Germany: A guide to Flammkuchen (pizza)

A person picking up a slice of thin crust pizza.

Going to Germany will certainly provide you with a unique culinary experience – though not in the way that you might expect. Neighboring French cuisine historically focused on inspired presentations and experiences with the aim of impressing kings; but German food had the important goal of making sure workers were satiated.

For this reason, Flammkuchen has a more modest origin. With bread as a main source of sustenance, bakers would test the temperature of a wood-fired oven with a small piece to make sure it was cooked properly, thus allowing for the day’s batch to begin its bake. Like any of us do when we want to fancy up a piece of bread, bakers added toppings – starting with crème fraiche, then eventually adding bacon and onions – and Flammkuchen, “flame cake,” was born.

Flammkuchen is said to have origins in the Alsace region, which is now located geographically within the borders of France. However, the neighboring German state of Saarland claims the origins of Flammkuchen as well. Today, you can make at home if your oven can get hot enough – its crispy crust requires an oven temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Also helpful is utilizing a pizza stone or tray that is heated in the oven to place the Flammkuchen on when baking.

Many versions of Flammkuchen can be found on the menus of more modern restaurants, but it’s hard to beat crème fraiche, bacon, and onion. For a truly perfect combination, whether dining out or cooking at home, try pairing it with a German white wine on a mild spring or summer day. If you are making Flammkuchen at home, keep in mind that the dough does need a couple of hours to rise before putting it in the oven – but the wait is definitely worth it.

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