Monday, February 11, 2019

Late Winter Comfort Food - Wholegrain Spelt Flour 'Flambettes' with a Topping of Caramelized Fennel

Just a rather quick post about those delicous Wholegrain Spelt Flour Flambettes with Caramelized Fennel that I made the other day. I love, love this recipe for 'Flambettes', the small versions of 'Flammekueche' aka 'Tarte Flambée', a specialty from Alsace in eastern France, on the German border.

Basically, a 'Flammekueche' can be considered as a cross between a savory tart and a pizza, traditionally topped with sour cream (or crème fraîche), lardons, and thinly slivered onions. My 'Flambettes' are rounds of wholegrain spelt flour dough spread with crème fraîche and sour cream, and sprinkled with previously caramelized fennel. Yum!

Originally, 'Flammekueche' (literally translated as 'flame cake') also known as a 'plat du pauvre' (a 'dish of the poor') traditionally made on bread-baking day, was a bit of dough rolled flat, covered in sour cream and baked in 2 to 3 minutes in a blazing wood oven in order to check the oven's temperature and suitability for baking bread and other items. Often burned at the edges ('licked by the flames'), it has made a real comeback at many a country fair around here, covered with all sorts of different toppings. At home, you can certainly get excellent results with a regular oven and longer baking time. And you can opt for the smaller versions, called 'Flammbettes'.

Wholegrain Spelt Flour Flambettes  with Caramelized Fennel
Ingredients for the Dough
(yields 4 flambettes)
  • 30g fresh yeast
  • 50 ml olive oil (it is best to use a mild olive oil here, suitable for high temperatures)
  • 200 ml lukewarm water
  • 400g wholegrain spelt flour (I like to use organic spelt flour)
  • 1 egg (M), free range or organic 
  • pinch of fine sea salt

Ingredients for the Topping
  • 3 fennel bulbs (about medium size)
  • olive oil
  • a knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 100g sour cream (or a bit more)
  • 100g crème fraîche (or a bit more)
  • zest of ½ organic (and/or untreated) lemon, plus juice from about ½ lemon
  • freshly ground black pepper & salt (to taste)

Preparation of the Flambette Dough
  1. In a bowl, mix together the yeast with the oil and 100 ml of the water (stir until the yeast is completely dissolved) – then cover and set aside for 20 minutes in a warm spot.
  2. To the same bowl, add half the flour (200g), the egg and the salt. Mix until it comes together. Then add the remaining flour (200g) and water (100ml) and mix again.
  3. Cover with kitchen wrap or tea towel and leave in a warm place to let the dough rise for at least 60 minutes.

Preparation of the Topping
  1. While the dough is rising, prepare the topping.
  2. Clean and thinly slice three fennel bulbs – making sure to discard the tough stems and roots but keep the fennel fronds for the final topping (after the Flambettes have emerged from the oven).
  3. In a large pan, heat some olive oil and fry the fennel in batches (depending on the size of your pan, you will need to fry three or more times) - salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Once a batch of fennel is golden and soft, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and continue frying the next batch – repeat with olive oil, salt, pepper – until all the fennel is done.
  5. Wipe out your pan, add a bit of olive oil and a good knob of butter and melt on medium heat. Then add a tablespoon of sugar, stir until the sugar is dissolved and then add all the fried fennel back into the pan, stir well, heat through until lightly caramelized, salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, the crème fraîche, lemon zest and juice, pepper and salt – taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  7. Pre-heat your oven (as hot as it will go) – either use pizza stone (if you have one) OR turn a baking sheet upside down and slide in the oven to pre-heat. 
  8. Once the dough has risen, punch the dough gently to knock the air out, then tip out onto a lightly floured surface.
  9. Divide the dough into four balls
  10. Turn the balls of dough into disks (roll out as thin as possible but make sure to leave a thicker/raised border and without ripping the middle). This is best done by hand.
  11. Place on parchment paper (two will fit on one baking sheet).
  12. Divide the cream mixture between the four flambettes (make sure to stay within the border), then top with the caramelized fennel.
  13. Very carefully slide the parchment paper onto the pre-heated baking sheet (you will have to bake one set of Flambettes at a time).
  14. Bake in the hot oven until nice and crisp around the edges – about 12 to 15 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven). Repeat with the second set of Flambettes.
  15. Just before serving sprinkle the reserved (see above) fennel fronds on the topping and if you want a bit of freshly cracked black pepper.
  16. Serve warm or at room temperature.

In Alsace, 'Flammekueche' is often eaten as a first course and shared with a large group as part of a larger feast. But it’s also delicious as a simple supper, with a seasonal green salad on the side. Same holds true for these 'Flambettes' - enjoy as a light lunch (which is what we did), serve as part of a large Mezze spread or serve as a first course for a dinner crowd.


  1. When I first saw this photo on Facebook, I just assumed it was onion. I love that it is fennel, one of my favorite veggies! And I am so excited to try the crust - I bet the egg makes it wonderful! Vielen Dank und liebe Grüße, D

    1. Dear David, no not onions - although carefully caramelized fennel slices do look a lot like cooked down onions...Cooking fennel this way is my personal favorite way to treat my favorite vegetable, the humble and utterly delicious fennel. I'm sure that if you get a chance to make this recipe (with the one egg in the dough) you'll enjoy it. I love to cook and bake with different flours - wholegrain spelt flour makes the flambettes taste wonderfully hearty.
      Liebe Grüße auch an Mark,