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Swedish recipe: how to make super thin rye crispbread

Food writer John Duxbury shares his recipe for thin crispbread (tunt knäckebröd).

Swedish recipe: how to make super thin rye crispbread
Swedish crispbread. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

Knäckebröd (crispbread) is often served with a meal in Sweden, so every Swedish supermarket has a wide selection of different types of knäckebröd. Most are made using rye flour and spices, but the thickness varies a lot. Click here for a slightly thicker crispbread than the one below.

Although you can buy very good knäckebröd in stores both in and outside of Sweden it is worth making the effort to bake some yourself as they always taste a bit special when homemade.

This recipe produces really thin knäcke, much thinner than you can normally buy in shops, so they are almost like crisps (chips). They are good to serve with drinks as an appetizer, although they do have an annoying habit of disappearing very quickly. They are also good with cheese and some nice pickles, either at the end of a meal or for lunch.

Traditionally knäckebröd was made with a hole in the middle so that the breads could be stored on sticks under the roof. Although these days they are usually stored in tins or wrapped in paper, many people still like to cut a hole in the middle of the bread as a reminder of former times.

Flavouring

Swedes usually flavour tunt knäckebröd with lightly crushed anis (anise), brödkummin (caraway) or fänkål (fennel) seeds. Brödkummin or kummin is a false friend to English speakers as it means caraway, not cumin (cumin is spiskummin in Swedish). My personal favourite is anis as it has a more intense liquorice-like flavour. Whichever you use, lightly crush the seeds with a pestle and mortar to help release their aroma.

Decorating

I like to decorate the knäckebröd with sea salt flakes and black and white sesame seeds. The sesame seeds add little in the way of flavour alongside the intense aroma of anise, so I really only use them for their appearance. You can buy black sesame seeds in good health food shops, Asian shops or online, but if you can’t get black seeds just use ordinary white sesame seeds on their own.

Summary

Makes 12 rounds

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking: 50 minutes

Total: 60 minutes (plus 15 minutes to prove)

Tips

– I have based this recipe on using a stand-mixer, such as a KitchenAid or a kMix, but it is also easy to make the dough by hand (knead for 4-5 minutes if making by hand).

– Although traditionally knäckebröd is made in rounds with a hole in the middle, any shape will do provided it is nice and thin.

– Take care not to use too much salt!

– If you have a pizza stone (baking stone), the knäckebröd will appreciate the quick burst of heat. Simply slide the knäckebröd onto a piece of baking parchment and transfer directly to the stone.

Ingredients

35 g oil, preferably rapeseed

140 g water

115 g rye flour, preferably stoneground

125 g strong (bread) flour, preferably stoneground

½ tsp salt (increase to 1 tsp if not using sea salt flakes)

2 tsp anise seeds, lightly crushed

7 g “fast action” dried yeast, 1 packet

1/2-3/4 tsp sea salt flakes, optional

2-3 tsp black and white sesame seeds, optional extra rye flour for dusting work surface

We recommend using digital scales to measure liquids.

Method

1. Prehead the oven to 250C (480F, gas 9, fan 220C) and line a large baking tray with baking parchment.

2. Put the oil and water in a saucepan and heat gently until lukewarm, 40C (105F). Stir to ensure that it is evenly warmed.

3. Put the flours, salt and anise seeds in the stand-mixer’s bowl and stir thoroughly with a spoon.

4. Add the dried yeast and mix thoroughly.

5. Fit the stand-mixer’s dough hook and with the motor running on minimum gradually add the warmed oil and water mixture.

6. Increase the speed to 2 (kMix) or 3 (KitchenAid) for 2-3 minutes until the dough begins to form a ball. You might need to add a teaspoon of water if the dough looks too dry, or a teaspoon or two of rye flour if it looks too wet. If necessary, knead the dough lightly by hand to form a ball.

7. Cover the dough and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

8. Divide the mixture into 12 evenly sized pieces and shape them into balls.

9. Sprinkle the work surface with rye flour and roll the dough out until it is about 8 cm (3 in diameter), turning and flipping frequently.

10. Transfer to a square of baking parchment and continue to roll it until it is about 18 cm (7 in).

11. Trim the dough into a circular shape, using a plate as template, and roll in some sea salt flakes and black and/or white sesame seeds if desired.

12. Prick all over with a fork (or roll with a kruskavel).

13. Cut a hole in the centre if desired and slide it onto a baking stone or baking tray.

14. Bake for about 4 minutes, until slightly golden round the edges, but keep an eye on it to ensure that it doesn’t burn. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

15. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.

16. Once the oven has cooled to 50C, put the crispbreads back in the oven and leave to dry and cool completely with the oven door open.

17. Transfer to an air-tight container until required. They should keep for several weeks.

Recipe courtesy of John Duxbury, founder and editor of Swedish Food.

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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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