Many many years ago I spent 4 wonderful days in the Alsace region of France. I was there for the Strasbourg Christmas market and I loved every single second of it! Because, it was France, there was snow and I love Christmas. You maybe wondering if I have gone a bit crazy....I mean where can a post about a Christmas market be going, it is June! All will become clear. I hope!
Whilst in Strasbourg I feasted on so many scrumptious things, so many that it would take me far to long to list them all, but the three that stood out and have stayed with me all these years are:
- Escargots à l'Alsacienne. Snails cooked in garlic, parsley and white wine butter with plenty of baguette to mop up the melted butter.
- Knepfle. A thick pasta shaped into a sort of button shaped dumpling, they are simmered and then served with melted butter and black pepper.
- Flammekueche. A sort of pizza/tart that is spread with fromage blanc, then topped with slices of onions and smoky salty lardons of bacon. Flammekueche Forestière was also a favourite which is the same but with some slivers of mushroom on it.
And so we come to why I am talking about the Christmas markets. These wonderful warming foods that can bring comfort on cold evenings. Down under we are now heading into winter, so my thoughts are turning to comfort foods. Over the next month expect plenty of stews, soups and rich warming foods.
First I want to share the wonderful Flammekueche with you. I first enjoyed it sat in an outdoor restaurant, with a open wood fire oven. The temperature was reaching freezing, but as we sat down we were given blankets and a large glass of hot wine (Vin Chaud) which was a sweetened red wine, with a slash of brandy and some orange zest. Similar to the english mulled wine, but without as much spice. As we sat watching them make the Flammekueche we were warmed by the fire, blankets and wine. It was magical, just what a Christmas market should be! Then they served the Flammekueche and took away the hot wine 🙁 and replaced it with icy cold riesling. I wasn't that impressed, I was loving the red wine!! But when it comes to food and wine pairing the French do know what they are doing 😉 and the riesling was perfect with the tart.
The French traditionally spread the dough with a mixture of fromage blanc and crème fraîche. However fromage blanc is hard to find over here, so I have found a few alternatives. Set greek yoghurt mixed with crème fraîche gives you a slightly runnier topping than the original, but the flavour is spot on. Sour cream mixed with a small amount of cream cheese gives a slightly thicker and more authentic topping, but the flavour isn't quite the same (although still delicious), the best substitute I have found is quark mixed with crème fraîche, but that is also quite hard to find! Use which ever is easiest, they will all give you tasty results. I have added the quantities for each variation in the notes below the recipe.
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- 200g flour
- ½ tsp instant yeast
- pinch salt
- 1 tbsp oil
- 125ml water
- 125g fromage blanc
- 4 tbsp crème fraîche
- 100g onion
- 150g rasher bacon (or streaky bacon)
- white pepper
- Place your oven rack as high up as it will go in the oven and then pre-heat your oven to the hottest temperature.
- In a large bowl combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add the oil and water and use a fork to bring the dough together.
- Tip the dough out onto a board and knead for 10 minutes until smooth. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.
- Whilst it the dough is rising, mix together the fromage blanc and crème fraîche, season with salt and white pepper.
- Slice the onion into super thin moons. You want them almost paper thin.
- Cut the bacon into thin strips about 2-3 cm long.
- Roll the dough out into a rough rectangle as big as your baking sheet.
- Line the baking sheet with cooking paper and transfer the tart to it.
- Pour over the crème fraîche mixture and use a spoon to spread it out.
- Sprinkle over the onion and bacon.
- Place in your hot oven for 5 minutes until crisp and golden.
Alternatives to fromage blanc and crème fraîche:
- 125g set greek yoghurt and 4 tbsp crème fraîche
- 150g sour cream and 50g cream cheese
- 125g quark and 4 tbsp crème fraîche