Tarte Flambée: Even French/Germans Make Pizza

Tarte Flambée: Even French/Germans Make Pizza

My 8 year old son sings a jingle on Friday nights. Sorry, sing is generous.  It’s more of an improvised warble of his own creation.  He hasn’t locked down a melody, and its key is up for grabs, but the lyrics are more or less fixed.  

Pepperoni Pizza
Pepperoni Pizza
Pepperoni Pizza
and a Tarte Flambée.

Eat your heart out, Cole Porter, ‘cause this ditty’s de-one of a kind. I’m thrilled to have a son who’s made up a weekly tune about an Alsatian pizza, but it delights me even more to hear him explain tarte flambée to his skeptical 8 year old pals.  “It’s like thin-crust pizza, but with crème fraîche instead of tomato sauce, lots of onions and bacon—well lardons.”  Oh, thank you, Jeebus, for blessing us with this nerd-child.  Thank you so much.  Like, what would I do if I’d gotten a kid who came to me about baseball, or football, or any sports-ball for that matter. “What’s a designated hitter?  Oh, that’s the guy who gave the best audition for homerunner-er.” Sorry, kid, all I got is useless food history and Shakespeare quotes. He talks sports, for sure, but only with my wife, who can name the starting lineup of every Bears team since they won the Super Bowl back in oh my God I’m already bored.  Around me, his interests drift food-ward, and it’s de-enchanting to hear him croon about tarte flambée.

Tarte flambée or flàmmeküeche (pronounced ‘fla:m•ku:xə) is a specialty of Alsace.
Chris Kidder Knife
Travel five hours from Paris, straight east, and you’ll hit this border region with with a powerful culinary influence.  The bustling heart of Alsace, Strasbourg, has changed hands many times over its history.  In the 15th century it was part of the Holy Roman Empire, but in the 17th century France annexed it.  The German Empire took it in the 19th century, only to return it to French hands after WWI.  During WWII Germany snatched it back. And since 1944, when it was liberated from the Germans, Strasbourg has been France’s eastern-most major city.  
Chris Kidder Knife

(12" Chris Kidder Special with sunburst G-Fusion handle)

Strasbourg may have been tugged back and forth between these two bickering parents, but it never seems to suffer from an identity crisis.  Strasbourg’s entirely unique sense of self manages to honor both sides.  And as with many things in Europe, one of its strongest personal expressions is culinary.  Interestingly, Alsace has given much to France’s culinary identity.  The once-ubiquitous lunchtime feast, choucroute, comes from Alsace.  Cordon-bleu, or, chicken stuffed with ham and gruyère, then breaded and fried also hails from this region.  The entire idea of the modern brasserie, or brewery restaurant, was inherited from Alsace.   Alsatian wines are stellar.  Gewürztraminer, is probably the most celebrated, but it’s Alsatian Riesling, bone-dry and brightly acidic, that is the perfect accompaniment to Alsace’s most loved culinary export, tarte flambée.

Tarte Flambée was originally a farmer’s meal.  Farming regions or communes often shared a large oven.  Some of these were still in use in the by the end of the 19th century, but most that exist today are ruins.  These communal ovens were used by members of the immediate region to prepare baked goods.  Modern temperature-taking methods, like oven thermometers obviously weren’t available, so temperature was checked by baking a tarte flambée.  Using a simple dough, onions, crème fraîche and scraps of bacon, the tarte flambées would slide into the oven on a peel, and cook in just a couple of minutes.

See?  I told you I’m the guy for these fascinating, far-more-fun-than-football facts.  Nevertheless, I can’t recommend tarte flamée enough.  Go out, buy a couple onions, some bacon and crème fraîche, and find a bottle of Alsatian Riesling. Then come home and make a big mess in the kitchen.  When you eat this intensely flavored French pizza with a German accent, you, too, will be making up ridiculous jingles every Friday night.  

Tarte Flambée 

Serves 4 

Note:  If your grocery store sells raw pizza dough, you can use that as well.  It should be about 1 pound.

  1. 1. 300g of all purpose flour
  2. 2. 200g of lukewarm water
  3. 3. 4g of yeast
  4. 4. 5g of salt


  1.  1. About 1 cup of crème fraiche
  2. 2. About 1/2 cup of “fresh cheese.”  Sometimes it’s marketed at fromage blanc.  In a pinch you can substitute queso fresco or whole milk cottage cheese.
  3. 3. 1/2 pound of bacon, cut into lardons, or short thin strips.
    4. 1 large yellow onion, halved then sliced thin.
    5. 1/8th tsp of nutmeg.
  1. 1. Make the dough.  
    1. 1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine all of the ingredients for the dough.
    2. 2. Mix on speed 2 for 2 minutes.
    3. 3. Increase the speed to 4, and mix for 6 minutes.
    4. 4. Place the dough in a Ziploc bag and rest in the fridge overnight.
  2. 2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 500ºF.
  3. 3. Prep all of your toppings.
    1. 1. Add the bacon lardons to a skillet and cook over medium low heat for about 20 minutes until golden.  
    2. 2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a bowl and reserve the rendered bacon fat in a separate bowl.
    3. 3. Combine the crème fraîche, nutmeg and the fresh cheese, stirring with a large spoon or rubber spatula.  If using cottage cheese, it helps to combine both in a blender to even out the consistency. 
  4. 4. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out your dough very thin.  Don’t stress about it being round.  Oblong, haphazard shapes are almost preferred.  The goal is thinness.  
  5. 5. If using a pizza stone, slide the dough onto a floured peal.  If using a baking sheet, place the dough in the baking sheet.
  6. 6. Brush the edge of the dough with some of the rendered bacon fat.
  7. 7. Spread the crème fraîche mixture evenly all over the dough.  
  8. 8. Top with the onions and bacon.
  9. 9. Bake the tarte flambée in the 500ºF oven 5-7 minutes until golden and bubbly.  
Cut into rectangles and enjoy.  

Tufts Head ShotJohn Tufts is an award-winning actor and author.  In addition to being paid to travel the world to wear tights and fight with swords, he has also written a book about the food of Shakespeare’s England called Fat Rascals: Dining at Shakespeare’s Table.  His book is available at john-tufts.com/fatrascalsbook.  His food history web series, “Eatso-Facto,” currently airs on YouTube.  You can follow him on Instagram at @johnnymtufts.  He lives in New York.
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