One of the benefits of living in a small town is that everyone knows who you are. (Wait–did I just say that’s a benefit?) Okay, the benefit is that, in a small pond, it’s relatively easy to develop your identity, aka build your brand, and to become the go-to person in your field.
My husband regularly gets called by local clubs and groups to give his amazing talk on edible plants. He’s the “edible plant guy.” And because I bake all the bread for our café and teach monthly baking classes, I’m the “bread class lady.” Hey, I’ve been called worse!
In the bread classes, I’ve discovered that I really love teaching. Seeing people who enter the class a bit fearful and perhaps a bit dismissive of their own abilities emerge at the end of class with, not only a beautiful loaf of bread, but also with the knowledge and the confidence needed to go home and bake on their own, is incredibly rewarding. I love being a part of that process!
Perhaps that’s what teachers do best–empower students to discover and to acknowledge their own strengths and abilities. They guide them, in small steps, with small victories, to success.
Now that I’ve discovered how much fun teaching is, I’m anxious to teach more classes! A post on Facebook led to a lot of folks asking for a soap making class, so I’ll add that to the roster. Other requested classes: teaching children how to make pizza dough and also a class on how to make pie crusts.
Just this week, a Girl Scout leader reached out to me to see if I could teach German cooking to her troop of 4th-7th graders. She knew that since I was “the bread class lady” (branding!), I might be able to help.
Since David and I spent Christmas in Alsace several years ago, I’ve decided to show the girls how to make some foods we experienced there (though I’m pretty sure the troop leader would frown upon us sharing our beloved spiced wine recipe…) Gingerbread, soft pretzel rods and flammkuchen should be safe bets though, and I’ll probably add a Black Forest cupcake for dessert. After all, what girl doesn’t love a chocolate cupcake?
Because pizza is my favorite food (I probably shouldn’t admit that), I’ve developed a recipe for “German pizza”, aka Flammkuchen aka Tarte Flambée using my standard shop pizza dough. As an aside, I have very fond memories of the German Christmas markets at night–of stopping for a slice of flammkuchen and a cup of steaming spiced wine–of eating it standing at a handmade wooden table, crisscrossed string lights overhead. Ahhh…
Okay, I’m back. About flammkuchen: This thin pizza came about as a way for bakers to test the heat of their wood-fired ovens. If the tarte flambée cooked in 1-2 minutes, it’s edges nearly scorched by the flames, the oven was at the ideal temperature to bake bread. It’s a simple dish to make, one in which the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts, though its parts are pretty stellar.
So, in my rather wonky way of presenting a recipe, here’s how to make flammkuchen. (Get ready, Girl Scouts!)
Crusts (we’re making individual pizzas)
Start with the pizza dough:
- 4 cups flour (Use bread flour or a mixture of bread flour and all-purpose flour. I advise against using ALL all-purpose, as it’s too soft for a crust, in my opinion.)
- 1 tsp instant yeast (repeat: INSTANT yeast)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 3/4-1 7/8 cups room temperature water (The amount needed depends on the weather, the flour, your kitchen, etc)
The beauty of instant yeast is that you just mix all the ingredients together, and let the resulting dough rise.
- Sorry to make this sound so easy, but it really is: just mix everything together, either in a bowl or in a mixer or food processor or bread machine set to dough cycle.
- Knead: by hand about 15-20 minutes or until you’re tired, by mixer 10 minutes, by food processor 45 seconds. The dough should be soft but not too loose and not super stiff (in other words, just right!)
- Place dough in a covered container (I love letting bread rise in food grade buckets), and let rise about an hour.
(Pssst! If all of this seems like way too much work, just head to the store for some pre made bread dough. Or you could take my bread class!)
- After an hour, dump dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Tile is good, wood is good, metal is good. Using a dough scraper or a knife, divide dough into about 10 pieces.
- Roll each piece into a ball, and let rest, covered, for about 10 minutes (10 pieces, 10 minutes!)
- Dip each ball into some flour then pat out to create a flat circle, about 4″ across. Let rest for about 10 minutes (yes, again).
- While you’re waiting, you may as well preheat the oven to 425.
- Okay, NOW take the flattened circle, and form into crusts. Watch the video for my technique. Spoiler: I do not throw the dough in the air.
- Place the crusts on parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Bake the crusts for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool on the pans.
- At this point you can top and bake for your immediate eating pleasure OR you can stack the crusts and freeze. This is super convenient for singles, families with teenage kids, empty nesters or anyone who might need a yummy meal quickly (who would that NOT include?!) When you’re ready for a pizza, just take a crust from the freezer, top and bake. There’s no need to defrost, but it will probably take a couple minutes longer to bake.
When you’re ready to eat:
- Take a crust, and slather on a bit of creme fraîche or strained Greek yogurt, into which you’ve mixed a tiny bit of nutmeg.
- Top with caramelized onions, bacon and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Toss on some Gruyere or Swiss cheese if you like.
- Bake at 450 for about 8-10 minutes. The first time you bake these, PLEASE watch them as your oven is totally different from my oven, even if they’re the same kind of oven. What cooks in 8 minutes in my oven might cook in 5 minutes (or 15 minutes!) in yours. One thing I’ve learned after 30+ years of baking: every oven has its own personality.