"Pizza," Alsatian: Flammekueche/Tarte Flambee - dairy

Posted by : Ruth Heiges

This gem of a recipe gives us another clue to the Alsatian Jewish cuisine
we've been trying, on occasion, to uncover. It is from the current "Table
Talk" column by Evelyn Rose in the Jewish Chronicle, UK, August 7, 1998.

Ruth

~~~~~~

Imagine the scene — it's some time in the early 19th century. A Jewish
housewife stands in her kitchen in Riquewihr, one of the medieval wine
towns of Alsace. She has just finished plaiting the challot for Shabbat,
and turns to a small ball of leftover dough, which she rolls out as thinly
as possible and tops with a savoury mixture of smetana and kaes.  [sour
cream and cheese --rh]

As the challot come out of the hot oven she puts in what she calls either
flammekueche or tarte flambée, according to whether the Germans or French
are ruling Alsace. Twenty minutes later, the family sits down to eat it for
lunch.

She is not alone. Every Jewish woman in the town has this Alsace version of
pizza on her menu. The name tells its own story: it literally means, "with
burnt edges."

I have also had a sweet version — sliced and sugared eating apples spread
on top of the dough, cooked as before, then flamed with Calvados (apple
brandy) or Armagnac. Scrumptious is the only word for it.

In Alsace, there are restaurants specialising in flammekueche — in a
similar way that we have pizzerias. This is a real peasant dish — and none
the worse for that. When cooked, it is cut into four or six and if you've
rolled the dough thin enough, you should be able to roll it up and eat it
like a crêpe. Have plenty of napkins at the ready. If you prefer, it can be
eaten as a cocktail snack — cut it in small squares and spear each one with
a toothpick rather like the Sephardi baked eggah.

So eat and enjoy.

FLAMMEKUECHE (TARTE FLAMBÉE) 
Makes one large flammekueche approx 12 inches (30 cm) square. 
Serves 6 as a starter, 4 as a main dish. 

For the base: 
11 oz bread flour, 
1-1/2 teasp salt, 
1/2 teasp sugar; 
1 sachet easy-blend yeast or scant 1 oz (25 g) fresh yeast; 
1 egg; 
2 tbsp sunflower oil; 
5 fl oz (150 ml) hand-hot water. 

For the topping: 
4 oz (125 g) curd cheese, quark or ricotta; 
5 fl oz (150 ml) crême fraiche or sour cream; 
12 oz (350 g) mushrooms; 
1/2 teasp salt; 
10 grinds black pepper; 
1 tbsp sunflower oil; 
2 oz (50 g) mild cheese, e.g. Emmenthal or mild Cheddar.

Method: 
First make the base. This can be frozen oven-ready any time in advance,
then defrosted at room temperature for 30 minutes before topping and baking.

To mix the dough: if fresh yeast is used, crumble into the bowl of the
processor or mixer and add the sugar, water and a few tablespoons of the
flour. Mix together, then add all the remaining ingredients and mix to a
dough. If easy blend yeast is used: put flour, salt, sugar and yeast into
the bowl of the processor or mixer and process for 3 seconds or mix for 30
seconds. Add egg, oil and hand-hot water and mix to a dough.

To knead the dough made with either yeast: process for 1 minute on the food
processor or knead with dough hook for 5 minutes on mixer, adding 1 or 2
tbsp extra flour if mixture is still too sticky. Turn out on to a floured
board and knead lightly by hand for 30 seconds or until the underside of
the dough is silky-smooth. Grease a large mixing bowl lightly with oil and
put in the dough, then turn it over so that it is covered with a film of
oil. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm kitchen until the
dough doubles in bulk — 45 minutes to 1 hour. 

Knead lightly again then roll out very thinly to cover the base of a
12-inch (30 cm) square tin which has been well oiled. (At this point the
uncooked base can be frozen as described above.

Preheat the oven to Gas 8 (450 F, 230 C).

To prepare the filling: mix the cheese or quark with the crème fraiche,
salt and pepper (the mixture will be like whipped cream). Sauté the sliced
mushrooms in the oil for 5 minutes until golden brown and tender.

Cut thin shavings off the Emmenthal or coarsely grate the Cheddar. Spread
the cream and soft cheese mixture evenly over the dough, making sure it
covers it completely, then cover evenly with the mushrooms and sprinkle
with the shavings or grated cheese. Bake for 20 minutes until the edges of
the dough are crisp and slightly singed. Serve immediately.

Evelyn Rose in the Jewish Chronicle, UK, August 7, 1998

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