as food writer Anna-Maija Tanttu says in her article, the gastronomy of finland —
[t]o the Finns, rye and bread made from rye are the same as spinach is to Popeye.
Rye crispbread is still an essential part of the family diet.
Soft, round, flat loaves with a hole in the middle, which in the old days were stored on horizontal poles under the ceiling in farmhouses, are made from rye by a fermentation process.
The thin rye crispbread often known as Finn Crisp has a slightly sour taste, also the result of lactic fermentation, and is a successful export item. Finns gorged on wholegrain bread long before health foods became a fad. Barley, wholemeal and oat breads, rolls, flat breads and cracked wheat breads all have their local variations. The range of different types of bread just seems to grow, with new shapes and seasonings being developed all the time.
The specialities of southwestern Finland and the archipelago are the sour-sweet loaf and malt bread. Island-baked bread is dark in colour, and its northern counterpart may also have blood as an ingredient.
Internationalisation has naturally increased the consumption of wheat flour products, such as baguettes, but Finns continue to believe that rye and wholegrain bread is what 'keeps a man healthy, wealthy and wise'. Freshly baked bread with butter, cheese, ham or luncheon meat is an everyday Finnish delicacy. Today, sandwich making is easy, as shops sell rye bread ready sliced or rye rolls ready halved.
rye IS the staff of life for the finnish people. it is also a more difficult flour to work with in north american standards as its gluten content is much lower than wheat flour, however many a bread and pastry, especially in scandinavia, is made from it.
this bread is is a rustic one and is called knackebrod. it is a type of crispbread common in scandinavian countries. it is a recipe almost exactly the same as the one from the friend of my mother who moved to canada from finland many years ago. missing her home a lot, she makes many of her favourite breads to remind her of her native land. this bread is more like a cracker type one and is crisp. it is in the traditional disc shape with a small hole cut out in the middle so that it could be placed on a pole and stored that way in homes. my mother's friend says many, many breads were baked at one time to last for a while. well, i only make a batch of 4 but the recipe can easily be doubled to make 8. these are not very sweet; the swedish counterpart knackerbrod is made from oats and is much sweeter in comparison.
rye crispbread (knackebrod)
while neither soft or fermented, these crisp crackerlike breads are faintly buttery and mildly sweet. they are often slathered in butter and garnished with salt, or eaten with meats, cheeses or herring.
makes 4 large crispbreads
2 c rye flour
1 c wheat or oat bran
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
12 g fresh yeast or equivalent in dry (? amount)
1/2 c + 2 - 3 tbsp warm water
put the rye flour, sugar and salt in a bowl, mix it together and add the butter.
with your hands, work in the butter by rubbing it with the flour between your hands until it is fully integrated. it should appear sandy and clump together when its done.
in a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
add the yeast to the rye flour and mix it together with your hands or a wooden spoon.
add the bran (and caraway seeds if using) and knead for about 5 minutes until it is well mixed. it will be a firm dough.
set this aside in a bag or covered for to rest for 20 minutes. meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 F. and prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
separate the dough into roughly 112 - 114 g balls (or just divide in 4). take one and cover the rest again.
on a lightly floured surface (use the rye flour), roll out the ball turning as you go into a disc which is rougly 8 inches. it will be between 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick. don't roll it too thinly.
take a small cutter or use a knife to cut out a hole directly in the middle. then take a fork and prick the dough all over to prevent it from warping while baking.
carefully transfer this to the cookie sheet. i usually roll them on a piece of parchement or on a small board and slide it off onto the cookie sheet in order not to break it.
bake these for 15 to 20 minutes. usually 15 minutes is enough. let them cool a bit before moving or they will crack. save the holes and bake them also.
if you like, you can trim the edges with the help of a plate to make it even but this uneven edge is the original rustic shape for this type of bread.
served with butter and sea salt, these are great.
for those of you haven't seen it before this is oatbran:
and this is the hard-to-come-by (these days) fresh yeast:
here are some extra recipes for a few other finnish breads.