Burnt Flour Soup

While growing up, my mother would occasionally make a simple soup, made by browning butter and adding flour that burned in the butter. I didn’t know this was how the soup was made as a youngster, I just knew I loved it. She’d always told me it was her mother’s recipe.

Many years ago I asked my mother for the recipe, and she wrote it down. It began like this:

My mother was born and raised in the city of Nancy, in the Provence of Lorraine in northeastern France. Unfortunately, because of the proximity to Germany, my mother experienced WWII first hand as an adolescent, even to the extreme of her family’s home overtaken by Nazi officers.

It was this reason that, after hearing my mother’s literal war stories, especially when it came to the lack of food, I always presumed that her mother’s burnt soup recipe was a classic “peasant” recipe, made with what little butter and flour could be purchased or bartered for at the black market.

Recently I was looking at cookbook called Savoie – The Land, People, and Food of the French Alps, which was published in 1989. (I bought the book after visiting the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions of France, where I first discovered some of my favorite stinky cheeses, like Reblochon and Raclette.)

But there it was in the cookbook – Burned Flour Soup.

The author, Madeleine Kamman, wrote that the “soup is probably of Germanic origin since it is also a specialty of the southern Alsace and the area of Basel and several other cantons of Switzerland.”

Because Eastern France borders Germany, Switzerland, as well as Italy, it’s probably impossible to pinpoint the exact origin of burned flour soup. It’s a given that it was a peasant recipe, but obviously had a wider range than my mother’s home kitchen in Nancy.

The photo on the left shows the province of Lorraine, the one on the right, Savoie.

I recently asked my mother about the soup, and all that she could remember is that her mother made it.

The cookbook recipe is more involved than what my mother made when I was growing up; I don’t mind the upgrade of bacon and cheese! Here is the recipe from the cookbook.

Soupe À La Farine Brûlée
Or Burned Flour Soup

5 ounce slab bacon, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 1/2 pounds onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts hot water or broth
1 teaspoon Maggi seasoning
1 cup light cream
1/2 pound Tomme, or Gruyère

In a large sauté pan, render the bacon cubes slowly; let them color to a nice golden without crisping. When the bacon is ready, remove it to a plate.

In the bacon fat, slowly sauté the chopped onions until mellow and brown. Mix the bacon into the onions.

In another saucepan, heat the butter well. Add the flour and cook slowly – at least 20 minutes – until nice and dark brown (two shades deeper than a hazelnut shell).

Whisk in the hot water or broth, bring to a boil, and pour over the onions and bacon.

Add Maggi seasoning, salt, and pepper. Simmer approximately 45 minutes, or until tasty and reduced to 5 cups.

Add the cream and mix well.

Serve in hot plates or bowls with a dish of cheese slices “for your guests to help themselves.”

The tomme is to be slivered into the soup.

The Tomme really adds something to the soup. I think I prefer it over Gruyere.

Sadly, though, this is not my mother’s soup. It’s quite different, even though it’s “better” with the upgrades.

The recipe could easily be made with fewer steps, but it was fun to make.

Fresh and dried mushrooms would be an incredible addition, sautéed along with the onions.



83 thoughts on “Burnt Flour Soup

  • Wow, what an interesting post, Mimi! First off, I can’t believe your mom’s home was taken over by Nazi officers. That’s insane. I bet she has some really interesting (and sad) stories to tell. I love history, so I’m fascinated by this part of your post. Moving on, though, the burnt flour soup sounds really interesting! I’m with ya. The addition of bacon and cheese is always welcome, and I’m really curious to see what this one tastes like. I’ll have to order Maggi seasoning on Amazon though…I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in the stores??

    • I’d never heard of Maggi, so I bought mine on Amazon! I’m not sure if I’ll ever use it again.It lists sodium glutamate, but not MSG… Anyway, yeah, my mom didn’t tell any stories for a long time. It was a scary time. Actually the nazi officers sounded way more respectful than the GI’s who infiltrated later on… but that is another story. This soup was fun to make. Like I mentioned, it could easily be made simpler and faster, with the same resulting flavor and texture. I was glad to have finally tasted Tomme.

  • Fascinating. Madeleine Kamman used to be on the Food Network (or maybe TLC) lineup years ago, and I was always interested in what she made. I had one of her cookbooks but this one sounds so interesting. And the soup is a bit fondue-ish. Thank you!

    • Really?! I guess I assumed she was older… I just googled her and she had a PBS show for 7 years. Maybe that’s what you remember? Anyway, the soup tasted very good, but the cheese part was just a few slivers on the top. Of course, I added more to mine!!!

  • Mimi, what an interesting story and the recipe sounds fantastic as well. My SIL’s mom was also from Eastern France (Strasbourg area) and had similar experiences to your mom. However, she never made burned flour soup that I know of. I love gravy and I love soup, so I’m all in on this one.

    • It is like a gravy soup, really, but with less flavor! The soup I remember tasted more like browned butter overall, but it’s been a long time. I personally loved the bacon and cheese additions, but one day I’ll follow my mother’s recipe for old time’s sake! Strasbourg is so beautiful. Love that area.

  • This is a great family story, and the soup is so unusual. Never heard of it before, but what a wonderful looking recipe. With that amount of flour and long cooking time of it, it kind of reminds me of a dark roux used in Cajun cooking, like in a gumbo. The longer the roux is cooked the darker and nuttier it tastes, and the less it thickens the broth. I bet it is delicious!

  • Love your Mum’s history – not a nice time and let’s hope we never have to experience anything like it again.

    Your Mum’s recipe had no bacon and cheese in it, I would think. Would love to know your Mother’s recipe, especially as you enjoyed it as a child!! The gumbo roux would develop the flavour?
    Your recipe sounds lovely with the bacon and cheese. Thanks Mimi – good read. :))

    • Thank you Mary! My mum’s recipe was flour, butter, and broth or water. Maybe a little cream. Her handwriting is hard to read! But I should make it soon. She’s still around at 91!

    • Thank you Dawn. I will be making it again, but I seriously think it would the greatest base for a mushroom soup!

  • How interesting! It’s almost like a cream of onion soup… I do love the addition of cheese and bacon :) It sounds wonderful, and I loved reading about the origin and history. I’ve never heard of Maggi seasoning, what else do you use it for?

  • I enjoyed reading about the history of this lovely soup. I love that your travels brought you full circle with its origins. I can’t wait to try your version–this is my kind of soup. (Also, I love that you use Maggi Seasoning–it’s one of my favorites and is a staple in my pantry!)

  • Fun soup! And although I’ve never had it, I actually knew about it before I read your post — from Madeleine Kamman’s book! I actually had that book up until recently when I gave it away (I’m trying to reduce the number of cookbooks I have — way, way too many). Neat post — thanks.

      • There are different versions of it and I try to get the one that is marked “Made in Europe”. The European version is the original Maggi which was created in Switzerland although the versions we buy here in the US are Made in Germany. Just a little Maggi trivia. :)

      • I was reading some of this… Do they all have sodium glutamate? Because mine lists it, but I’m not sure if it’s the same as MSG.

  • Wow, sometimes mom’s recipes are so simple but yet so delicious! I’m still craving for some of my grandma recipes that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore as she always knew to give that additional touch to any dish that cannot be replicated :)
    I never heard of this soup but I would love to try it :)

    • It was fun making it, although I’d like to follow my mother’s exact recipe soon. That’s too bad about your grandma’s recipes…

  • I’m going to have to ask my parents if they’ve ever had it. I’m sure one of the grandmas had to have made it and I absolutely love hearing history of recipes through the generations. Thank you for sharing. Pinning! xo

  • When I saw burnt flour I thought it was about what is called grano arso in Italy — flour that is burnt in the oven as residual of baking bread or pizza. But this is what is also known as a brown roux, so something else entirely and more tasty! The bacon looks like guanciale (jowl).

    • It is guanciale! Good stuff. This soup was really interesting. I really want to make it again as a base for a mushroom soup.

  • This recipe sound so interesting and so tasty. I’ve never heard of a soup quite like it. I love the hand written recipe from your mom. I wish I had more of those. :-) ~Valentina

  • This is a new soup for me but especially delicious with the bacon and cheese. I use a “roux” in two of my soups – tomato and an onion soup and the flour/butter in your soup adds a richness that I know I would love!

  • You are so welcome! I think it’s still a peasant recipe, don’t you think? But somehow became a traditional and authentically regional recipe and ended up in a cookbook!

  • That’s interesting. It starts off a bit like a classic French-style onion soup and then (the newer recipe) seems to carry that through up to the cheese. No cream in your mother’s recipe, which I would imagine is quite nice and a bit more “rustic” in a sense. But bacon? We’re in!

    • Ha! The soup did turn out well. Not my mother’s recipe, but really good, especially because of the bacon and cheese!

  • Wow, Mimi, i have seen this soup before years ago in an old translated French cookbook that someone put on line…I was fascinated by it because of the flour roux and ever since then on the rare occasions we have fried chicken, i save a wing and drop it in my next chicken broth. It gives it an incredible flavor. Heck, i figure it’s like roux that’s already made, lol! That was many computers ago and I was never able to find the original reference/recipe or site again.

    I always assumed it was recipes like this that inspired so much of the Cajun cooking. I had a friend from France and asked her about darker roux, but she was from a completely different area. I questioned her about a couple of different French recipes, but she’d say things like, oh that’s from such and such a place, we don’t make that, so i assume a lot of the cooking is much more regional in France (at least back then) than it is here.

    Both versions sound wonderful! But obs, bacon wins, lol! I can’t wait to see what else you cook from that book.My French ancestors 5th great grandparents, we believe were from Alsace.

    • Alsace is beautiful. Have you been? Just extraordinary scenery and architecture. And food. French food definitely had an influence on Cajun and Creole cooking, as well as western African Cuisines…. Yes, the French are just as territorial as the Italians. My mother never made anything that wasn’t from “her” part of France, which is really kind of sad. I love your chicken wing idea!!!

      • Well there’s probably thousands of recipes I’ve never heard of, but it was that Cajun dark roux…and the only French recipe i’d ever heard with that dark roux was a French soup very much like your Mom’s. Which I’d never heard again in all these years until now! I was beginning to think I had imagined it so this was a fun post for me to see! And a great frugal soup, too. No I have never been – would love to go. My only French ancestors we think were from Lorraine so that’s where’d I’d start. What difficult times your Mom went through. Do you have relatives you keep in touch with there?

      • Actually, in 2004 we went to Colmar, and I met my mother’s uncle. He was older than her father so he got taken into the Hitler Youth program to be trained as a Nazi, but made it back to France after the war. He didn’t speak English, and my French was more geared to reading menus and discussing food, not talking about family history, but it was a precious time.

  • Mimi, love this deliciously creamy soup! The bacon and cheese must give it wonderful flavor, but I’m sure I’d love your mother’s simpler one as well! Maggi has been my favorite for years. It’s the most popular brand in Dubai. I got so hooked on it that it’s all I use. I find it in Middle Eastern stores in the US – usually in bouillon cube form.

    • Interesting to know about Maggi, as I’d never heard of it before. I’ll have to remember to use it. Do you mostly use it as a finishing sauce of sorts? A few drops at the end?

  • I’m particularly fascinated with history and in particular World War 2. Wow, I bet your mother has some stories to tell and in particular all about the horrors of being there at the time. And her house being taken over by the Nazis. I love how she’s passed this recipe to you. I know you did the cookbook version but I think I’d be quite happy with the original too. I’ve a whole load of recipes on my blog passed down from my mother too. I think its great how we carry on the tradition. Thank you to your mum!

    • It was certainly a scary time for her and her family, although the worst horror stories are from the period of time after the American GI’s showed up, sadly. Anyway, I will be making the original soup soon. I kind of miss it!

  • HI Mini!! So nice to visit you and I love your blog!! I have never heard of this soup before but it sounds delicious! Its’ so funny, many of our mom’s recipes were considered “peasant” dishes as well. Hope you’ll come back and check out some more of our recipes!

    • I don’t think it’s really a popular soup! But no matter what its origins, it’s certain peasant in nature. That’s really the best way to cook, but I also love some of those recipes more modernized!

  • I was so intrigued by the name of the soup and had to read about it. It sounds like a delicious soup with the bacon, onions, and cheese. I would love to try it!

  • I love the story, the ‘real-life’ story. I too have a mother who underwent food shortages during the Second World War and whose town (Frascati, near Rome) was badly bombed twice. In our family, the ‘story’ is that my grandmother who would place whatever bread was left over inside a pillow case at night, before going to bed, and sew it roughly. So that if anyone was tempted to go and eat a little bread in the middle of the night, they would be ‘stopped’ in their tracks by the sewn-together pillow case. It would remind them that the bread had to be shared by all. Anyway: I also love the recipe for the soup. It’s amazing how the relatively ‘simple’ ingredients concoct something so delicious.

  • I love recipes that have a personal family connection. Thanks for sharing this one! The recipe itself is certainly of the slo’ food variety – that makes it all the more special.

  • Mimi, what an interesting story from your Mom’s past. I love hearing stories like this because they let us all know how good we have things these days. Also, this recipe sounds delicious! Bacon and cheese, what could be bad? But the burnt flour and butter combo sounds like it lends an enticing and memorable flavor. Awesome recipe!

    • That’s certainly true – our lives are quite different now. Well, except for some terrorists… But anyway, yes, this was a really fun recipe to make.

    • I was glad I tried it. It’s from a region of some of my favorite cheeses, so I guess I’ve overlooked it. It melts well, has good flavor, and is good on a cheese or charcuterie platter as well!

  • What a fasinating recipe, a similar thing happened to me with an old recipe on my Nan’s. I thought it was one of hers it was a bit of a family tradition but I found the same recipe in an old cookbook from the 1940’s. Doesn’t change the fact I still love it! Great story and recipe.

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