I met today with Emmeline who is one of the growing team at Virtuousbread.com. Emmeline is a godsend and is going to help me actually connect all the dots at Virtuousbread.com. It’s a big task and she is up to it, I know. Being Swedish, she likes rye bread, real bread, cracker bread and sourdough bread. These are all good things. We decided we would meet and bake and plan (we work so much better that way) so last night I put the crackerbread dough on to proof over night and today we got cracking (arf arf).
The trick with cracker bread is to use plenty of flour and roll it extremely thinly. You then need either to prick it thoroughly with a fork or use a poky Swedish rolling pin to make indentations in the dough. Insufficient indentation = dough puffs up in the oven. Cut a hole out of the middle with a cookie cutter and the place both the cracker bread (and the cracker bread hole) on to a baking tray that is covered with polenta. Spray with water, sprinkle with what ever you have on hand (we had sea salt, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and sesame seeds) and bake in a very hot oven for 8-10 minutes until brown and crisp crisp. Then, hang them up to cool down and dry off.
Cracker bread was probably made once a year in a communal oven and then kept, hung on a string or a pole until the next baking day. The air in Sweden is so dry – even in summer – that there was no risk of them going stale or mouldy.
I don’t think mine will last that long!
There are plenty of recipes for cracker bread – some plain and some fancy. The trend in Sweden right now is to have odd shapes – not perfect circles, not perfect squares. Rough, wobby circles and offcut crackery pieces are seen gracing the most elegant bakeries and cafes. Spelt, rye and wheat are all used and toppings can be the seeds of your choice – or none at all. I got the following recipe from Helene Johansson, a fantastic baker and lovely, generous person who owns Brunkebergs Bakery in Stockholm
Recipe for Swedish crackerbread
Knead for 10 minutes the night before you want to make the crackerbread:
500 g of whole milk
40 g honey
25 g fresh yeast/12 g dry yeast/6 g instant yeast
500 g light rye flour
250 g whole wheat flour
20 g salt
5 g bicarbonate of soda
10 g ground anis (I used ground fennel seeds)
Cover and let sit overnight.
In the morning, divide the dough into balls of 50 grams each and let them rest, covered for 10 minutes. Then roll them into very thin circles on a well floured board. Prick well with a fork or roll with a Swedish rolling pin made to poke indentations in crackerbread. Cut a hole in the centre with a cookie cutter. Place on a baking tray that is covered with polenta. Spray with water and top with the seeds and/or salt of your choice. Bake at 225 degrees C for 8-10 minutes. they should be completely crispy when they come out of the oven. Cool on a wire rack. If they are not totally crispy, you can put them back in a warm oven and then turn the heat off. Let them stay in there overnight and they will be crispy in the morning. String them up or store them in an airtight tin. Eat with herring, boiled potatoes, sourcream and chives, beer, acquavit and plenty of rousing Swedish songs. Or just any time.