Monday, June 25, 2012

Alsatian cousin *

If I read one more time about how this recipe is going to change my life or how that recipe is gonna make me view the world in a different way, I'm going to scream and, I have a very loud voice, mind you.

What do you mean dear recipe writer, blog author, magazine editor, this recipe is gonna change my life? Is it going to miraculously make me five kilos thinner? Is it going to deposit money in my bank account so I can pay my yearly taxes? Is it going to stop the noise that my bathroom faucet makes and that's been driving me nuts for the past week? Or is it going to go to my gynecologist for me next Monday?

Who gives a damn if this marmalade has all the flavor of summer hidden in it and once I taste it I will see life with different eyes. Does this marmalade contain any hallucinogenic drugs? Because that's the only way a marmalade would ever make me see life in a different way.

I too have been "accused" of saying the word delicious more than a normal person would. I'm certainly one to fawn over food and desserts, and chocolate in particular, and I most definitely view food as something important. I'm a person who believes that a good meal and the sharing of food can bring people together and create a happy memory, and I firmly believe that food is one of the great pleasures in life, otherwise I wouldn't bother blogging about it, but I have never claimed that a recipe will or can change anyone's life.

Having perspective is perhaps one of the most important things in life and saying that a recipe is going to change yours, is a little too much for me. I'm not a miracle worker, I'm a simple food blogger who wants to bring a smile to your face with a photograph, a recipe, something that you read here. I'm someone who wants you to get in your kitchen and cook and hopefully get inspired to try something new, something that will change your routine, something that will make you and someone you love happy. Because that's what cooking is about. It's going to make you happy for a moment or even for a little while, it's going to make you feel good and excite your senses but it's not going to change your life. That would only happen in a place where unicorns existed and where we could all ride the rainbows.

So, respectfully, I bring you a recipe that will not change your life in any way but that will most definitely make your day just a tiny bit brighter.

This is a tarte flambée or flammekueche (meaning "cooked in the flames"). A pizza-like French tart from the Alsace region with a super thin bread-dough base, topped with onions, crème fraîche, fromage blanc (a creamy French cheese) and smoked bacon. Originally made in wood-fired ovens by bread bakers and farmers who needed to test how hot their oven was for baking, a small ball of bread dough was rolled out, slathered with thickened cream and baked on the stone floor of the oven. It would only take a couple of minutes to char and blister around the edges and an easy treat for the Alsatian bakers was born. Later on, it evolved into the tart we know today, with the addition of bacon and onions, and of course it's no longer considered peasant food. It is served in fancy restaurants in France and why not in your home too.

* If you haven't already figured it out, I'm a Morrissey fan.

Tarte Flambée - Alsatian Red Onion, Crème Fraîche and Bacon Tart with Reblochon Cheese
Adapted from John Torode

Traditionally, tarte flambée is made with white onions and fromage blanc but I opted for red onions because I love their flavor, and Reblochon cheese, which is one of the most flavorsome (and famously stinky) French cheeses. It is similar to Brie or Camembert but a hundred times better and when it melts, it's even more delicious. Try it if you can find it. If not, add one of the aforementioned cheeses or opt for a Gruyère or Emmental. They are a different type of cheese, with a completely different taste and texture than Reblochon but their flavor goes very well with the rest of the flavors in the tart.

Don't worry too much about the shape of the tart. It's not supposed to be as round as a pizza but rectangular and rather free-form. What is important though is that the crust is rolled out very thinly, crepe-thin even.

Don't let the word flambée scare you or put you off trying the recipe. This tart is not supposed to be set on fire but baked in the oven. If you have a pizza stone, use it, the result will be infinitely better. If not, bake it on a large baking sheet that you put in the oven before you turn it on to preheat.

Yield: 2 tarts, for 2 hungry people


for the dough
250 g strong white bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp (5 g) dried instant (or active dry) yeast
1 tsp (6 g) caster sugar
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil, plus a little extra for oiling the bowl
1 tsp (7 g) sea salt
140 ml lukewarm water

for the topping
125 ml crème fraîche, full-fat
2 small red onions, sliced thinly
150 g smoked streaky bacon, cut into short, thin strips
100 g Reblochon* cheese (or any of the cheeses I mention above), thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

*Slice the Reblochon without removing the rind.

Special equipment: stand mixer (optional), pizza stone or large baking sheet for baking the tart, rolling pin, pizza peel or baking sheet or cutting board for transferring the tart to the oven

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl) add 50 g of the flour along with the yeast, the sugar, the olive oil and 60 ml of the lukewarm water. Mix well with a spoon and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Leave for 30-40 minutes in a warm place until the mixture is bubbly and has almost doubled in volume.

Add the rest of the flour, the salt and the rest of the water or, and this is very important, just enough water to have a soft but not sticky dough. Not all flours are the same so you may need less or more water than I needed to have a dough with the proper consistency. It's best if you add the rest of the water slowly, just in case you don't need as much.
If you're using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes on the lowest speed, until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, and it is smooth and elastic.
If you're kneading the dough by hand, you will definitely have to knead it for more than 5 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Remove the dough from the bowl and lightly oil the bottom and sides of the bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and place it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place until it doubles in volume, which will take about 1 hour depending on how warm the room you leave it in is.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 390 degrees Fahrenheit and place your pizza stone or your large baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven.

Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it for a couple of seconds just to deflate it a bit. Divide the dough in two equal pieces. Dust with flour or cornmeal a large cutting board, or the back of a large baking sheet, or a pizza peel, to make it easier for you to transfer the tart to the oven, and using a floured rolling pin, roll out the first piece of dough very thinly, about 5 mm in thickness and about 35 cm in diameter.
Spread half of the crème fraîche on the dough, scatter around half of the onions and half of the bacon, making sure to fill the dough all the way to the edges with the ingredients. Sprinkle a little black pepper all over the top.

Note: If you're using a hard cheese like Gruyère or Emmental instead of the Reblochon, add thin slices of it at this point.

Dust the pizza stone or baking sheet that's in the oven with flour or cornmeal and transfer the tart on top. Bake the tart for 12-14 minutes, until it takes on a golden brown color and the base is crisp. Open the oven door and add the Reblochon cheese (or Camembert or Brie) on top of the tart and bake for a further 2-3 minutes or until the cheese melts.

In the meantime, prepare the second tart.

Take the first tart out of the oven and continue baking the second tart.

Serve the tarts while they're still hot, cut into pieces or wedges.


  1. I have been quietly enjoying your blog for a while now, but had to comment today, because I love your recipes but I love the way you write as well. Now I can add your ability to have a good rant to the enjoyment of this blog. Thank you. It made me smile, even if it wasn't supposed to.

  2. Really enjoy your blog, and this article in particular.
    I also find the "change your life" recipe descriptions way over the top. Thanks for saying what I think every time I read one of those.
    This tart sounds delicious; perfect for a summer evening.

  3. Yeah, the "it will change your life" thing bothers me a bit too. It will change my dinner, though! That tart looks beautiful. :)

  4. This pizza could be a game-changer...I want this now but I had pizza yesterday. There.s always tomorrow...thank you for sharing such decadence. ;)

  5. This tart looks like quite the miracle worker to me!

  6. Love this post Magda! Fantastic writing and well said! This recipe has certainly brightened my day :)

  7. Now I wonder if I ever claimed a recipe was life changing...

    Anyway, that looks like a life changing pizza ;)

  8. What a great post! I particularly like the line about hallucinogenic marmalade, very funny :-) Flammkuchen never fails to brighten my day

  9. omg I feel you on the gynecologist!

  10. I believe the only people whose lives will be changed, really changed by food or a recipe, are people who are without food or the option of cooking food, going to the grocery or even having clean water to drink and cook with. These folks would have a life change if they had even a small percentage of what we wax so poetically about. Now, that is a shameful thing to think about.
    Food and good healthy food does change our meal or our day, but not our lives. Thanks for your thoughts.

  11. I agree with you 100%, like your no-nonsense approach; what is really funny is that yesterday, I met a French journalist and took him to the Armenian district here in Beirut; as he was ordering a man'ooshe (Armenian style flatbread) he turned to me and proceeded to tell me all about this Alsatian tart!!! Unreal! Can't believe you are blogging about it! WOW!

  12. Indeed, food doesn't change your life in any true sense of the matter but it can bring a smile on your face and make you happy and fulfilled while you eat it or for a few hours afterwards. This tart would certainly make me happy because it contains ingredients I enjoy very much!

  13. This looks RIGHT up my alley - I love the flavor combo and it's absolutely gorgeous looking. I agree, recipes are rarely ~life changing~...except for that one where you can make a cake in a coffee mug in the microwave, because, hello, microwave cake! That did change my life a little bit in that I had to switch to my chubby jeans for a few weeks until I made myself stop making microwave cake every night. ;)

  14. susan — thank you commenting this time. I'm glad I made you smile. :)

    Eileen — I'm glad I'm not the only one.

    Peter — there's always room for pizza ;)

    Banana wonder — thank you!

    Anna — I'm glad you like it.

    Nuts about food — ;)

    Pola — thanks!

    Tamsin — thank you. It brightens my day too!

    sweetmaddy — I was sure someone would.

    Teresa — food can certainly change someone's life but I was referring to a recipe not food in general. There are people out there who are starving and there are people who are in need of proper, nutritious food. Thank you for your comment.

    Joumana — that is a coincidence, indeed.

    Katerina — we have the same taste :)

    Sydney — thanks for stopping by. Cake in a coffee mug? I have never heard of that before.

    Nicole — thanks.

  15. Loved your post and of course the Alsatian Tart. why do I have a feeling that you maight like the middle east Magda?L.

  16. Magda, you make me smile. It reminds me of a funny food poem I've started (still unfinished) called Food Writers Rant, a list of all those overused descriptors we all bump up against when writing about food and recipes.

    I love the wonky shape of your Alsatian Tart.

  17. I'm looking forward to trying the recipe. Can you recommend a vegetarian substitute for the bacon?

  18. Lara — I've never been to the Middle East but I'm sure I'll love it!

    nancy — we are all guilty of that :)

    El — how about mushrooms?

  19. I'm so happy to have found your recipe, Magda. Discovering tarte flambée or flammekuechen while traveling in Germany DID change my life. I became hooked! Forget the schnitzel - I go for the fammekueche and have been on a journey to find a "real" recipe for it ever since. Thank you for sharing!

  20. I love tarte flambe and I ate tons of them when I was living in Strasbourg (I worked at ECHR for a couple of years). My favorite just simple with creme fraiche, onions, bacon. and some munster.