What is the first thing that comes to your mind when visiting the Alsace region in France? Could be the amazing pastry of French boulangeries, could be the picturesque cities of Strasbourg or Colmar, but could also be the signature dish of the region: Tarte flambée!
Tarte flambée in French or Flammekueche in Alsatian is a famous specialty from the Alsace-Lorraine region on the French side of the Rhine and the Baden-Palatinate area on the German side. Its name literally translated means a pie baked in the flames, as it is prepared in a wood-fire oven. It consists of a thin rolled bread dough, either oval or rectangular, covered with various toppings of your preference. Each variant though is covered with a generous layer of crème fraiche or sour cream, salt, pepper, onions and bacon.
Tarte flambée variants
You can find this dish in most local brasseries or bistros and you can choose among different variants such as:
Gratinée: covered with additional cheese on top
Forestière: covered with mushrooms
Munster: covered with additional Munster cheese
Sweet: covered with sweet toppings such as blueberries or apples and cinnamon
In the more contemporary places you can even find flammekueche with salmon or pommes frites.
The History of Tarte Flambée
Flammekueche originates from the area of Strasbourg and legend has it was farmers and peasant families who invented this dish already back in the 13th century. The dough was put in the oven while the oven was not too hot in order not to burn the dough and it only took a few minutes until it was ready. Then, they spread the thick cream on top and voilà, a delicious, easy and affordable midday meal was ready!
The flammekueche was often accompanied with homemade grape schnapps from the Alsatian region and started to become more famous in the 19th century. However, it became more popular to the public and tourists only 20 years ago. A common German drink to accompany any tarte flambée is Federweißer, a sweet, semi-fermented grape juice.
Curious enough and eager to make flammekueche at home? It is not hard – just follow the instructions in the recipe below:
Prepare the dough either by hand or using a mixer (the traditional and best way though is to use your hands!). Mix the flour, half teaspoon of salt and oil together and start pouring slowly warm water to the mixture. Then let it rest for around an hour.
Preheat the oven to 280°C. Onions are an essential ingredient. Chop them in thin even strips and sweat them on low heat. Just make sure they don’t get burnt. Do the same with the bacon, which should be chopped in cubes.
Mix your cheese of choice together with the crème fraiche and season it with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Roll-out the dough with some flour and cut it into a circle shape. Now it is time to spread the mixture of cheese, onions and bacon. Add some virgin olive oil for extra taste and bake it in the oven for around ten minutes. After that, enjoy!
Tarte flambée is the Alsatian version of pizza and a versatile dish with its own character, texture and heavenly taste. If you ever find yourself wandering around Alsace, this is a must try for lunch or dinner. You can be sure that it will leave your taste buds extremely satisfied.
FARE OF THE COUNTRY; Tarte Flambee From Alsace – The New York Times. 2022. The New York Times. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/31/travel/fare-of-the-country-tarte-flambee-from-alsace.html#:~:text=Tarte%20flambee%20originated%20with%20peasants,bread%20just%20once%20a%20week. [Accessed 08 June 2022].
Vins d’Alsace. 2022. Recipe for traditional tarte flambée (or Flammekueche) – Vins d’Alsace. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.vinsalsace.com/en/a-table/recettes/tarte-flambee-flammekueche/. [Accessed 08 June 2022].
Regions of France. 2022. Alsace Region of France – Food & Gastronomy – Flammekueche | Regions of France. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.regions-of-france.com/regions/alsace/food-gastronomy/flammekueche. [Accessed 08 June 2022].
Written by Ioanna Mavridou
Ioanna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Translation from the Ionian University in Corfu and has also studied her Master’s in Communication at Gothenburg University in Sweden. A digital communications enthusiast, she has completed a professional Social Media & Digital Marketing certification. She speaks Greek, English, Swedish, German and Russian. She is a Communications Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament.