Holiday Recipe: Alsatian Tarte Flambée

This month, in honor of the holidays, we’ve asked our Culinary Arts and Pastry & Baking Arts instructors to share their favorite festive recipes. We've already traveled to Australia with Chef Kathryn Gordon's mince tartelettes and celebrated American nostalgia with Chef Scott McMillen's snickerdoodles. Today, we head back abroad with Chef Ted Siegel's Alsatian tarte flambée.


One of my favorite, recent memories of Christmas is from the Rhine river cruise my partner Cheryl and I took during the Christmas week of 2010. The cruise began at the Swiss city of Basel and slowly worked its way up the Rhine to Amsterdam. One of our stops was Colmar, a beautiful medieval city in the French region of Alsace, which is known for its savory tartes.

We came upon a "jewel box" of a Christmas market in the center of the old town, by the Dominican church at Place des Dominicaines. The scene was almost idyllic. A deep chill in the air, snow falling and icicles hanging from the old shingled, medieval buildings. The aromas in the air were intoxicating-  the sweet spices of mulled wine, the smoke of the wood-burning fireplaces, and the smell of toasting tarte flambées oozing with melty, soft-ripened Muenster cheese, crème fraîche and crackling hunks of slab bacon.

Needless to say, we stopped at the first stand to warm ourselves with spiced mulled wine made from Alsatian pinot noir and to sample what was - by far - the most profoundly decadent tarte flambée one could ever hope to eat. The flavor combination of the rich cheese and smoked bacon, the crisp texture and crunch of the baked dough left us breathless. To this day, we have not stopped talking about that moment. It was one of those rare experiences where time stands still and everything is absolutely perfect!



    For the Pâte à Pain Ordinaire:

    • 1/3 ounce fresh baker's yeast
    • 2/3 envelope active dry yeast
    • 10 ounces of lukewarm water
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 lb all-purpose flour, sifted
    • Dusting flour (as needed)
    • 1 tsp salt

    For the Tarte:

    • 7 oz pâte à pain ordinaire
    • 1 oz canola oil
    • 4 oz cottage cheese
    • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
    • 4 oz crème fraîche
    • 2 oz bacon, cut crosswise in 1/4" strips
    • 4 oz onion, thinly sliced
    • salt, pepper (to taste)
    • 4 oz Alsatian Muenster cheese, sliced thinly and trimmed of the rind (Note: Muenster should be 1-4 months old and soft-ripened)


    For the Pâte à Pain Ordinaire:

    1. In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and add the sugar.
    2. Mound the flour on a work surface, and form a well in the center. Put the salt in the well. Little by little, incorporate the dissolved yeast and sugar into the flour, kneading with your fingers at first, and at the end with your hands until you have a smooth paste (about 5 to 8 minutes of kneading altogether).
    3. Form the dough into a ball. Place the dough into a bowl, cover the bowl with a damp cloth and rise in a warm place for about 1.5 hours.
    4. Lightly flour your hands, and knead the dough again to deflate it (1 to 2 minutes). Form the dough into a ball again. With a knife, cut 2 incisions about 1/2" deep in the form of a cross into the top of the ball.
    5. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a damp towel, and let the dough rise in a warm place for another hour or so.

    For the Tarte:

    1. Divide the pâte à pain ordinaire into 4 equal parts, and roll the dough into 4 rounds, each 8" in diameter. The circles of dough will be quite thin.
    2. Oil a pastry sheet, using very little of the oil. Place the dough on the baking sheet. Pinch up a very small edge around the circumference of each circle. Refrigerate.
    3. Place the cottage cheese in a food processor and process until smooth (about 30 seconds). Add the flour, salt, and pepper to taste, 1 tbsp of oil and the crème fraîche. Process again until smooth (about 30 seconds more).
    4. In a skillet, sauté the bacon and onion in the remaining oil, until the onion is barely tender.
    5. Remove the dough circles from the refrigerator, and spread the cheese mixture over them, leaving a 1/2" uncovered section between the mixture and the edges of the tart. Sprinkle the bacon and onions on top, followed by a layer of the Muenster cheese.
    6. Place the baking sheet, with the tarts in a 425°F oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the tarts are golden brown.

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