Pizzas have many different variations all over the world and in fact, just because the Italian version is the most common on an international scale, this doesn’t mean that others are less flavourful or delicious and this is why we’ll be looking at the Alsatian Flammekueche. Known in German as the “Flammkuchen” (a subtly different spelling and pronunciation from Alsatian), in French as the “Tarte Flambée” and in English translates to “Flame Cake” or “Flambéed Pie”, the Flammekueche has its origins implanted deep in Alsatian culture.
Alsace is a province in France that shares its border with Germany and Switzerland. Traditionally speaking, Alsace has it’s own language and culture that resembles that found in other countries that speak Allemanic-Geman variants either throughout the entire German-speaking parts of a country such as in Switzerland and Liechtenstein or in certain more concentrated regions of Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and the German Colonia Tovar of Venezuela. Certain Amish groups in the U.S.A. still speak Allemanic-German today.
The French province of Alsace is rich in culinary history that leans far more towards the German end of the spectrum than the French. It is a large wine producing region, predominantly whites, namely world-renowned Riesling and Gewürztraminer and is also Frances most important producer of beer. Kronenbourg and Karlsbräu are available on the international market and are both examples of well-known Alsatian beers.
One of the most notable factors that make a Flammekueche a Flammekueche is the use of crème fraÎche (similar to sour cream though less sour and higher in fat content), fromage blanc (similar to quark though resembling the texture of cream cheese with less fat content) and smoked bacon, better known as lardons in Alsace. Alsatian cuisine is marked by the use of pork in various forms and it’s therefore not surprising that the most traditional form of the Flammekueche includes smoked bacon.
Other ingredients included on the list are the simple bread dough which forms the base, finely sliced onions, a pinch of nutmeg or caraway seeds, salt and a generous grinding of fresh pepper. Variations are huge, just as they are among the Italian counterpart and vary as greatly as the families that make them! Other toppings include the addition of grated cheeses such as gruyère, munster and even the addition of fresh mushrooms. For this post I’ve recreated the original with the onions and bacon and a second version of my own with smoked salmon and fresh-water shrimp.
The Flammekueche was typically a dish made at home. It didn’t really even hit the urban scene until pizza’s popularity took off in the during the mid-1900′s which caused the proliferation of many pizza places throughout the world. In fact, the flambéed treat was never flambéed at all. The Flammekueche was always baked in a wood-fired oven, just like pizza however, instead of being considered a main-dish, it was used to test the oven temperature before baking more elaborate dishes or bread and eaten as a light snack. When the Flammekueche would bake fully in a couple of minutes, the edges would char lightly and this would indicate that the oven was at temperature. Try doing the same when baking your own bread in the Fornetto!
Therefore, I probably don’t have to mention this but I will nonetheless. You’ll want to have you Fornetto at maximum* temperature when baking Flammekueche, in the same way that you would pizza, in order to cook them in 1-2 minutes. Traditionally, they are rectangular and very thin (0.5 cm or about 0.2″) though feel free to make them round or thicker if you prefer. I use parchment paper because it makes the very thin dough easier to manipulate and turn inside the cooking chamber with the help of the bamboo pizza peel. Click on the image to view the pizza peel and remember never to exceed the maximum recommended temperature in the Fornetto of *350C (662F).
When the Flammekueche is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly before cutting.
The edges of the dough should be slightly singed as should the tips of the bacon and onions. Enjoy it with a frosty mug of your favourite brew or try an Alsatian beer as something new.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m including a variation of my own which is the same as the Gratinéed (melted Gruyère) version I prepared above. This one has smoked salmon, fresh-water shrimp and instead of using nutmeg, I substitute it with finely chopped dill. Fell free, as you would with pizza, to use whatever ingredients you like. However, bear in mind that a traditional Flammekueche is meant to be thin so don’t overdo the toppings or you’ll end up with a soggy dough.
Bake it in exactly the same way as the traditional one, until the edges start to singe and the surface browns slightly. What’s good about doing a couple of variations of a Flammekueche or pizza is that, everyone can pick their preference. You can also invite your guests to bring their own toppings. Simply prepare the dough ahead of time, heat up your Fornetto and allow your guests to top and bake their own.
Enjoy the smoked-salmon variation with a sprinkling of fresh lemon and an Alsatian Riesling (dry/semi-dry) or Gewürztraminer (sweet) depending on your preference. Click on the image for both the bacon Flammekueche recipe and smoked salmon alternative!
You’re in for a treat. Enjoy!