August 28, 2011

Näkkileipä - Knäckebröd

Näkkileipä, the Nordic crisp bread, has always been one of my favourites. We used to always have it at school with school meals, at home with soups or even bits of it broken into semolina porridge. Most of the time you'd have this bread with butter and cheese, or with herring or gravlax. It is a pantry staple, without a doubt, and every household across the Nordic countries would most likely have some at all times.

So far I've been buying all my näkkileipä (knäckebröd in Swedish) here in Sydney. It's quite readily available and it's all authentic, mostly imported from Finland or Sweden. Even in Finland people would buy this crisp bread instead of making it themselves, but as this recipe shows it is incredibly easy and fairly quick to make at home too.

The original crisp bread would be made out of rye and wheat flour, but nowadays there are several flavours available - even quinoa! You could easily add sesame seeds to this recipe and use different flour instead of rye and spelt. I've served my näkkileipä with some cottage cheese that I seasoned with dried herbs and lemon. My partner (who is half-Japanese, half-German Australian), loves this bread too and "näkkileipä" was one of the first Finnish words I taught him.

Näkkileipä - Knäckebröd
(makes 6)

250ml warm water
5g dry active yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
150g rye flour
150g whole spelt flour + extra for rolling

1. Mix both of the flours in a bowl and set aside.

2. Pour the water in a separate bowl, mix a tablespoon of the flour with the yeast and stir it into the warm water. Stir in the salt and cumin seeds and add the rest of the flour in slowly, mixing as you go and kneading with your hands to make a smooth dough.

3. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave the dough to rise for half an hour. 

4. Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper. 

5. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll into a log. Cut the log into 6 equal pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll the pieces into thin disks. Note here that you should bake these breads one by one and therefore only roll the pieces as you go and keep the dough pieces covered so they don't dry out. Prick each disk with a fork before placing on the baking tray and baking in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.