The word Zweibelkuchen in German means onion cake. When did I learn this? Right after I learned I was advancing to the second challenge in the Project Food Blog competition. I have to admit that I had been thinking, but not so seriously, about what I would make as a classic dish from another culture, (if) I advanced to the second round in this contest. I considered typical dishes in Asian and Greek cuisine, but at some point I started giving serious thought to paying homage to a good portion of my families heritage which is German.
I find the older I get, the more interested I am in where my family originated. I vaguely remember the German cookies made at holiday time by my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I didn’t particularly care for the German cookies because they were too spicy. I much preferred the traditional sugar cookie, key word, sugar. So, after realizing I had to come up with a classic recipe from another culture I started some earnest research.
What’s not to love about those German words such as weiner schnitzel, spatzle, streusel, and lebkuchen? Yes, lebkuchen is the word for those spicy holiday cookies.
Finding a classic recipe for a dish from another country is not as easy as it sounds either. Just because the word sounds good, doesn’t mean the actual dish does. When I landed on the word zwiebelkuchen I was immediately taken in by it. I liked the idea of making and eating an onion cake.
My research for this challenge was exclusively done on the internet, and this was one of those times when I realized the internet is great, but good old-fashioned cookbooks have their advantages too. How I wished the library had been open for some hard-core exploring of classic German foods.
Zewibelkuchen is a dish that originated from South Central Germany. This dish is prepared in the fall, to accompany the season’s new production of a German sweet wine called Federwiesser.
Recipes for zwiebelkuchen differ, as does the name. I found it referred to as onion cake, onion pie, and onion tart. Most recipes called for a crust made with yeast; yet, not all did. Bacon appeared to be optional in some cases, but much preferred in my book. Some recipes called for sour cream, others heavy cream as the dairy base, some both. Egg is a must, and with six hens in our hen-house, we aren’t lacking in that area. As far as spices go, they ranged from adding marjoram, cumin, paprika, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, to none at all. One recipe called for caraway seeds, one called for sesame seeds, another called for poppy seeds, again some didn’t call for any. One recipe I found called for swiss cheese, the others did not. A considerable variation of a classic dish.
I opted to make a zwiebelkuchen that I knew would satisfy mine, and my husband’s taste of the German classic.
The recipe I made was adapted from three separate recipes. One published by Melissa Kronenthal of the Seattle Times, one posted on eHow by member annieway, and the last found on RecipeLand.com.
The recipe is as follows:
Crust: 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 cup lukewarm water.
Mix yeast, sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup flour into a large bowl. Blend in oil and warm water. Mix for 2 minutes. Add remainder of flour to make soft dough. Remove dough from bowl and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. About 5 minutes. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1/2 hour.
Topping: Six bacon strips, 3 medium onions (peeled and sliced), 1 egg, 1 cup sour cream, pinch of salt, pepper to taste, pinch of nutmeg.
While the dough is rising, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Crumble when cool. Add onions to bacon grease, cook slowly until tender. In medium bowl mix sour cream, egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Once the dough has risen, press it onto a lightly greased 15″x10″ cookie sheet. Top the dough with crumbled bacon and cooked onions. Pour sour cream and egg mixture over the top, spreading evenly. Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 25 minutes until crust is golden brown and topping is firm. This can be served warm from the oven, or at room temperature.
As I was making the zwiebelkuchen I actually thought I was going to make it through the onion cutting process without crying – WRONG! A few tissues later and I was back on course. You can’t believe the aroma that wafted from the kitchen during baking, and lingered all day. Incredible!
To end this challenge I decided a little road trip was in order. I desperately wanted to pick up a bottle of wine to go with this new dish, and I wanted to share a couple of fall images of the Finger Lakes region of New York state. It’s been said the Finger Lakes area can be compared to parts of Germany because of their similar grape growing climates, and terrain. I don’t know this for sure, but if this is the case, Germany would have to be beautiful!
This was a great adventure that I won’t soon forget!