Crisp bread for Midsummer

Happy Midsummer dear readers!

Midsummer is a Big Deal in Sweden. For a picture perfect midsummer, you should be in the countryside somewhere, preferably at an island in the archipelago, where you eat an extravagant yet traditional midsummer buffet. Dancing around the midsummer pole is not mandatory unless you're under the age of 13 - then your mom undoubtedly will drag you off to dance around in a circle under the lead of an old lady wearing a traditional national dress and a man playing the accordion. The sun is of course always shining, you have made a beautiful flower wreath to wear in your hair, and everything is just so Swedish.

Can you detect a hint of bitterness there? Yeah, for a while when I was a sulky teenager I refused to celebrate midsummer, due to the fact that it never turned out to be so perfect and fun. Nowadays, we celebrate with friends who have the same attitude: let's bring some people together to eat, drink and have fun, without any prestige.

But there will of course be traditional Swedish midsummer food: pickled herring of different kinds served with new potatoes, sour cream and chives, and in the evening a BBQ. With the herring it's common to eat Swedish crisp bread (knäckebröd) with butter and sharp cheese. While loads of different varieties of crisp bread are available in every grocery store (if you're abroad you can find it at IKEA), making it yourself will score you loads of credit among your friends! And contrary to what many people think, it isn't difficult at all. You just need a good rolling pin, time and patience.

There are many different types of crisp bread, using different flours, spices and other flavorings. The ones I ended up making today are fairly traditional, made with rye flour and flavored with caraway. I love crisp bread with loads of different seeds and grains, but for these I just added a bit of flax-seed.

There's no need for the dough to rest, but on the other hand, it won't matter if you leave it for half an hour or so while doing something else. If you tire of rolling out all the bread at the same time, any remaining dough can be left in the fridge for up to a week.

Home made crisp bread stacked high.

Swedish crisp bread
(adapted from Jorden runt på 80 degar by Annica Triberg & Albert Håkansson)

50 g fresh yeast
4 dl water at 37°C
2 tbsp neutral oil
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp caraway seeds (you could also use fennel seeds or anise)
6 dl rye flour
1 dl flax-seeds
6 dl wheat flour

Place a baking sheet in the oven and set it to 250°C.

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add oil, salt and caraway. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and work into a uniform, but not very firm, dough.

Take pieces of the dough about the size of a golf ball and roll them out very thinly using plenty of flour. The bread won't be perfectly round - that's what makes it look home made! It's easiest to do the rolling out directly onto a piece of parchment paper. I can usually fit to pieces of bread onto one parchment paper.

Transfer the parchment paper onto the very hot baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes. Watch closely - the thin bread burns easily! Let it cool uncovered on a wire rack.

Keep rolling out pieces of bread and bake them, continuing until you're out of dough.

Crisp bread should be stored in airtight containers, away from heat and humidity. If it goes soft, you can crisp it up by heating it carefully in the oven or even in a toaster.

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