German Flammkuchen

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Flammkuchen or traditional German-style pizza (tarte flambée) is perfect for a light lunch or dinner and best enjoyed with a small crisp salad and an ice cold beer. Flammkuchen was one of my favorite things to eat while living in Germany- first in Heidelberg and then in Marburg. The thin crust or boden is lightly coated with quark (or in our case a mix of crème fraiche and sour cream). The flammkuchen is traditionally topped with onions and lardons and a light sprinkling of chives for a vibrant pop of color.

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The very best flammkuchen I ever had was on a warm summer evening at the castle restaurant, Bückingsgarten, overlooking the sprawling medieval university city of Marburg. The finely diced onions were perfectly caramelized and the fatty, salty lardons complimented their sweetness, while the gratiné of gruyere gave a subtle creamy bite to the flammkuchen.

I truly love German food and will feature my favorite German recipes on the site to show that the cuisine is more than just sausage, meat, and potatoes. German food is rich, fresh, and diverse with regional specialties often varying from one town (dorf oder nest) to the next. For me the flavor of dishes are like muscle memory, and when I took a bite of my homemade flammkuchen I was immediately taken back to those summer days on the mountain side with a cold beer in my hand- feeling the weak German sun shine on my face.

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Flammkuchen

1/3 pizza dough ball (or ½ if you prefer a bigger flammkuchen)
Flour for dusting
¼ cup crème fraiche
¼ cup light sour cream
3 slices thick cut bacon
1 small onion
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ cup shredded Gruyere, Fontina, or Jarlsberg
Pepper to taste
Chives- thinly diced for garnish

The first step to making the flammkuchen is to dice and caramelize the onions. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil on low heat, and I mean low like between 1 to 2 on your burner. Onions caramelize slowly; otherwise they can just burn instead of becoming translucent and golden. I cooked the onions between 1 and 2 moving them occasionally. This step takes 20 minutes or so. Set the onions aside.

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Cook the bacon on 3-4. I always cook bacon on a lower heat for longer because I hate when the strips burn. I prefer crunchier, crisper bacon so I spoon some of the fat out of the pan while they are frying (this fat can be reserved for cooking if you so please). The first time I made the flammkuchen I made my bacon nice and crispy how I like it for breakfast, forgetting that it would continue to cook when I popped it in the oven. The second time I left the bacon a little softer. Set the bacon on paper towels to remove the excess grease and roughly chop when cool enough to handle.

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Mix the crème fraiche and sour cream with a little pepper to taste. The cheese and bacon are already salty so I do not think extra added salt is needed here. Quark is not readily available in grocery stores like it is in Germany. I did see it at Milam’s for around $8 for 4 ounces and opted to mix the sour cream and crème fraiche at about half the cost; set aside. Grate around a half cup of the cheese and set aside.

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Heat the oven to 400F. Lightly dust a clean surface with flour and cut a third of the pizza dough. My favorite local grocery store, Publix, sells rounds of freshly made pizza dough in their bakery. I do not think the Pillsbury or other canned variety of pizza dough will do this justice. If your local grocery store’s bakery does not sell fresh dough then this is a good recipe to follow.

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Using a rolling pin, create a thin crust for the flammkuchen, about 2-3mm thick. Remember this is supposed to be an ultra-thin flatbread-like crust, in the second picture the dough still needs to be rolled out a little more thinly. I prefer the organic rectangular shape, but if you’re a real go-getter you can shape the dough into a circle too. Place the thin dough on pizza baking stone (if you’re lucky enough to own one- unlike me) I just placed parchment paper on a thin rectangular pan.

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Spread a thin layer of the crème fraiche mixture, top with the cheese, next the onions, and lastly the roughly chopped bacon. Bake the flammkuchen in the oven for 10-14 minutes (or until the crust is ­­golden brown). Sprinkle with finely diced chives, slice, and enjoy! Serve with a fresh green salad and a nice pils or Hefeweiss beer. Serves 2 generous portions.

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