Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flammkuchen & A Perfect Sunday Afternoon

     We had a perfect Sunday.  The sky was a brilliant blue and the temperature was warm but not hot.  The day begged us to be lazy but not too lazy.  At Saturday's farmers' market, we splurged and purchased a wonderful, creamy schafskäse mit krauter to enjoy with the last of our bagels.  (While we love the bread here, once in a while, it is great to have a bagel - even if it is a Lender's Bagel...beggars can't be choosy!)  Schafskäse is a sheep's milk cheese and in this case, it was whipped with garlic and herbs.  I slathered copious amounts onto one side of my toasted bagel, topped it with sliced tomato and cucumber and placed the remaining side on top!  Oh my, that was wonderful start to the day!

     We try to visit a new town every month and aim for no more than an hour in the car.  The last couple of months have landed us in various small towns on the day of their local winefest.  Imagine that?   In our neck of Germany, they drink more wine than beer.  We try to arrive in time to have lunch and sample a glass or two of the local wine.  These festivals, although centered around wine, are all very unique and different.  One festival featured food booths scattered around a nice courtyard, where you could feast on mushroom ravioli, stir fry or even steaks and have a glass of wine selected specifically to compliment your dish of choice.  Today's festival was in the town of Gruenstadt, just on the edge of the Deutsche Weinstrasse.  Dear Daughter immediately comments about the small size of this fest and I have to admit...it was tiny.  A parking lot was transformed into a small carnival for the little ones and on the other end, long picnic (or fest tables) surrounded a central bandstand with one long tent in the back (the wine tent) and two smaller tents finishing the rectangle on either side featuring either Italian (two types of pasta and one type of pizza) or local fare.

     Lunch time works well for these "field trips" because even at the ripe age of 10 years old, my daughter always demands food at the specific moment that we open the car doors and step outside.  Through trial and error, we have learned that if we can incorporate lunch into the afternoon's activities, she seems a bit more amenable to hanging out with her parents instead of playing at home with friends.  Lucky for us, she heads for the tent serving regional specialities and chooses one of my favorites, Flammkuchen.

     Flammkuchen is a speciality of this area of Germany and its origins are either German or French.  In French, it is called Tarte Flambé and is popular in the Alsace.  Its french translation literally means "baked in flames."  Ages ago, bakers would place a thin pieces of  dough into the hot ovens to see if the ovens were at peak temperatures for bread baking.  If the oven was too hot, the dough literally  went up in flames, hence its German name, "Flaming Cake."  If the oven was at a peak bread baking temperature, then the dough would  cook in 90 seconds and come out charred around the edges.   Today, dough is rolled out very thinly so that when it is cooked, it forms a cracker-crisp crust (say that three times fast!). In its most classic form, it is topped with creme fraiche, lightly sautéed onions, lardons (or speck/bacon) and grated Gruyere cheese.  It is light and sinfully decadent at the same time.

    So in the brilliant sunshine, we enjoy what small bites of Flammkuchen that Dear Daughter is willing to part with and sample the local Riesling.  On the bandstand, a 20-member accordion band is playing ABBA selections. I have never seen an accordion band before and honestly, it wasn't that bad.  Later, we are serenaded by the typical oompah band and the afternoon continued to have a sort of lazy, relaxing quality.

    Lunch finished, we head back to the car and make the short drive home.  Dear Daughter gets the remainder of the afternoon to play outside with friends while her parents sit on the patio, enjoying the sun, reading and conversing.  A totally awesome end to the weekend...

Classic Flammkuchen

Classic Flammkuchen

This is a super easy recipe and while it has many variations, I prefer the classic version.  Here in Germany, we can buy flammkuchen dough, which is already rolled out into a thin rectangle or circle.  You can easily substitute pizza dough.

1 Pizza Dough - rolled out to very thinly.  I think Trader Joe's pizza dough is the best and easiest to use.
Creme Fraiche
One onion sliced and slightly sautéed in butter or olive oil.
Lardons, speck or bacon - slightly sautéed.  You decide the amount based on the dough size and your personal preference.
Grated Gruyere cheese

1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  I have a pizza stone which I preheat in the oven for twenty minutes.  It helps create the cracker-like crust.

2.  Roll out the pizza dough to form a thin crust.  Lightly spread the creme fraiche over the dough (as you would tomato sauce on a regular pizza).  Top with onions, lardons and cheese.

Bake for several minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is cooked.

This is a great alternative to regular pizza and goes well as a light dinner (with a green salad) or appetizer.

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