Germany, Timeless Recipes

Harvest Wine and the Taste of the Hearth


There is beer, so cold, so refreshing, and so easy to drink — especially on long summer nights along the Spree. And then there is wine. White in the summer. Red in the Fall and Winter, but mostly there is only red wine for me.

Red wine. At 24, off of a street corner in Les Halles in a restaurant where we ordered plate after plate of food from the Basque country, a Frenchman once told me that red wine was always preferred. White wine was for fish. No other time, he emphasized.

And with these brief words, my transition from white to red was complete, especially during the colder months.


As inhabitants of cruel bitterly-cold climates, we have had to build warmth from within to survive. The thought of Fall always conjures up for me a cashmere sweaters, warm wool blankets, a good book and rows and rows of candles as torrential rains and violent gusts of wind tear the last of the leaves off the trees and rattle the large windows of the Altbauhäuser in Berlin, red wine to accompany you on another quiet fall day.


Or so I always thought. But after all, you do live in Germany, and in the end, you spend most of your days riding to and from work, soaked through because of that same torrential rain. And the joys of Fall aren’t always exactly what you dreamed they would be.

Living in a foreign country means that your expectations are constantly checked by reality. And sometimes reality serves you pleasant surprises.

Flammkuchen and specifically Zwiebelkuchen and Federweisser is one of these wonderful surprises. Served in October just as the leaves turn brown. It tastes so of Fall and of the new harvest that for at least a few weeks, I had to set aside my red wine and chose instead this savory lightly fermented grape juice.

Federweisser (Feder=Feather, weisser=white. In other words, the drink of white feathers) is a slightly alcoholic wine that tastes somewhere between wine and grape juice. This is a wine whose fermentation has just begun. Fresh off the shelves it tastes mostly of grape juice, a wine that is only at its first stages of fermentation, but if you can also leave it to ferment, intensifying the flavor as the yeast converts the grape’s sugars into alcohol.

And then there is the Flammkuchen and specifically with Federweisser Zwiebelkuchen,a type of burnt flatbread that was common in Southern Germany and the Alsace region. Flammkuchen or tarte flambeé, as it is more commonly called, was a way to test the wood oven’s temperature before adding bread.


I have become slightly obsessed with the ovens of the past since I first wrote about how one used to bake cakes. Here is yet another example of humanity’s ingenuity, a tarte flambeé would be thrown on the fire and if it cooked in one or two minutes, that signaled that the oven was hot enough for baking the weekly bread.

Fire, warmth, the hearth and the harvest bounty. Fall. How fitting then that as you transition to mornings where you can see your breath and you are greeted with a light that already seems to be fading, you have a dish that so closely tastes of the fire.img_3670

I should note that most of the recipes I found for Zwiebelkuchen were more similar to a quiche than a Flammkuchen (Zwiebelkuchen is baked with eggs, on the other hand Flammkuchen looks almost like a pizza with very simple ingredients (bacon, creme fraiche and onions), but no eggs. If you are more interested in making Tarte Flambee, go ahead and check this recipe out!

Zwiebelkuchen (translated from

For the dough:
250g Flour
50g Butter
1/2 Package of year
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
150 ml Milk
For the filling
500g Onions
50g Butter
1 tbsp Flour
2 eggs
100 ml cream
75g of pancetta
(I like to add a little garam masala or nutmeg as well)
Baking time: around 45 min
Mix the yeast and a little of the heated milk in a small bowl. Add the sugar to the flour and stir until mixed. Then add milk and yeast mixture to the dry ingredients. The dough should have a elastic consistency. Then leave it in a warm place to leaven. When the dought has doubled in size add a little bit of flower and the salt and milk. Work the dough and then add the very soft butter. Combine and then let lie for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add the dough to the cake tin (I baked mine in a pan, that is also fine!)
For the filling:
Cut the onions into very fine pieces and fry in butter on medium heat constantly stirring until translucent, make sure they do not turn brown (if you would like to add some nutmeg or garam masala, do so here!) Stir in the flour and cool the mixture down. Only when you have added the dough to the cake tin, add two whisked eggs and cream to a bowl and mix well. Add salt to taste. Add the roasted pancetta, the fried onions and the caraway seeds, then cover with the egg and cream mixture.
Cook for 35-45 Min. at 200C or 392F
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1 Comment

  • Reply How to not miss New England Fall in Berlin - Forgotten Recipes November 17, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    […] In early fall there is a special newly fermented wine that arrives for only a few weeks, Federweisser. And just because it’s Saturday and Fall Saturdays are made for preparing for the long winter ahead. I hope you’ll stop and take a drink too.Why specifically Federweisse? Because it is the perfect Fall drink. You can read more about that here. […]

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