Before settling on your favourite type of in-between-snack, you should try what the Swedes’ have to offer. Going all the way back to the Middle Ages, Sweden have perfected the crispbread, Knäckebröd. Knäckebröd is a flat, dry and crispy bread, almost cracker-like. It contains a variety of wholegrains but is mainly based on rye flour. Some recipes may also include all-purpose flour.
Knäckebröd comes from the Swedish word knäcke, which means to break, and bröd meaning bread. If you have a hard time pronouncing Swedish, you can simply refer to it as crispbread. Or maybe you already have a word for it in your language. In Danish knäckebröd is called knækbrød, in Norwegian knekkebrød, in Finnish näkkileipä, in Estonian näkileib, in Icelandic hrökkbrauð, in Faroese knekkbreyð, in German Knäckebrot or Knäcke, in Low German Knackbrood and in Dutch they also use knäckebröd.
It is said that knäckebröd dates back to 500 AD, however it only became a fixture in the Swedish and Scandinavian households in the last couple hundred years. The tradition of making knäckebröd is quite simple. They can be preserved easily and for a long time. The bread was usually made into big circular rings with a hole in the middle. After baking, the knäckebröd would be put on long poles and stored, hanging between the rafters underneath the roof.
Nowadays, you see the traditional ring shaped knäckebröd less and less. Instead, as the snack has become more popular all over the world, you are seeing company and homemade version that are rectangular shaped and some are even squares. You can eat these rectangular versions much easier with for example butter, spreads, cold cuts or cheese. And packaging is of course much simpler.
Normally, we only show you a single preparation of the I·ATE Food Term of the Week, however today we will show you both the traditional round version and the rectangular knäckebröd that you can dress up however you’d like. There is no real right knäckebröd so you can always change the seeds or flour in the recipe if it is not exactly to your taste.
If you need some inspiration to toppings and ways to eat your knäckebröd, check out the Wasa website, one of the biggest crispbread bakers in the world, for ideas.
Preparation – Traditional round knäckebröd:
For about 18 knäckebröd.
- 300 g dark rye flour
- 100 g wholemeal spelt flour
- 190-220 g water
- 60 g rye starter or 1/2tsp fast action yeast
- 6 g fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 generous teaspoon caraway (optional)
Combine the two flours, caraway if using and the salt. Add the sourdough starter, water or if you are using fast action yeast, mix until you have a smooth dough. It should be firm, but if it seems too dry, add a little more water, a tablespoon at a time, and work until smooth. (If you are using fast action yeast, you will definitely need to add more water). The addition of 50g of mixed seeds (sesame, flax & sunflower) can be added here. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest overnight (8 hours). The mixture will only expand slightly but should smell “yeasty” and slightly sour the next day. The next day, prepare to bake the crispbread. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Have a large baking tray ready in the oven.
Divide the dough into 24, (approximately 25g each). Shape each piece into a ball and flatten one at a time into a disc and place on a well-floured work surface (use more rye flour) and roll out as thin as you can – around 1-2mm. Use a fork to prick all over the surface of each crispbread if you do not have the Swedish dimpled rolling pin called a kruskavel. Cut a hole in the middle as tradition. Continue until you have used all the dough.
Remove the tray from the oven, place the crispbreads on the hot tray, and bake in batches. Bake for around 8-10 minutes until the discs are nicely browned. Watch carefully as there is not much difference between done and burnt! Once you have baked all the crispbreads turn the oven off and leave until it has cooled down. Place the crispbreads on a baking tray, it doesn’t matter if they’re piled on top of one another and return to a preheated oven (50°C) and bake for a further 20 minutes, turn the oven off and leave the crispbreads to cool in the oven. Store in an airtight container and they will keep for several weeks.
Preparation – Rectangular/Square knäckebröd:
For two large baking trays.
- 1 cup (100g) rye flour
- 1 cup (100g) all-purpose flour (you can replace with rolled oats)
- 1/3 cup (50g) flaxseeds
- 1/3 cup (50g) sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup (50g) pumpkin seeds
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, cracked (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
- 3/4 teaspoon flaky salt
- 1/4 cup (50 ml) olive oil
- 2/3 cup (150 ml) hot water
Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Take two large baking trays and a roll of parchment paper. Add all the dry ingredients to a very large, spacious bowl. Stir well with a rubber spatula, and then tip in the oil and water. Stir well and use your hands to form a compact ball if needed. Place a sheet of parchment paper onto a large surface and place half of the dough on top. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper, and flatten the dough into a large and thin rectangle using a rolling pin. Remove the parchment paper on top and transfer carefully the flattened bread with the remaining inferior parchment sheet into the baking tray. Lightly score into pieces with a sharp knife if you wish. You can also sprinkle additional flaky salt over. Repeat the same with the other half of dough. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Swap the trays around and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes, until golden (but not burned!). Let cool and break into pieces, or crack along the scored lines with a heavy knife. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Crispbread. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crispbread (Accessed 19th February 2020)
Knäckebröd. Taste Atlas. https://www.tasteatlas.com/knackebrod (Accessed 19th February 2020)
Why is Swedish bread designed with a hole in the center?. Créme De Mint. https://cremedemint.com/2014/07/08/why-is-swedish-bread-designed-with-a-hole-in-the-middle/ (Accessed 19th February 2020)
Discover new ways to enjoy Wasa. Wasa. https://www.wasa-usa.com/recipe/ (Accessed 19th February 2020)
Moorish Swedish Crispbread (Knäckebröd). Nordic Kitchen Stories. https://www.nordickitchenstories.co.uk/2017/11/02/swedish-crispbread-knackebrod-d1/ (Accessed 19th February 2020)
Swedish Multi-Seed Crispbread “Knäckebröd”. Del’s Cooking Twist. https://www.delscookingtwist.com/swedish-multi-seed-crispbread-knackebrod/
Kruskavel. Swedish Food. http://www.swedishfood.com/kruskavel (Accessed 19th February 2020)
Written by Mads Rise
Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Luxembourg. Holds a BA in English and IT-based Marketing and Communication from the University of Southern Denmark. Mads finished his BA with a thesis on Search Engine Optimisation and E-commerce. He has hands-on experience in web communication, SEO, administration and logistics.