By now you know I am obsessed with the book “Edible Selby“, a super stylish, globe-hopping, sketchbook tour of some of the world’s tastiest eateries. I’ve been staring especially longingly at the feature on Linnéa Thomsen and her gorgeous bakery nestled in the equally gorgeous Stockholm Park, Rosendals Trädgård. Everytime I see those photos, I want to jump right into the pages and grab a cardamon bun and a hunk of one of her wood-fired breads. Heaven! But until my family makes it to Sweden, we can at least make these lovely crackers. They’re super light and crisp and perfect with any sort of cheese, jam or cracker topping you can think of…. or do as the Scandinavians do and have yours with a bit of good butter.
Another good Scandinavian cracker we like is this buttery, oat-based hardtack.
Linnéa Thomsen’s Knäckebröd (adapted from her handwritten recipe in “Edible Selby“)
Crisp breads go way, way back in Scandinavian history, dating as far back as 500 AD. They were a staple food for long ocean voyages on Viking ships, and were traditionally made in a round shape with a hole in the middle so they could be stored on a string or stick. Wheat doesn’t grow well in Scandinavia which is why the most traditional crisp bread recipes use rye, barley or oat flours. Caraway is a very traditional Scandinavian ingredient, but the yeast is a more modern touch.
It takes a bit of time to put these crackers together since the yeast needs about an hour to do it’s job, but all the steps are quite easy and the hands-on time is pretty minimal. If your kids are like mine and enjoy working with dough, this is a fun, easy and very forgiving baking project and a good chance to practice kneading, rolling, seasoning, cutting and scoring. Rye flour is relatively easy to find in well-stocked grocery stores, but graham flour is a little tougher. If you don’t have an easy source for graham flour (we got ours at Rainbow Grocery), you can substitute with your favorite whole grain flour.
What you will need:
- 1 1/4 cup warm milk (250 ml )
- 2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 ½ cups rye flour (150 grams)
- 1/2 cup graham flour (60 grams) – or substitute whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 cup all purpose flour (125 grams), plus more for dusting your work surface
- coarse sea salt
- optional: caraway seeds, fennel seeds, cracked black pepper or your favorite spices.
making the dough base:
- Mix warm milk, honey and yeast in a small bowl, stir and set it aside while you measure your other ingredients. You will know your yeast has activated because it should smell “yeasty” and look foamy.
- In a large bowl mix together the rye and graham flours then add the yeast mixture and mix well. The dough mixture will have the consistency of thick cake batter. Let it sit in a warm place for about an hour to rise.
forming and baking the crackers
- Preheat your oven to 425 F.
- In a large bowl, mix the all purpose flour and salt, then add the yeast mixture and mix until the dough forms a ball. (You can do this by hand or use a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment). Knead by hand for several minutes until the dough is smooth. If the dough is sticky, dust it lightly with flour and keep kneading, repeating until you can knead it cleanly.
- Cut the dough into quarters then flour your work surface and roll out as thinly as possible (1/8″ is great).
- Transfer the rolled out dough to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush the dough lightly with water and sprinkle with sea salt and spices. Use a knife to score your dough into your favorite cracker shape. After the crackers are baked they will break easily along your score lines.
- Bake the crackers for about 12 minutes until crisp, bubbled and golden in spots. Check them every 5 minutes and rotate the pan because they can burn quickly and the cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your crackers.
… and here’s a great video I found of baker Linnéa Thomsen making levain bread in the wood-fired oven at her bakery in Rosendals Trädgård.