Breads and savouries

Breads and savouries

By
Trine Hahnemann
Contains
47 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849493796
Photographer
Columbus Leth

Grains and flour

Flour is not just flour. Flour comes from grains that come from different seeds. Furthermore, the harvest of grains isn’t consistent every year because the weather can be particularly cool, hot or wet. This can give the flour from similar grains quite different baking abilities.

Rye grows in the northern hemisphere. There is a ‘rye border’ in the world that runs through North Europe and Russia. Rye grows to the north of the border and this region is, therefore, where the tradition for eating rye bread exists. Rye flour does not have great baking ability because of its low gluten content. It is usually mixed with wheat to correct that. (But 100 per cent rye bread does exist in Scandinavia and you’ll find recipes here.)

Wheat is the grain mostly used for bread all around the world, everywhere south of the rye border. It grows in Europe and the US, but also in vast quantities in China, India and Pakistan. Wheat is easy to work with for baking because of the flour’s strong gluten structure. There are many different varieties of wheat, with varying flavours, that grow in different areas. While 100 per cent wheat bread tastes great, it is not the healthiest bread if it does not contain at least some wholemeal flour or whole grains.

Wheat also faces other problems; it’s getting overused due to the monoculture that has followed conventional agriculture. Monoculture is responsible for an increased use of fertilisers and decreased crop rotation. Wheat allergies could be a consequence of that: as the same seeds get depleted from being used on the same soil over and again, more fertiliser is needed to give a satisfying yield. It becomes a vicious circle. The way that the modern bread industry bakes could also be part of the explanation: gluten is difficult to digest and only broken down by sourdough cultures and long fermentation, and that takes time. Time is one thing the industry does not have if it is to churn out loaves at a rate of thousands every hour.

Spelt is a very tasty grain that also has a great baking ability, in fact, very similar to wheat. Spelt’s gluten structure is not as strong as that of wheat, but is still strong enough to give volume to spelt bread. Spelt flour is different to work with; you will often find breads made with 100 per cent spelt are a bit flat until you get the hang of working with the flour. Spelt grows primarily organically and the world market remains very small.

Good-quality flour comes from grains that, mostly, have been grown organically, treated correctly after harvesting and milled on stone mills. Flours that have been milled with as much of the husk and germ as possible have great flavour and the highest nutritional value. But that kind of flour is not easy to find, because including the germ in flour – which has a small amount of oil and is packed with vitamin E – means it has a dramatically shorter shelf life in the supermarket (six or seven months as opposed to about two years for flour milled without the germ).

Too long a shelf life is not desirable for flour’s quality and taste. After being milled, it needs to rest for just a few weeks to allow the gluten to strengthen and improve the flour’s baking qualities. Danish millers such as Skærtoft Mølle will only start milling when they receive an order from a supermarket, then they set the terms for how long the flour can sit on the shelf (usually no more than seven months).

Biodiversity has to be present in the variety of bread we eat. What does that mean? It means that the grain should not be sitting in seed banks, but be growing out in the fields. However, the development of seed diversity is a long and slow process. More than 20 years ago in Scandinavia, millers and farmers started growing a larger variety of seeds. It has resulted in a wider selection of rye, wheat and spelt grains such as Ølands wheat, Dalar wheat, black barley, Svejde rye and emmer; all very interesting and tasty.

I have not used these new Scandinavian grains in this book because they are difficult to find in the UK. I mention them anyway because I hope they will be available in the near future. I think it’s something to aim for everywhere in the world: get the seeds out of the seed banks and grow them in the fields for the enjoyment and nourishment they will give us in our food. It improves our health. Furthermore, if you buy flour made from the new grains, it is usually easy to use in many of the different sourdough and yeast breads in this book, so I suggest you experiment.

Rye breads

I love rye bread. I eat it every day.

As a child, for lunch or dinner, I would get three slices of rye bread and then create my own smørrebrød; that is, traditional open sandwiches. I would spread a bit of butter on each slice, then choose different toppings. My favourite was sliced summer new potatoes and roasted onions. A close second was hard-boiled egg, ripe tomato slices and cottage cheese. My third was the simplest: raisins. I would eat the smørrebrød slowly, saving the raisin one for last. It was a treat, my dessert.

But it wasn’t until I married that I started baking rye bread regularly, My classic rye bread, I call it. I was very serious about it. I baked with lots of love for my new family. I mixed my sourdough rye bread starter in 1989 and it’s now a very treasured possession. It moved with me to London and I also had rye flour sent over, because it was difficult to buy in the UK at that time. The sourdough starter also moved with me to Paris, later to Washington DC and then back to Denmark. Now my husband has taken over baking our classic rye, that is his weekly duty.

Rye has a lovely earthy, nutty taste that becomes sourer when baked with a sourdough starter. It does not contain much gluten. As gluten helps bread to rise, 100 per cent rye bread is very dense, so usually rye bread contains a little wheat flour. This chapter has recipes for both 100 per cent rye and mixed rye breads.

In recent years, university science departments in the Nordic countries have conducted major research on the virtues, strengths and properties of rye. Most rye flour in Scandinavia is stoneground whole grain, which makes it very healthy and perfect in the everyday diet. Rye is known to grow well in a cold climate. Like oats, it is thrifty, hardy and survives frosts, making it a robust grain for farming.

And the scientists aren’t the only ones excited about rye. The number of home bakers that bake rye bread is on the increase in Scandinavia. I have given away a lot of my own rye sourdough to other people and have also travelled the world serving rye bread, from South Africa and Brazil to the US and Moscow. The appetite for the tasty, dense dark bread has never been larger. In my travels, and in this chapter, I am very proud to share some of the DNA of our food culture.

Other breads

Baking bread started for me early in life. Over the years, I have learned to bake with a biga, was introduced to spelt, came to understand kneading techniques, resting, proving and the making of dough, worked with different flours, fell in love with my KitchenAid… and travelled around the world, meeting a lot of passionate bakers and cooks, from whom I have learned and with whom I have shared experiences. And I am still learning.

Baking bread is a life-long assignment. The wonderful thing is that, even if you do not want baking to be part of your everyday life, you can just bake tasty loaves now and then without having to commit to encyclopaedic knowledge, or make sourdough, or travel to Scandinavia to buy specialist flour!

No matter what route you choose, baking is a wonderful gift; a small miracle every time yeast, water and salt are mixed, given time to absorb air and then baked into bread. No matter if you do this often or only rarely, baking is about understanding the dough. Handling the dough also has a lot to do with training. As a home baker you can’t expect to get into the consistent routine of the professional baker; you will do things a little bit differently each time… but that is also the beauty of it.

The most common mistake in home baking is to use too much flour. Wet – or, at least, not too dry – dough gives the best result and it can be very intimidating to handle dough like that… sometimes it feels like it’s walking all over your kitchen table! The only way forward is to practice. With wet dough, remember that when it is left to rise, apart from capturing air, the flour absorbs water. Therefore wet dough will be drier after rising. Too much flour in dough at the offset will make the loaves heavy and dry.

Baking is therapeutic and highly satisfying. There is nothing like the smell of home-baked bread. Good bread can’t be rushed; it needs time but – and this is important – not your time but its own time. You can work around it.

Bread is embedded in our culture; deeply connected to our history, to life and to love. ‘Peace goes into the making of a poem as flour goes into the making of bread.’ Pablo Neruda

Rolls

Why rolls? Why not just bake bread? Because I think rolls are special. They are often connected to celebrations of different kinds in Scandinavia, or eaten for a leisurely breakfast at the weekends. In the same way that Americans have pancakes and the Brits have their full English breakfast, we indulge in rundstykker, soft-boiled eggs, cheese and Danish pastries.

I grew up with rundstykke rolls. At the weekends, you would get up and go straight to the baker for rundstykker with either white or black poppy seeds on top (white poppy seeds are most common). Rundstykke just means ‘a round piece’. Thirty years ago, every neighbourhood had a bakery; some had more than one. It’s not like that any more. Bakeries have been disappearing for decades. But, thankfully, there is now a new trend, where either big chains or artisan bakeries are opening. So freshly baked bread is back, and not just some baked-off product you pick up at the petrol station.

Rolls are all about the crust, it’s that simple. You get more crust on a roll than on a slice of bread, and some toppings are just better on a crusty roll than on bread.

There are also different kinds of buns and rolls for occasions such as birthdays, or religious holidays. You will find them in this and other chapters in the book.

Crispbread

Crispbread, flat bread or, as we call it, knækbrød or knäckebröt. If you think about it, it’s not hard to understand why flat crispbreads should come out of Scandinavia...

Rye grows really well in the Nordic climate; therefore we have a long tradition for baking with rye. But it’s difficult to bake with rye because it contains only a small amount of gluten and so does not rise well. Bread that is crisp and flat is therefore perfect to bake with rye flour. An additional advantage is that crispbread can last for a long time. That was a welcome benefit in the old days when you needed food that could be stocked to get the family through cold and tough winters, especially for the families living in vildmarken, the wilderness in the north of Sweden.

But this is all history. Now, most of the crispbread we eat in Scandinavia comes from a factory. Home-baked crispbread is not as common as home-baked leavened breads and cakes. Most artisan bakers in Sweden will bake a signature crispbread, but most bakeries in Denmark wouldn’t bother.

I bake a few different kinds of crispbread. I like to eat them with cheese, dips and houmous and I serve them as snacks for dinner parties, or as an appetiser.

Savouries

Baking is not only about bread and cakes. Most food cultures also have savoury baked goods that can be made from rice flour, corn or barley: just think of blinis, tacos or filled pasta.

Leftover bread can be used in salads and, conversely, leftover vegetables can be used in baking.

I think that, in our future diet, grains will play a more important role. Grains are much more sustainable to eat than meat; we can’t go on eating meat as we do now on an everyday basis.

In these recipes I use a little bacon and salmon, but it can always be left out or substituted without problems.

Smørrebrød

There would be no smørrebrød, the classic Danish lunch, without rye bread. Smørrebrød plays a vital part in Danish food culture and rye bread underpins it all. We eat smørrebrød at restaurants, or buy pieces of smørrebrød as fast food. Take-away smørrebrød shops were the first fast-food outlets in Denmark at the beginning of the 20th century.

Obviously, Scandinavians also make and serve smørrebrød at home. It can be served as a buffet, where you sit at the table and everyone makes up their own combinations. This is a very sociable and lovely way to eat lunch, known as smørgåsbord. If you invite people over for smørrebrød, your guests would normally eat two or three pieces each. The normal order is to start with the fish, then proceed via an egg or a vegetable option to finish with the meat.

For a quick everyday lunch, Danes eat pieces of rye bread with a few toppings that can be eaten without cutlery. We call this madder, and it can often be found in a child’s lunch box.

In this chapter is a selection of some of my favourite smørrebrød on My classic rye bread.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again