“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”

James Beard (1903-1985)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

BBD#24 - Knäckebröd

I've mentioned before how the Dutch have a huge breakfast culture: many types of breads, sweet toppings, savory meat products...you name it, it's all there. The breads range from soft, white, fluffy buns to hard, crispy flatbreads. These last ones are originally from Sweden, and they're called "knäckebröd", or crisp bread.

The flour used is mainly rye, which gives them a nice, nutty flavor. It's cheap, easy to keep as long as the environment is dry (it will go limp in humid weather) and apparently travels back all the way to the Viking era. Well, how about that!

Just yesterday, I bought some at one of our local stores. The cost of knäckebröd in the United States, as an import item, is prohibitive, but every now and then I treat myself to a couple of "wheels". It's very tasteful, spread with some good butter and a nice jam. But when I saw this month's BBD's challenge to bake bread with grains, I figured I'd give this Swedish bread a try. Might as well learn how to make my own instead of buying it in the store, right?!

I found a recipe from a trusted source, Görel from Grain Doe. She's one of the Bread Baking Babes and several years ago gave a fabulous recipe for it, as follows. As for the sourdough starter, I keep a jar on the counter at all times. It's easy to maintain as long as you remember to feed it regularly and it helps add extra flavor to the breads you may be baking

For the pre-ferment
500 ml/2,1 cups milk
25 g/0,9 oz fresh yeast
3 tbsp honey
180 g/6,4 oz rye flour
80 g/2,8 oz whole spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
50 ml/3,5 tbsp rye sourdough starter*
Optional: 1 tsp aniseed, ground

For the dough
2 tsp salt
300 g/10,6 oz rye flour
100 g/3,5 oz wheat flour

Heat milk until it's lukewarm. Dissolve yeast and honey in milk. Add flours and sourdough. Cover with cloth and let rise for 40 minutes.

Add salt, the wheat flour and 2/3 of the rye flour to the pre-ferment mixture. Add more rye as needed until the dough is "firmish", but not stiff. It should still be a little tacky. Mix well, but don't knead. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 16 pieces, form the pieces into round, tight spheres and leave on table under cloth.

Heat oven to 200 °C/390 °F. Roll out the dough balls to thin rounds. Prick the rounds with a fork and take out a hole in the centre with a small glass or a cookie cutter.

Bake two rounds at a time for appr. 15 minutes until the bread is nicely browned and crisp. If necessary (watch out!), cover with foil during the last 5 minutes. Let cool on racks. I prefer mine a little lighter, so I took them out when they were starting to golden and let them dry on the side.

I used spelt and rye, and chose to add the ground aniseed. It is not prominent but gives the bread just that little 'extra'. Try it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Potato Loaf

I peeled some extra potatoes when making hete bliksem yesterday and while I was waiting for the spuds to boil, I realized that although the Dutch love to eat potatoes and they're included in almost every meal, I cannot for the life of me remember ever buying or eating potato bread.

Perhaps it's because potatoes are such a intricate yet humble addition to the meal. They're always there, on the side, serving their purpose, unassuming. In a potato loaf, they would shine and be the main ingredient, the key player to the success of this staff of life. Perhaps the humble Dutch potato is too Calvinistic to assume that role, who knows.

Not so the giant and proud Idaho potato. It sits prominently on the plate, draped in colorful and rich jewelry and coverings: ruby-red bacon bits, velvety sour cream, golden cheese shreds, emerald green onions.....Anyway, you get the idea. It's a big one and it knows it. And that's how it behaves in bread as well. It's there. I mean, THERE.

Bread making is an easy process, and once you get over the yeast paralysis, you'll find that potato dough is very receptive to yeast and to being kneaded. It's a great bread to get started with!

Potato Bread
1 cup of boiled potatoes
2 cups of milk, warm
2 teaspoons of active, dry yeast
3 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt

Mash the boiled potatoes with the warm milk, add the yeast and let sit for five minutes. Then add one cup of flour at a time, adding the salt in between, mix and knead until the dough comes together. Grease a bowl, put the dough in, turn over and cover. Rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Carefully push air out, knead once or twice and shape. If you bake in a breadpan, place the seamside down. Cover, rest and proof while you heat the oven to 350F.

If the dough does not immediately jump back and the bread has risen slightly above the rim of the pan, place it in the oven. Bake in approx. 30 minutes.

Let cool on rack. Also lovely toasted!