Autumn in Germany means a great many things to me, among them the brilliance of leaves changing color, harvested grapes from scenic hillsides, and Zwiebelkuchen, one of my favorite baked goods. This directly translates to “onion cake” but it’s actually a delicious savory pie.
Growing up in southern Germany, I always looked forward to the Fall, one reason being that it meant enjoying this incredibly delicious German Zwiebelkuchen. Another reason – grape season. Traditionally Zwiebelkuchen is enjoyed with a glass of Federweisser, or grape must. Not being an alcohol drinker, I always enjoyed it with a glass of delicious freshly squeezed grape juice. During the Fall, right after the grape harvests, you can find roadside stands selling it in large jugs and never did a year go by that we didn’t stop at least once to load up.
Images courtesy of Wikipedia
There are a few varieties of Zwiebelkuchen, depending which region you’re in. Some are flat and cut into squares with a thinner layer of the topping, others are thicker and deeper like pie. This version is from Swabia where I grew up. A favorite past-time is going to the Black Forest in the Fall and enjoying a slice of Schwäbischer Zwiebelkuchen at a Cafe, made with delicious local Black Forest bacon.
Schwäbischer Zwiebelkuchen is typically round and deep, like quiche, though the flat varieties can also be found in bakeries throughout southern Germany. But whatever the shape, traditional Zwiebelkuchen always consists of yeast dough, topped with buttery caramelized onions, savory bacon, and a thick creamy base. Often, as in this version, caraway seeds are also included which add a wonderful depth and dimension of flavor.
I developed this recipe a few years ago as Autumn set in and I was craving the Zwiebelkuchen I always enjoyed in Germany. If you like onions, butter and bacon, you will love this Zwiebelkuchen, guaranteed!
1) Use good quality bacon with a nice, smoky flavor for best results.
2) You can also use pie crust (homemade or store-bought refrigerated) if you prefer.
Let’s get started!
Finely dice the bacon.
Finely chop the onions.
Fry the bacon until crispy.
Add the onions and cook for 30-30 minutes until nicely caramelized.
Let the onion mixture cool.
Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl.
Beat until combined.
Add the onion mixture and stir to combine.
Pour the filling mixture into the prepared pie crust in a 9-inch springform.
A springform is critical as you will need to release the pie from it. I’m happy with my Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Non-Stick Springform.
Sprinkle with a few caraway seeds. Bake in the oven preheated to 400 degrees F for 55-60 minutes or until the center of the pie is firm and the top is golden brown.
*Dough recipe has been updated – yes, there was a typo in the milk quantity.
Germany's most famous (and delicious) way of celebrating Autumn! This version comes from Germany's southern region of Swabia.
- Note: You can use pie crust instead of yeast dough (homemade or store-bought if you prefer.)
- For the Yeast Dough Crust:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter at room temperature and cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm (not hot) milk
- 1 package yeast
- For the filling:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 ¼ lbs yellow onions ,finely diced
- 5 slices thick cut bacon ,finely diced
- 1 ½ cups full fat sour cream
- 4 large eggs ,or 3 extra large
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- Freshly ground black pepper
To make the Dough:
Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let stand for 5 minutes. Place the flour and salt in a food processor and make a well in the center. Add the butter and pour the milk mixture over. Using a dough hook, knead the dough on the “bread” setting for about 6 minutes. Add more milk or flour as needed. Form the dough into a ball, spray the same bowl with oil oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size. (I usually turn the oven on 350 degrees F for about 1 minute just until it’s a warm, turn it off, and let the dough rise in the oven).
To make the Onion/Bacon Mixture:
Fry up the bacon. When the bacon is done add the onions to it along with 2 tablespoons of butter. Reduce the heat and let the onions slowly caramelize to a nice golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool.
To make the Filling:
In a bowl, combine 1 ½ cups full fat sour cream, eggs, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, and some freshly ground pepper. Add the onion/bacon mixture to it and thoroughly combine everything.
If using refrigerated pie crust, grease the springform and gently press the crust into the pan, leaving about 1/2 inch or so margin along the top. If making the dough yourself, once the yeast dough has risen, butter a medium-sized springform (9 inches or so) and spread out the yeast dough on the bottom and up the sides (leaving about ½ inch from the top). The dough will keep retracting, just work fairly quickly and then immediately pour the onion mixture into it (it will hold the dough in place), sprinkle a few caraway seeds on top, and put it in the oven.
Place the Zwiebelkuchen on the middle shelf in the oven preheated to 400 degrees F and bake for 55-60 minutes, until the top is light brown and the center of the pie feels fairly firm to the touch. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Can be eaten lukewarm or cold.