of the truck drivers were just caught off guard. (I had 5 hours for 3km in Luxenburg on my way home...)
    We sometimes fire up the oven in January, so call me while in the vicinity...

    How nice of you ! … 

    The Ardennes are a wonderful country especially in the summer with their great dark forests. In fact I used to spend some vacations int the French Ardennes 30 km from Verdun !…

    Be sure that if I happen to pass by your area I'll let you know simply to have a look at you oven.

    Actually my fathers best friend was a famous Greek sculptor and he made hi a quick oven (Greek fashion, I guess) in about one morning using fire resistant brick and cement with a door made of a simple sheet of stainless steel sheet with a handle.

    I know it took him so little time because I was there and helped him. It was back in 1969 or 1970 and it still worked flawlessly 10 years ago. The house was then sold and I can see it when peeking over the fence, but I don't know if the new owners use it.

    I know I have some photos, I'll post them here. But please wait before I find them in my mess ! … 

    Have a good day.

    Building a oven with firebricks and refractory cement was also on my mind. But i decided for clay, because the material is much cheaper around here. Firebricks and refractory cement are quite expensive, if you build something "big".
    When you dig your own loam/clay or get it from a construction site (this shiny grey or yellow stuff when they dig a foundation, about 1.5m below the topsoil), it would cost next to nothing.

    Congratulations!

    I've learned this dish as Zwibelkuchen which is pretty much the same: Onions, bacon and kummel seeds. Wonderful instructable

    Great variation on a great theme: Use smoked salmon instead of bacon, a little less onions (well, to be honest, about half as much), and stir some dill into the crème fraiche. Deeeelicious!

    Thanks for the 'ible! And Gruezi!

    1 reply

    @bobbatt and @t.rohner: buttermilk is indeed the most reliable dairy culture; I had best luck with the brand Giant carries on the US East Coast, as opposed to various "live" or 'active' kefir/yoghurt products that never seemed to breed. I also had inconsistent results from other buttermilk brands---just try them out using a cup of milk for testing. I make yoghurt and farmer's cheese from our household staple 2% milk---they come out tastier when some half-and-half or whipping cream is added. I use something like 100ml buttermilk per gallon of milk, and stand it covered at room temperature for a day or two, like @bobbat says. Covering prevents stray bacteria and mold from entering, but don't close off the oxygen---I just use paper or aluminum foil sheet on top of the jar. I put it in the fridge when the milk visibly thickens and curdles. It's a delicious drink, and a base for fruit and vegetable based shakes (mango+sugar for mango lassie, garlic and cucumbers for tzatziki, etc etc). The natural acidity of yoghurt seems to calm heartburn and the active culture is good for digestion. To make cheese, put it in the warm (160 degrees) oven for an hour or two, until the yellowish whey separates from the white cheese on top. To firm it up a little bit, you can pour it over the cheesecloth in a strainer, and drain off the whey for few hours. Such cheese holds amazingly well in the fridge---at least a week.