This time of year is called Goldener Oktober in Germany. It's a time when the first snap in the night air turns all the grape leaves a gorgeous golden and every hillside is painted shades of green, yellow and gold, as the vineyards give up their grapes for the Fall press and the vines drop their golden leaves. It's a beautiful and fun time to be in the Pfaltz or along the Mosel or Rhine Rivers because every little village has a vintner who is putting out his wares for tasting. Places like Bad Durkheim have huge wine festivals from the end of September right into October ... it's your chance to taste all the wares and buy up new wines. Oftentimes, there will be small snacks to knosh at wine tastings - Wursts and Zwiebelkuchen are the most common treats to be had. Zwiebelkuchen is a yeast-based doughy bread -like cake topped with onions and speck (salty ham cubes) that have been tossed with eggs, cream fraiche, white pepper and either cumin or nutmeg. This kuchen is baked at a high temperature until it is golden and crunchy crusted and then served just warm with a chilled glass of Riesling. So delicious!
Today, the little grey cottage is chilly and damp from a rainy front that is blustering its way through New England. I have put together a Zwiebelkuchen and am chilling some Riesling for a light supper. So here we go!
Zwiebelkuchen - printer friendly
The dough is a bit unsettling when you first try this dish. You mix the flour, yeast, and salt with half the milk/sugar solution to make a stiff dough, let it rest and then add the rest of the milk and butter and mix again. There is a goodly amount of butter worked into the dough - I use my hands to mash it through the gooey yeast and flour dough/batter. Then, I wash my hands off good and use a whisk to finish beating the dough until it is smoothed out.
I cover it and let it rest while I get the onions and ham speck cooking. Meanwhile the dough does its magic. It is a gloppy yeast dough that rests for about a half an hour until it forms a bubbly mass.
There are a lot of onions in this dish - 1 kg to be exact. That's a lot of tears while you're slicing the ends and peeling the skins. Even expediting the slicing by using a food processor gives you a good cry. Think of something you really have been wanting to vent and keep a couple tissues handy!
These are really small little cubes of ham, as you can see from the knife tip ... fry them gently in a small amount of butter until crispy on all sides and then add ALL those onions and turn the heat down to slowly cook the onions until they are limp and slithery and golden and sweet.
This is just about ready for the eggs and spices! You can see the carmelizing beginning; go for it!
Beat together eggs, creme fraiche, white pepper, and cumin (you can go the nutmeg route, if you aren't a fan of cumin). Turn this slather into the warm onions and ham speck. Get ready to assemble the Zwiebelkuchen!
Spread the kuchen dough onto a large buttered pan and using forks fluff the onions and ham speck onto the top. Drizzle the last of the juices over and around the topping, and then garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Farenheit and bake the Zwiebelkuchen for about 30 minutes. Use a cake tester inserted in the center of the kuchen to see when it's ready to come out of the oven.
This kuchen is ready for a glass of wine and a plate! Enjoy this little bit of Germany! We love it warm with a Waldorf salad on the side and a chilly glass of dry Riesling! Guten Appetit!