Sometimes I don’t want cake. It is not uncommon for my palate to seek savoury sustenance and my love for a sweet crumb to be temporarily overridden. It is times like these that I make soda bread, scones and soup. As much as I adore sweet lemon syrup, cinnamon-scented dough and raspberry buttercream I also delight in the likes of salted butter, marmite, cheese and miso. My baking cravings extend beyond the cupcake, as pretty as they may be they are not a sustaining product for either health or for the pantry. There is something particularly gratifying (yes, more so than snaffling Banana Bread hot from the oven) about baking something wholesome, long lasting and multifaceted; in this case something as inflexible in texture as it is flexible in its uses.
For gratification like this I need to make Knäckerbröd. I’ve made crisp breads before but never with such a leaning towards the Swedish style; rough rye discs peppered with pretty indentations. These were so simple to make and aesthetically pleasing with their organic shape and dark, flour dusted palette. I like the way that stoneground rye flour falls heavily, grainy into the bowl and forms a rough textured paste when wet. For these Knäckerbröd I mixed rye flour, spices and a little dry yeast with water before flattening small pieces into discs. Once I had established a method for rolling (involving copious amounts of flour) I formed a very efficient one-woman production line; these must be baked two at a time, no overlapping, flat on a baking tray for 15-20 minutes before they are crisp and baked through.
The thinner these can be rolled the better; the denser middles of my first two breads were so solid they induced an earth-shattering reverberation around my skull. Thinner is lighter and crisper and far more of a textural pleasure. I loved stacking the cooled Knäckerbröd and admiring their clatter of ridges and curls. Some I broke into pieces and stored in an airtight container and the rest I took on a picnic to dip into hummus or spread with pâté. They were crunchy and rough, infused with cumin and caraway and dark, malty rye. These were the perfect vehicle for cheese or smoked fish but I wouldn’t rule out topping them with nut butter and sliced banana or a teaspoon of homemade jam. These really encapsulate my perceived sense of balance within the traditional Scandianvian diet; there may be Almond Cake and Cinnamon Buns but there is also simple, sustaining, every day roughage; nutrient dense flours full of fibre and savoury flavour.
Swedish Inspired Knäckerbröd
400g Rye flour (you could use any wholemeal or spelt flour or a combination)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 sachet or 3-4g dried yeast
350 ml warm water
- Mix flour, spices and salt
- Mix yeast with warm water and pour into dry ingredients
- Mix into a soft dough, form into a ball and leave in a cling film covered bowl to rest for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 200C degrees
- Divide mixture into 12 and generously flour a worktop. Didn’t use rye flour for this, but a finer, paler Spelt flour but you could just use plain white flour.
- Roll out each portion, turn and flouring regularly to prevent sticking.
- Place flattened discs (about the size of a side plate) two at a time, not overlapping, onto a baking sheet and use the end of a chop stick to make indentations across the whole surface of the dough.
- Place into the oven for 15-20 minutes. If using two trays at a time make sure that they are rotated half way through so both are allowed time at the top of the oven.
- Remove an cool on a cooling rack. They need space to cool to become fully crisp.
- Stack or splinter and store in an airtight container.
Try different spice variations depending on what you have. I would be intrigued to try a sweeter version using cinnamon and nutmeg. Or just make them plain with only salt.