Yes, pizza belongs to Italians. They do a pretty good job of it (hehe!) Every corner of Italy contends that their pizza is the best. And there are some pretty stellar rivalries. Roman vs Neopolitan? Thick and chewy vs thin and crispy? And when we move the contest over here to North America, it get’s even dicier. NY vs Chicago? Thin and chewy vs a thick pie? Every neighbourhood has it’s classic pizza that its lovers will defend to the death.
So to help break the tie and settle so many long fought battles, I present Flammekueche. That’s right, German pizza. My job is done. Okay, it’s not technically German, more Alsatian really. But what is Alsatian anyway? It’s that little tract of land (and people) that Germany and France were having regular property wars over. In the end and currently, Alsace and the surroundings belong to France. But so much of the culture and dishes have a distinctly Germanic influence and heritage. So, I’m leaning German with this dish as well! You do understand, right?!
Flammekueche means Flamed Cake in German. Hence the French name, Tarte Flambé. It’s really just another version of pizza. But what makes it distinctly different is the toppings. And yes, while Italians have white pizzas or pizzas with only simple olive oil and veggies, we often think of pizza having a tomato sauce base. Flammekueche starts off with a fromage blanc, or fresh white cheese base. Think of it as a fresh Farmer’s type cheese. This is combined with creme fraiche to make it more of a sauce. It has a slight tang to it, giving the Flammekueche its distinct flavour. Then it is usually topped with thinly sliced onion, bacon of some sort and herbs. Very simple. But the end result is divine pizza with a crunchy base, with a mid or northern European flavour palate.
These days you will find that Alsatians and others playing with the toppings just like we do. So usually when I make it, I will start with the base cheese sauce. But then if Jim has his way, there will be sautéed ground beef or sausage, bacon, thinly sliced potatoes, blue cheese and even some shredded mozzarella, for the stringy factor. Add some hot pepper flakes, and you’ve got a pizza that is simply divine.
I am sharing the recipe from the French Issue of Bake From Scratch. I like it because it gets all the ingredients correct, and even allows for using deli purchased pizza dough. Yes. I am that cook. I love baking from scratch, as can be seen from this blog. But usually pizza night around here means that the day has already been a full one, busy running from one end of town to the other. So I do keep quality pizza dough in the fridge (or simply pick some up on the way home) thus eliminating one step from the prep work. This girl likes options and stressless evenings, just like everyone else. Obviously if you make your own dough, I applaud you and encourage you to keep it up!
The prep work is simple. And the baking is straightforward. I use a baking steel which gets as hot as a condo oven will allow. It does a fabulous job of charring the bottom in just the right way. But any way that you bake up your pizza will work just fine. Ideally, putting your baking sheet or even cast iron pan in the oven to get nice and hot before you put the dough on it will help form the crisp crust.
I hope that you will love this alternative to the traditional tomato pizza. It’s a sublime option. Add it to your next pizza party- I guarantee that there will be some very pleasant reactions! Or another splendid way to serve these, is as an appetizer or snack with champagne for a cocktail party. Cut the pieces smaller, and add a bottle of bubbly or Gerwurtztraminer for the perfect way to wash it all down.
- 1 16 oz ball of deli pizza dough (or you can make your own)
- 1 cup double smoked bacon cut into bite size pieces or lardons
- 1 cup fromage blanc (ask at you deli) or yogurt cheese (labneh) You can prepare your own labneh a day in advance by taking 1 1/4 cup of plain yogurt and placing it in a cheese cloth lined sieve and letting it drain for 24 hours. Add salt to taste.
- 1 cup creme fraiche (make your own by taking 1 cup of whipping cream and combing it with 2 tbsp buttermilk or kefir and leaving it in a covered jar on the counter for at least 24-48 hours. Then refrigerate.)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp cracked pepper
- 2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
- garnish- scallions, sliced thinly, finishing salt and finishing olive oil
- Place pizza stone in the centre of oven and preheat oven to 450F. Allow 1 hour to heat through before baking. If not using a pizza stone, then place your baking sheet etc in the oven to get hot before you place the dough on it.
- Let pizza dough come to room temperature (about 1 hour)
- Saute the bacon for 3-5 minutes, till just crispy.
- In a medium bowl, combine the fromage blanc (or labneh) creme fraiche, egg yolk, nutmeg, salt and pepper, stirring till mixture is smooth.
- On a lightly floured surface, cut the pizza dough into quarters. Roll each into a 7x5 inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Place two onto a paddle or the back of a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Use the paddle or baking sheet to slide the two bases onto the baking stone. Bake for 3 minutes. Use tongs to return the half baked rectangles onto the paddle to remove from the oven. Repeat with the other two dough rectangles.
- Immediately layer the cheese mixture to a 1/4 inch thickness over each piece of partially baked dough. (any remaining cheese can be covered and stay in the fridge for a week)
- Sprinkle yellow onion and bacon over the cheese.
- Bake, two at a time, until the cheese mixture is bubbling and the bacon and onion get more colour, about 2-3 minutes more.
- Garnish with the scallion slices and some sea salt and finishing oil.
- These can also be done on the grill. Grill one side till browned nicely. Remove and turn over. Place all the ingredients on the cooked side so that when it is returned to the grill, the bottom will cook through. You may need to oil the grill for each piece.