The World’s Greatest Tarte Flambée Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect
We put Alsatian tarte flambée to the test
A few weeks ago, I went on a weekend road trip through the Palatinate in southwestern Germany with a couple of friends. After we made the mandatory stops at the most popular wineries, we ended up in Wissembourg, a small, picturesque French town in Alsace. Here, we had a clear mission: to eat the best tarte flambée in the world.
While we waited for our orders—one original tarte flambée with onions and bacon, and three vegetarian versions of the Alsatian flatbread—a heated debate about the perfect tarte flambée began: "I had a tarte flambée with a finger-width crust that was loaded down with way too many toppings the other day—a real no-go. A tart flambée crust has to be wafer-thin!”
The images of my last tastes of tarte flambée instantly raced through my head. One with what I deemed a perfect base—not as thick as a pizza crust, but also not wafer-thin. Every inch filled with thin fig or pear slices and plenty of soft goat's cheese. But here’s the next reputed “error,” as a classic tarte flambée doesn’t contain any cheese—at least not to the popular belief of self-proclaimed tarte flambée experts.
I’ve tried any and all variations over the years, from classic to vegan, with wafer-thin to slightly thicker crusts, with a lot and a bit less toppings, resulting in a handful of recipes that I go back to again and again as they’re just about idea—for my personal taste. In spite of all that, when faced with the original I was curious to find out if I had been wrong for all these years: Will the original convert me once and for all? The answer however, was no. Its crust was too crisp for my taste and even partially burned and the toppings were way too sparse.
On that account, I’d like to clear up the crucial question today: Does the perfect tarte flambée crust really have to be wafer-thin and does the "right" amount of toppings matter?
How to make the perfect tarte flambée crust from scratch
As already mentioned, opinions differ on what makes the perfect tarte flambée crust. For many, a wafer-thin, extremely crispy crust is the optimum, but for me, the encounter with the Alsatian original was rather unspectacular. Therefore, my first rule is: Trust your taste, you can never go wrong with that.
But before we’re getting to the rolling part, you have to decide on your preferred type of dough first: classic yeast dough or quick oil dough?
Yeast dough: The classic
The original Alsatian tarte flambée is prepared with a yeast dough, that has to rise for about 45 minutes in a warm place before being rolled out and crisply baked. Watch our recipe video and learn how the classic is made:
Oil dough: The quick
If you want to make dough quickly, an oil dough is the best choice. It only needs flour, water, oil, salt, and 15 minutes. The addition of oil keeps the dough flexible, so don’t hesitate to add a little more, if needed. You can find the recipe for our simple and quick tarte flambée right here.
How to properly roll out your tarte flambée dough
Place the dough of your choice on a floured work surface and roll it to the desired thickness. Yeast dough tends to frustratingly spring back when being rolled out, but you can prevent this by letting the dough rest in between: Roll out, rest (preferably covered with a kitchen towel) roll out, rest, and continue until the dough is at the right thickness.
If you are using an oil dough, be sure to let it sit at room temperature beforehand. If it’s too cold, it will be harder to roll out, and can easily tear. Drizzle some oil onto the dough before resting, and it will become smoother and more flexible.
The toppings: A hot topic
What kind of toppings belong on an outstanding tarte flambée? Classic or rather more exotic? Savory or with a sweet twist? A moderate scattering or heavy load of many toppings?
Here’s the deal: The original Alsatian tarte flambée is traditionally spread with sour cream or crème fraîche and then topped with a light amount of onions and smoked bacon. Sometimes it’s also sprinkled with chives, but you won’t encounter more concessions when it comes to the classic from Alsace.
Some might say, “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!” But not everyone likes onions or bacon, and many may prefer a vegetarian option. The good news: The tarte flambée crust is an excellent host for all kinds of toppings, which offer almost endless combinations. From tarte flambée with salmon, horseradish, and dill to a sweet version with apple slices, honey, and cinnamon—everything is possible!
You’re looking for more pairing ideas? Get inspired:
So what’s the conclusion?
Accepting the risk of annoying the committed lovers of the original Alsatian tarte flambée, I recklessly say: the perfect tarte flambée crust doesn’t necessarily have to be paper-thin and the sorts and amounts of toppings is all a matter of taste. My rule of thumb is: The thickness of the tarte flambée crust should be proportional to (and able to support the weight of) the amount of toppings.
You can apply this rule directly on these tarte flambées, or simply prepare it according to the recipes:
What does the perfect tarte flambée look like to you? Do you love the original or do you prefer other variations? Let us know in the comments!
Published on October 25, 2019