Monday, July 25, 2011

German Onion Bread (Zwiebelkuchen)

Zwiebelkuchen (ts-we-bell-kuchen) is almost as much fun to say as Zwetschgendatschi.  It's sort of misnamed, though, because it means onion cake, but it's more of an onion bread.  Actually, it's kind of a cross between a quiche and a pizza.

It's most often baked in the fall, when the harvest comes in, because that's when there are too many onions.  As it turns out, I had my own little harvest moment early, because I accidentally bought a second bag of sweet Vidalia onions when there were already plenty in the fridge.  (I know what you're thinking -- so take them back.  An hour and a half of driving to return a bag of onions?)  Upon hearing the news, my mother immediately suggested a Zwiebelkuchen to use up some of the onions.  I have to admit that she seemed more than a little bit excited about the prospect -- it's been a long time since we had this.

If you make your own dough, this is a recipe that needs to be started hours ahead of time so the dough can rise.  If, however, you choose to use a frozen or pre-made pizza bottom, then it's a snap to make.  I'm going to include the recipe for the dough because it's really lovely.  The next time I make this, though, I will use half the dough or make twice the topping and bake it in two pans, since the dough rose a bit more than I'd have liked.

This dish can be made with a yeast bottom (for those who love bread) or with a flatter pizza type bottom.  I used a large baking pan, but you could also use a pizza pan to bake it.

As so often is the case, I wish we had smell-a-vision because the scent of the bread and the onions with bacon is absolutely fantastic.

As I was going through my mom's recipes, I spotted one that said to boil the bacon.  That's right -- boil!  That's probably a well known method of cooking bacon, but I don't recall having done it before.  Naturally, I was eager to try.  My main concern was that the bacon would be soggy, but that wasn't the case at all.  (see picture)  I chopped it into small pieces and it was perfect on top of the kuchen.

I'm providing this recipe in reverse since I suspect most people won't make the bread bottom.  If you do want to make the bottom, please do that first!

More than one of you will be delighted to know that this is traditionally served with a glass of new white wine -- happily, any white wine will go with it nicely!

(German Onion Bread)

Onion Topping 

4 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 to 3 onions
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy cream or sour cream
1/2 package (6 ounces) bacon
Preheat oven to 375. (If using a ready made pizza or bread dough, follow the instructions regarding baking.)

Slice the onions into 1/4 inch slices.  Melt the butter over medium low heat.  Add the onions and cook about 6 minutes until translucent and soft (but not browned).  Set aside to cool.

Boil water.  Add bacon to boiling water.  Wait for it to return to a boil, then boil about five minutes.  Remove, drain, and chop into small pieces.

Whisk the eggs together.  Add the salt and cream and stir.

Scatter the onions over the prepared dough.  Pour the eggs over top of them.  Sprinkle the bacon over top of everything.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until the dough is a light golden brown.

1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 package yeast
1 teaspoon sugar

3 + 1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons room temperature butter
1 cup lukewarm milk

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the water.  After two minutes, stir to dissolve.  Set aside for six minutes.

Use the bread hook in your mixer.  Mix 3 cups flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add the butter and mix on low speed.  Pour in the milk slowly while mixing.  Add as much of the remaining cup of flour as you need for the hook to form a soft ball.

Grease a bowl with butter or oil, place the ball of dough in the bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for one hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Remove the dough and knead on a floured board, folding the dough into itself, for about four minutes.  Roll out into the shape of your pan.  Grease the pan with butter and place the dough inside, stretching it as necessary to fit.  Cover with kitchen towel and allow to rise until double (30 to 60 minutes).



  1. Looks yummy. I've been disappointed in store onions for a while, though--they're all too big (unless you're making something like this) and they look mangy.

    Julia Child boiled bacon (or at least simmered it) for her quiche Lorraine recipe--it takes some of the salt out--but she sauted it after.

  2. Interesting -- definitely a cross between focaccia and quiche. And this girl loves her carmelized onions. Thanks for a great recipe, Krista!

  3. Sheila, I think Vidalia onions are in season. You might look for those.

    Interesting about Julia boiling bacon. Now that I think about it, there's boiled ham, isn't there? The bacon on the dish isn't crisp, but it tastes great. Of course, if I happened to have leftover crisp bacon, I'd throw that on it, too.

    ~ Krista

  4. Good point, Wendy, it is sort of like a focaccia! I think it would be just as good without the bacon because the onions are the star!

    ~ Krista

  5. What a beautiful bread! And a happy accident with those extra onions. You're right, I can just imagine the aromas in the house--the baking dough, the caramelized onions. With a glass of Riesling (or a summer beer), this would make the perfect late-summer supper. Thanks, Krista, another keeper!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. Cleo, you're so right. It's a nice supper. Leave out the bacon and it's perfect for meatless Monday.

    ~ Krista

  7. Krista, love onions! Love them. And this looks like a yummy "pizza." Now all I need to do is add cheese (and make it gluten-free of course). I actually have my GF bread mix on the counter, ready to go. So once I finish revising the next three chapters of my work in progress, I'm baking. Yay!


  8. Krista,
    This looks delicious and very similar to one of my two favorite pizzas!! Number one is deep dish with bacon, pineapple and sauce. Number two same thing without pineapple add onion!

    I'm curious to try the boiled bacon...for some reason this sounds weird to me...but then again I don't like boiled hot dogs either!!!

    I'm keeping this recipe and look forward to making our own dough this fall...or whenever the Chez Phillipe kitchen cools down!

  9. Avery, it would be easy to make gluten-free, and it will taste great. I know you'll enjoy it with a glass of wine.

    ~ Krista

  10. Nanc, boiled bacon sounded weird to me, too. You probably wouldn't want to serve it that way, but it worked fine as part of this dish.

    I love the sweet zing that pineapple lends to savory foods. And I'm with you on the pizza without sauce. It's a nice change.

    Let's hope all the kitchens cool down soon. This heat is tiring. Remind me I said that when we have two feet of snow on the ground!

    ~ Krista

  11. Super recipe, Krista! I love carmelized onions and pizzalike substances. I think it would be a hit at a party too.

  12. I can never have enough bacon--or onions! I love these German recipes, Krista. Keep bringing them on!

  13. Mary Jane, I think it would be a delightful dish at a fall party outdoors. It would be easy to bake two on large sheets -- enough for a crowd!

    ~ Krista

  14. Elizabeth, I'm beginning to suspect some German blood in your heritage! But then, a lot of us like onions and bacon -- it's a great combo.

    ~ Krista

  15. This is the information that I was looking for years.You are doing a fine job.Keep blogging.


    Dave (formerly Year on the Grill)

  17. Our mom used to serve this bread at a get together. Cut into squares it is a wonderful appetizer !

  18. My Mum was from Sindelfingen,Germany & this is so very close to her recipe. The only difference is, she added caraway seeds.I only had the recipe for the topping, so thank you for the lovely dough recipe :)