Years ago, on a trip to Europe, I enjoyed a memorable meal that featured a famous dish from the French-German border region called tarte flambée (or flammekueche). It was decadent and satisfying, but perhaps what was most memorable was that I was expecting a savory tart, and what I got seemed much more like a pizza.
It turns out that tarte flambée translates to “pie baked in the flames.” In this case, the “pie” has a bread-like or pizza crust that’s slathered in a creamy, fresh cheese and topped with caramelized onions and bacon — and it’s the inspiration for this week’s recipe, Maple Roasted Apple, Bacon and Pecan Flatbread.
Like a tarte flambée, there’s no tomato sauce on this flatbread. In order to replicate the traditional fresh, spreadable cheese base, I combined softened cream cheese and buttermilk (a tip I gleaned from a J. Kenji Lopez-Alt recipe) with Parmesan cheese before spreading it over the rolled-out dough.
My spin on this iconic dish departs from the traditional version when it comes to toppings. For the ultimate amount of cheesiness, I layer a generous amount of shredded Gruyère over the top of the cream cheese mixture. (I’ve also made this with blue cheese in place of the Gruyère, and it’s oh so good.)
I roast the onions, rather than sauté them, and take it in a decidedly Minnesota fall direction by adding apples to the roasting pan. I like to use tart, firm apples, like Granny Smiths, which I toss with maple syrup before roasting, along with chopped thick-cut bacon.
Roasting the toppings before placing them on the flatbread allows them to get a bit of caramelization and release excess liquid, which could make the crust soggy.
I like to bake this by placing the baking pan directly on a preheated pizza stone to help get the bottom nicely browned, but if you don’t have one, it’s not a deal breaker. Just set the oven rack in the lowest position.
To add a bit of extra flavor and texture, I sprinkle chopped pecans over the top halfway through the baking process.
Pair this French-German-Minnesotan flatbread with a crisp green salad and crisp Alsatian white wine.
Maple Roasted Apple, Bacon and Pecan Flatbread
Makes 1 (14-by-12-inch) flatbread. Serves 6.
Note: Sweet and savory, this flatbread is bursting with Minnesota fall flavor. While a homemade crust is ultra-easy, if time is short, you can substitute purchased pizza dough. Crumbled blue cheese (3/4 cup) can be substituted for the Gruyère. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1/4 c. maple syrup
• 1 tbsp. brown sugar
• 1 tbsp. melted butter
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 2 medium Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-in. slices
• 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-in. slices
• 6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
• 1/2 c. buttermilk
• 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
• 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• Flatbread crust (see recipe) or 1 lb. pizza dough
• 1 1/2 c. shredded Gruyère cheese (see Note)
• 1/2 c. chopped pecans
About 30 minutes before making the flatbread, preheat the oven, with a pizza stone, if possible, on the lowest rack, to 450 degrees.
Spray a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the maple syrup, brown sugar, melted butter and salt. Add the apples and red onion and toss to coat.
Arrange the apples and onion mixture and bacon on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, until apples are just tender and beginning to brown.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, cream cheese and Parmesan cheese.
Coat the bottom of an 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with the oil. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and roll to a 14-by-12-inch rectangle. Place on prepared baking sheet.
Spread the cream cheese mixture over the crust, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the Gruyère cheese over the top. Arrange the roasted apples, onions and bacon over the top. Place the pan directly on the pizza stone, if using, or on the lowest oven rack and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle the pecans over the top and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until browned.
Makes 1 (14-by-12-inch) flatbread crust.
Note: From Meredith Deeds
• 2 c. flour
• 1 pkg. (2 1/4 tsp.) dry instant yeast
• 1 tsp. sugar
• 1 tsp. salt
• 3/4 c., plus 2 tbsp. water, lukewarm (not over 115 degrees)
• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• Cornmeal for dusting
To prepare the crust: In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Create a well in the center of the dry mixture.
Pour lukewarm water and olive oil into the well. Stir the mixture until the dough comes together. Knead for 4 to 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Dough may be sticky and you may need to sprinkle a little more flour on it as you knead, but don’t add too much. The dough should be soft.
Form dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl and cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap. Let rise for an hour at room temperature or refrigerate overnight and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before shaping. (Alternately, combine all the crust ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until the dough comes together in a ball. It’s not necessary to knead by hand. Let rise in the closed food processor bowl for 1 hour.)
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.