I spent sometime recently visiting villages associated with my paternal ancestors in southwest Germany near the border with France. While chasing relatives, I stumbled onto some foods unique to the area. On nearly every menu in the region was an item called Tarte Flambe, or flammekuechen as the Germans say. It looked a lot like very thin pizza, but had few toppings, and no tomatoes.
No one seemed to have an exact recipe for Tarte Flambe. Like Mom’s Meatloaf it comes in many varieties, depending on the household or what’s on hand. Notice from the photos that there is no rim of dough like you have on a pizza. The toppings go to the edges. Sometimes the edges get a bit charred from the wood-fired oven, which is considered acceptable.
Simplicity is the virtue of this regional bread. The crust is rolled out to suit the size of your oven, much like we do with our outdoor pizza oven at the farm. (A wood-burning oven seems to be preferable.)
Those who gave me further instructions said to make it with crème fraiche. The creamy base is smeared onto the uncooked dough and sometimes topped with a bit of grated white cheese. (Emmental, a Swiss cheese, was mentioned most often). The tarte is finished off with extremely thin onion slices and bits of cross-cut bacon. All the parts are kept thin so they cooks quickly in a very hot oven.
I decided to give the tarte a try. If my German relatives could do it, so could I. I thought that finding the crème fraiche might be a problem, but I found it right away at Whole Foods along with a ball of fresh pizza dough. I tried to get their pizza-making guy to sell me a chunk of dough that they use for making flatbread, but he wouldn’t do it. Next time, I’ll make it myself; it’s not that complicated.
Here’s the outcome of my first attempt. It’s not as beautiful as the ones in Alsace, but then they’ve got hundreds of years of experience on me. But it tasted really good.
The next time I make Tarte Flambe, I’ll make my own dough and use the outdoor oven at the farm that gets up to higher temperatures than home ovens do. SeriousEats has a step-by-step photo recipe that’s worth a look. Stay tuned.