It’s time to bring onions back into the spotlight.
As a follow-up to our beloved, comforting, stuffed and baked onion recipe, today I am going to provide you with another wonderful, hearty oven dish that is perfect to serve with the last rays of summer sunshine, or on the first cold days of winter.
May I present to you the classic German onion tart, aka Zwiebelkuchen?
When you think about onions, you probably relegate them to the category of basic additions to a recipe. They rarely get a chance to play the leading part.
But this tart is going to change that perspective.
During the process of sautéing the onions, their sulfurous smell and pungent flavor take a delicious turn towards a softer, lightly sweeter direction – which is just what we need for a savory dish like this one.
Unfortunately, you are still left with the step of slicing them in preparation for addition to this dish, which might regularly bring you – and even myself – to tears.
To prevent a seemingly inevitable flood tears in the kitchen, take a look at Foodal’s tips to avoid onion-cutting misery.
And for you folks following a low FODMAP diet, you may want to avoid this oligosaccharide-heavy dish! Take a look at our quiche recipes. Leave out the onions, or create your own fillings. You’ll still get plenty of delicious flavor!
A Popular Treat in Its Home Country
This kind of hearty tart is much-loved and well-known in Germany, especially in wine-growing regions like Rhineland-Palatinate. This area enjoys an excellent reputation around the world.
Throughout autumn, you will find lots of wine festivals and restaurants that serve this kind of onion pie with a glass of white wine – they definitely make an excellent couple.
Traditionally it’s eaten warm, but it can also be consumed cool or at room temperature one or two days later, or warmed up after freezing.
Tarts and Quiche: What’s the Difference?
In case you’re wondering about the difference between a quiche and a savory tart, it’s all in the ratio of ingredients. While both often have an egg-based custard filling, you’ll usually find a lot more of this in a quiche. But the real defining line between the two wavers.
Neither is baked with a crust on top, and both are supremely delicious. Though you will find both sweet and savory tarts, quiche is always the latter. So, if you’d prefer to call this dish a quiche, you wouldn’t technically be wrong.
In contrast to Alsatian tarts – another popular variety – this one does not include raw onions. The crust is also not as thin as what you might usually find. Plus, the filling ingredients are mixed together instead of being layered individually, like you would do it for the Alsatian kind of savory pastry.
My personal tip for this pastry would be to put the butter into the freezer for half an hour, and to coarsely grate it. This will help with kneading the dough. This way, the butter can be handled and incorporated perfectly.
And what goes just fabulously with onions?
That’s right – bacon! Add some chopped slices for a delicious flavor note. Or, if you choose, leave it out for a vegetarian version.
Serve up this classic German onion tart to change up your ordinary fare. Add a green salad or roasted veggies, it makes a tasty choice for for lunch or dinner anytime of the year. Enjoy the savory and delicious combination of onions, bacon, and creme fraiche in every slice.
For the crust:
- 7 ounces flour (200 g)
- 3 1/2 ounces cold butter (cubed (100 g))
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/2 ounces creme fraiche (100 g)
- 5 ounces bacon (150 g) ((optional))
For the filling:
- 1 1/4 pounds onions (600 g)
- 1 1/2 ounces butter (40 g)
- 5 ounces creme fraiche (150 g)
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
To make the crust:
- Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter, salt, and creme fraiche, and knead to form a dough. Place in the refrigerator to rest for 2 hours.
- Grease a 10-inch springform pan or tart pan. Roll the crust out and line the pan with it. Stick it with a fork a few times and put in the fridge for one hour to rest.
- Preheat the oven to 390°F (200°C). Cover the cake crust with a sheet of parchment paper or foil. Add pie weights, rice, or dried beans to blind-bake the dough. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Carefully remove the weights and the paper, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Leave in the pan to cool on a wire rack.
To make the filling:
- Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat.
- Halve and finely slice the onions, and turn the heat down to low. Sauté in the pan until soft (they should not become brown).
- If you are using the bacon, dice it or cut it into strips and combine it with the onions. Season with salt and pepper, and take off the stove. Spread the mixture in an even layer on the base of the crust.
- Separate the eggs, discarding one of the whites (or reserving it for another use). Whip the egg white until stiff.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the creme fraiche and egg yolks together. Fold the egg white into the yolk mixture. Pour the custard mixture on top of the onions.
- Baked in a 390°F oven for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown.
Keywords: German Food, Onion Tart, Oktoberfest, Octoberfest
Cooking By The Numbers…
Step 1 – Make Dough
First, grate the chilled butter so it will be easier to incorporate into your dough. I like to do this with a box grater.
Combine the flour, creme fraiche, salt, and butter.
Knead to form a homogenous dough. Then leave it to rest in the fridge for 2 hours.
Step 2 – Roll Crust
Roll the dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin to the size of your springform pan or tart pan.
Carefully line the pan with the dough, creating a decorative edge if you like by folding over the excess, and molding it between the thumb of one hand and the first two fingers of the other, to make a scalloped edge.
For more tips on making the perfect pie, quiche, or tart crust, check out Kendall Vanderslice’s informative post.
Poke a few holes in the base of the crust with the tines of a fork, and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Step 3 – Blind Bake
Preheat the oven to 390°F/200°C.
Line the crust with a sheet of parchment paper or foil. Fill with pie weights in a single layer – ceramic balls made for the purpose, rice, or dried legumes. I used red lentils for this.
Blind bake the crust for 15 minutes.
Carefully remove your weights and liner, and bake for another 10 minutes.
Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
Step 4 – Prep the Onions
Halve and finely slice the onions.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan and sauté the onions until soft, over low heat. Stir these occasionally, and be sure to keep an eye on them – they should not be cooked until they become brown.
If you like, cut the bacon into small strips, and add to the onions. Season with salt and pepper, and take off the stove. Spread the mixture in an even layer in the base of your crust.
Step 5 – Make the Custard
In a separate bowl, whisk the creme fraiche and two egg yolks together.
Gently fold the whipped egg white into the yolk mixture. Then pour the custard into your pan, on top of the onions and bacon.
Step 6 – Bake and Serve
Bake in a 390°F oven for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown. All ovens run differently and some are not calibrated exactly to the right temperature, so it is important to keep an eye on your tart as it bakes.
If you notice the crust getting brown too soon for your liking, you can create a foil collar to place around the edge to keep it from burning.
Allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before slicing. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled.
Have We Whetted Your Appetite?
If you enjoy baking but would like to try something a little different, why not start with this savory pie, and take a new approach to the usual oven-baked dishes?
If you loved my recipe for stuffed onions, this will definitely become your second favorite onion-based recipe (if not your first)!
Try it out, and let us know about your thoughts and results in the comments below.
Photos by Nina-Kristen Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on December 1st, 2016. Last updated: January 8, 2019 at 12:59 pm.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.