We’re just back from a trip to German wine country where we spent time in both the Rhine and Mosel River valleys. It’s grape picking, wine making season, so there was much activity in the densely planted vineyards that cover the steep hillsides of both of those famous rivers. We strolled through picturesque towns filled with tourists and locals alike celebrating the harvest and wine crush with a glass of delicious German wine.
Since the first grapes were just recently picked and crushed it was time for the annual tradition of tasting the “new wine.” It is really partially fermented grape juice that looks cloudy and not at all like “real” wine. I tried it once, which was enough for me. What I did very much enjoy was the onion tart or “zwiebel kuchen” that is always served with as part of this annual wine ritual. I was more than happy to try it on numerous occasions and found it delicious. I’m sharing the recipe with you today because I think it’s an ideal dish to make for a cool fall day’s supper. It could also be a great choice to serve as a savory treat for your family and friends at your Halloween party. Instead of making it in a round tart pan you can double the recipe and make it in a sheet pan. Cut into small squares for a party appetizer.
An important element for a successful pie or tart is a flavorful, flaky crust. I chose my favorite butter pastry for this onion tart recipe. Even if you shy away from making your own pastry because of past failures, I hope you’ll try this classic butter pastry made quick and easy in the food processor.
A tender, flaky pastry requires cold butter blended into the dry ingredients followed by ice water to maintain a chilly temperature and allow the tiny butter flakes to remain intact. Too much processing can result in a tough crust. As soon as a dough forms, stop processing, remove the dough and pat into a disc. After it’s wrapped in plastic it needs at least 2 hours chilling time to allow the dough to relax. After 20 or so minutes at room temperature it will be pliable enough to easily roll out. You’ll need only a dusting of flour on your counter top since this dough isn’t sticky. I think you will be pleased to see how easy it is to roll it into a thin crust. Begin at the center and roll out to the edges.
One final crust-making tip: when the dough is about 1/8” thick and large enough to fit into your pan with 2 or 3 inches extra around the edge, simply place the rolling pin at the top of the pastry and roll quickly toward you. Slide the pan under and unroll the pastry directly into the pan. This solves the problem of trying to lift a delicate pastry dough into the pan without breaking it.
Crust making really can be an easy “trick” and the result is a “ treat” that is certain to earn you compliments.
German Wine Country Onion Tart
Make the pastry according to the following recipe.In a large, heavy skillet cook the bacon until crisp.
- 1 recipe butter pastry
- 6 thick slices bacon, diced.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound yellow onions*, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups light cream (half and half)
- 5 large eggs, beaten
Remove with a slotted spoon to drain.
Pour off the bacon fat; do not wash the skillet
Melt the butter in the skillet and cook the onions, starting on high and reducing to low, for about 10 minutes, or until golden.
Stir in the salt, caraway seeds and flour.
Whisk together the cream and beaten eggs.
Stir in the onion mixture.
Pour into the pre-baked crust and bake in the lower one-third of a preheated 375 º F. oven for about 40 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
Cool on a rack.
Slice into wedges and serve at room temperature.
*Cooking onions, not sweet onions.
Easy Butter Pastry
Place the flour in the food processor with salt, egg yolk and butter.
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 stick well-chilled unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces.
- 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Process until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add the water gradually until a soft dough forms.
Remove and pat into a smooth disc.
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. (May be made as long as 24 hours ahead and chilled, may also be frozen.)
Allow to sit at room temperature until pliable enough to roll easily.
Put into pan and cover with parchment paper or roil and weigh with pie weights or a pound of dry beans.
Bake for 10 minutes in the bottom of a preheated 400 º F. oven.
Carefully remove paper and return to oven for 1 minute to seal.
Cool and fill.