Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri

Basler Kaeswaie

This tart, along with an accompanying onion tart and a bowl of brown flour soup, form the typical Basel Carnival breakfast. In the early hours of daylight, residents and tourists alike congregate in all of Basel’s restaurants after the pre-dawn Morgenstreich, the official beginning of the Basler Fasnacht, or carnival celebration. It all begins on the Monday morning after Ash Wednesday, when the carnivals in Latin countries have been over since the previous week. I have visited Basel many times, but never for Fasnacht, so the following recipe is based on information from my friend Erika Lieben, a native of and frequent visitor to Basel and the recipe in a cookbook called Basler Kochschule (Basel Cooking School) by Amalie Schneider-Schloeth

Makes one 11- or 12-inch tart, about 8 servings

Pastry Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 8 or 10 pieces
5 tablespoons cold water

Cheese Filling

1 1/2 cups (about 4 ounces) coarsely grated Swiss Gruyere
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy whipping cream or half and half
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt

One 11- or 12-inch tart pan with removable bottom

  1. Set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
  2. For the dough, combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse several times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is in 1/4-inch pieces. Add the water and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Invert the dough to a floured work surface, carefully remove the blade, and form the dough into a thick disk.
  3. Flour the dough and roll it to a 14-inch disk. Fold the dough in half and transfer it to the pan, lining up the fold with the diameter of the pan. Unfold the dough into the pan and press it well into the bottom and sides of the pan. Use a bench scraper or the back of a knife to sever the excess dough at the rim of the pan.
  4. To prepare the filling, toss the cheese with the flour and distribute it evenly on the pastry crust. Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour over the cheese.
  5. Bake the tart until the crust is baked through and the filling is set and well colored, 30 to 40 minutes.
  6. Cool the tart in the pan on a rack.

Serving: Unmold the tart and slide it off the pan base onto a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature as a first course or as the main course of a light meal with a mixed salad.

Storage: Keep the tart at room temperature on the day it is baked. Wrap and refrigerate leftovers and bring to room temperature, or heat briefly at 350 degrees before serving again.