Saturday, January 13, 2007

finnish rye crispbread

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.
yikes! did i read that right? blood?? luckily, my recipe doesn't include that! though i know other cultures, such as the chinese, use it in things like the original version of hot and sour soup as a thickener and flavouring [yep, it's true!], all i can say is judaism forbids the use of blood in anything, especially things consumed (leviticus). from my cultural perspective/bias, i can't imagine using it as an ingredient in my cooking. anyway, to each his/her own; back to my original intent — here is some extra reading about finnish breads eaten in the north of their country. didn't see anything about that "extra special" ingredient, though.

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.


Pammie said...

Yek, blood. Man, we are way past the days when we are that desperate for stuff to eat. I cannot handle the thought of blood sausage, but it is still commonly served at breakfast in Ireland and the UK (maybe they are playing a joke on all the tourists). The Masaai in Tanzania also drink the blood of their cattle but they are also a little more desperate.

Actually I was looking at your side bar the other day which mentions that judaism forbids eating pork and shellfish. This I can understand, because no doubt originally the intention was to keep people from getting sick, and what with trichinosis from pork, and people to this day still being regularly felled by bad oysters, it makes sense. But I don't get the mixed meat and dairy thing. How could that have been bad for you?

burekaboy — said...

pammie - my sentiments exactly. but, umm...blood from what?

as for the not mixing milk and meat, the answer is biblical and refers to not cooking (or taking the chance of cooking) a baby kosher animal in its own mother's milk and was made a rule so as not to take any chances. traditions die hard and this is still observed today. read this for a brief explanation of things, if you want to know more. much of the original ideas were based on preventing people from becoming ill. rather than constantly taking chances, things were just prohibited.

The TriniGourmet said...

a lot of people love the taste of blood in dishes . it's still pretty popular in foods..and is part of authentic Jamaican jerk cooking... i don't think it has anything to do with's a flavouring agent unto itself... i can't say i feel any need to taste it for myself though, but i'm not gonna scorn it ...

the whole meat and milk logic falls apart since it includes chicken though... but i follow it anyway

burekaboy — said...

hey sarina - but what about the bread?!! didn't you like the bread with the hole in it??? LOL. :S

(as for the blood thing -- religious beliefs aside, different cultures = different practices. neither is it a question of right vs wrong, per se. i imagine it was (is) both a flavouring agent and an added source of protein for those living in remote areas such as northern finland. i have NEVER heard of this blood thing with jamaican jerk cooking though. where i live here, blood sausages are always in the meat counters. i have also seen containers of pork blood in asian markets (i think it was filipino, actually). anyway, to each his or her own. :)

The TriniGourmet said...

i just realized i didn't even mention the bread ... i love crispy flat breads... never saw the hole and i love that too... how utilitarian :) ...

that fresh yeast took my mind on a loop though! never seen or knew about that!! sooo plasticine :D

The TriniGourmet said...

no clue on the blood thing re: jerk ... i was reading up on it once... in like popular usage methods it's the mostly dry rub and stuff that you're probably familiar with... however i had read that in port antonio, which is the birthplace of jerk, that was how the Maroons did it... but i can't find nothing so me nah know... it's too early for me to be up :(

beenzzz said...

Ok, the blood thing is completely vomitous to me. I was raised to only eat meat that was well drained and cleansed of any remenance of blood. The thought of it being added to my food as a flavoring just makes me want to hurl and become a vegetarian for my remaining days. But...that is one beautiful looking rye crispbread!!!

burekaboy — said...

sarina - fresh yeast is quite difficult to find these days. when my parents came to canada, they had no clue about the dried kind! :) it is very odd as it is quite plasticine like. it also doesn't bubble up like the dried, it melts into the liquid :)) as for the 2nd comment, no clue either. never heard of it before.

beenzzz - lol, glad you like the bread :)) the blood thing makes me queasy, too. different strokes for different folks, as they say ;S

shelly said...

burekaboy! Color me impressed! :) Wow, homemade rye crisp read. I have got to try this recipe :).

shelly said...

I've seen blood crisp breads at specialty stores in Stockholm.

I'm guessing that this recipe evolved as a way of ensuring that people had enough iron in their diets. This may have been related to maintaining optimal thyroid function, which tends to be weakened in very cold regions.

Again, total speculation on my part, but I'd be curious to learn about the evolution of this food.

burekaboy — said...

shelly - hey there! thanks :) if you do try them, you'll see how easy they are to make yourself at home. you can use wheat BRAN also instead of the oat kind. my mom's friend also put in caraway, ground and seeds, sometimes for extra flavouring.

i'm sure your speculation on the subject is totally correct. i didn't realize blood was used as an ingredient in scandinavia, especially in breads. i mistakenly said protein in a previous comment but i'm sure you are more correct in saying it is to boost iron content. i'm going to look into this. :) will let you know if i find anything.

אני באמת לא ידעתי על זה -- מעניין מאד אפילו אם לא מתאים לי במונחים של משהו שהייתי רוצה לאכול. אם אני מוצא משהו יותר על הנושא הזה, אגיד לך

chanit said...

הכל נראה מצויין, את הלחם הזה ראיתי רק בספרים, איזה כייף לך שהכנת ואכלת
:-). Chanit

burekaboy — said...

תודה רבה, חנית. כדאי לנסות להכין אותם

Yaelian said...

Heippa burekaboy,

I was very happy today to find your wonderfully informative and visual recipe blog and as a Finn especially loved this rye bread recipe,which I will certainly try to make.פה בישראל חסר לי לחם הפיני שגדלתי איתו

burekaboy — said...

tervetuloa yaelian :) - thanks for your nice comment and visit. i am happy you like/d what you found!

צריך להיות קצת קשה לפעמים בשבילך לא למצוא את האוכל הפיני שאת\ה אוהב\ת.

המתכון של לחם הזה בא מהידידה של אמא שלי - אני מקווה שאת\ה אוהב\ת אותו. יש הרבה דברים טעימים
נכון, "SUOMI"
i'll post some other stuff i have soon :)) hope to "see" you again!

yaelian said...

Thanks for the warm welcome:)I went through most of your recipes and love your step by step instructions.Thanks for sharing your recipes.ואני חושבת לעשות את הלחם הפיני בזמן הקרוב

burekaboy — said...

hi yaelian - happy to hear you like/d what you've seen. while it's more work on my part to put all the pictures with each recipe i post, it at least shows how things are supposed to look as you go along. hope you enjoy what you try. i don't know if the knackebrod will be exactly what you want or are used to; that's the only recipe i had for it.