Zwiebelkuchen, young wines and the warming sun of late September! I used to live quite close to the French border, not too far away from the Alsace region. On Sundays, in late September and October, when the leaves start changing colour and the grapes are ripe and plump, I loved visiting the winegrowers in the vineyards on both sides of the border. They were busy bringing their harvest in and producing the first young wines, like the Alsatian Nouveau Vin (like Neier Siasser) or the Federweisser in the Pfalz area in south-west Germany. Many villages celebrate the harvest season with a traditional wine feast, with lots of wine and Zwiebelkuchen, a hearty pie with a sweet and juicy onion filling on top of a flaky buttery short crust. It’s divine, the ultimate autumn food!
Sometimes, Zwiebelkuchen is made with bacon which adds a nice smoky flavour to it and a bit of saltiness to balance out the sweetness of the onions. However, one thing used to bother me with many pies I ate in those days, soft uncooked bacon. To me, bacon should be crisp and crunchy, I can’t stand chewing on soft pieces of fat. When the bacon is mixed with the onion and eggs for the filling, there’s no chance to get the right result, it will stay rubbery and soggy. The solution is very simple, just put the bacon on top of the filling while it’s in the oven and let it release its juices and flavours. This way you get the best crunchy bacon bits you can imagine!
For one pie you need a round (27cm / 10.5″) baking dish or tart pan.
For the short crust base
plain flour 200g / 7 ounces
(I use spelt flour type 630 but you can use any other plain flour)
salt 1/4 teaspoon
butter, cold, 100g / 3.5 ounces
water, cold, 2 tablespoons
Combine the flour with the salt. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the water and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.
onions, cut in half and thinly sliced, 650g / 1.5 pounds
heavy cream 200ml / 7 ounces
milk 150ml / 5 ounces
organic eggs, mixed with a fork, 3
bacon, cut into little cubes, 40g / 1.5 ounces
butter 1 tablespoon
nutmeg, freshly grated, to taste
salt and pepper
plain flour 1 heaped tablespoon
In a large heavy pan, heat the olive oil and butter and cook the onions on medium heat for about 15 minutes until golden brown and soft, stirring them once in while. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste, add the flour and brown on high temperature for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk mixed with cream, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes on medium-high temperature, continue stirring. Take off the heat, season to taste and mix in the eggs.
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F top/ bottom heat.
Roll out the dough between cling film and line your baking dish with the flat pastry. Prick with a fork and blind bake for 5 minutes.
Put the onion filling on top of the blind baked pastry, sprinkle with the bacon and bake for 1o minutes. Turn down the heat to 175°C / 35o°C and bake for another 30 minutes or until the pie is golden brown on top and set.
Let the pie cool for a few minutes and serve warm or cold, preferably with Nouveau Vin!