Sunnmøre is the Norwegian region in which I was born and raised. Located on the north-western coast, it’s an impossibly beautiful part of the country, decorated with majestic mountains, gorgeous, big fjords and beautiful valleys scattered all over the area. Geiranger, one of Norway’s most popular tourist destinations, is also located here.
There is such a rich food history in Sunnmøre, and the interest for local, organic and artisan products have skyrocketed and now there are an incredible array of high quality food producers offering everything from jams, vinegars and sauces, to biscuits, organic flours and oats, mustards and spice mixtures to mention just a few of the selections from home.
While this blog piece is about bread, Sunnmøre is most famous for its incredible cake culture (think bløtkake, marsipankake, kvæfjordkake, nøttekake, tropisk aroma. I have covered them all here on the blog). If you get invited to a confirmation, wedding or other major party here, don’t think there will only be one, or even TWO elaborate looking cakes on the table. Most likely there will be at least seven or eight, and I have witnessed up to TWENTY FIVE different cakes on a table at once. You can safely say the Sunnmøre locals love their desserts!
But I digress…back to bread!
The people of Sunnmøre is also known for their love of bread, much like the rest of their fellow Norwegian countrymen. I grew up with a mom who would make homemade bread on a regular basis. I loved coming home from school (which was only a stone’s throw away, by the way, I could walk to my grade, middle and high school in anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes), smelling that yeasty, sweet bread smell, knowing I would have some delicious open-face sandwiches in store. Her mom had shown her how to make these special dark rye and whole wheat flour-based breads that tasted so fresh and from the region, and it was this memory that was sparked in me about a week ago when I received a truly special artisan-made Norwegian apron from Hovden Formal Farm Wear.
This small company specializes in making traditional old school Norwegian work shirts called busseruller, and is run by an amazing fellow Norwegian woman, Ingvill Kaasin Montgomery, who like me, is an expat and an entrepreneur. You can read all about her and her beautiful creations in my blog post from yesterday HERE.
What we think of as “bread” today (i.e. loaves, was not bread for most people in the countryside in the old days in Norway and was predominantly a city phenomenon until the mid 19th century. “Bread” was actually a crispbread, what Norwegians today call “flatbrød”. This was often referred to in Norwegian as “stump” or “kake”. The flatbread was usually made in huge batches and could last up to a year, stacked up on top of each other, until it was time to make bread again. Part of the reason why breads were made super thin and flat like this, was to avoid mold forming on the bread.
People’s every day “bread” was in fact porridge, made out of barley, rye or oats, as this was extremely filling, made with readily available ingredients and not expensive. Wheat flour, of which most modern breads are made of today, was not at all common back then. There is a word in Norway called “hvetebrødsdager”, which relates to the period after people get married, where no obligations have to be met, but the couple will go just relax and spend time with each other. Hvetebrød is Norwegian for wheat bread, and so the meaning behind this is that it’s a special, luxurious occasion, much like baking with wheat was back in the old days.
My sister Agnes reminded me of Sunnmørsbrød a few weeks back when she sent me a photo of her weekend activities in the kitchen. She is an amazing and seasoned baker, and she inspires me weekly with her creations, as she too, is very interested in bringing back old traditional recipes. The bread recipe in this post is loosely inspired by one she sent me, and I’m happy to say the bread came out perfect!
The amazing thing with this bread, is you don’t have to let the dough rise twice so it’s quicker to make. The dough gets rolled out immediately after kneading and shaped into loaves, and it needs resting only once. As always, play around with baking time, but 45-50 min should do it at 400°F. They should be crispy on the outside, soft and light on the inside, and gorgeously brown on top.
Whenever I bake, I like to use organic flours, and sometimes even sprouted flours too, for maximum health benefits. This is a typical hearty Norwegian bread, with a crispy crust and soft and moist on the inside. Honestly, my favorite way of eating it is straight out of the oven with just a nice, thick layer of (vegan) butter, but of course, you can freeze these breads easily and they hold up really nicely without crumbling.
1 packet dry fast rising yeast (about 2 1/2 tsp)
About 5 cups luke warm water
3 tbsp rapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup or light syrup
1 tbsp salt
2 1/4 cup (300 grams) whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cup (300 grams) rye flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) old fashioned oats
8 1/4 cup (1,000 grams) all-purpose flour
Pour the yeast, water, rapeseed oil, sugar, and maple syrup into a bowl of a stand mixer and let sit for about 5 minutes until yeast starts to bubble.
Meanwhile in a separate bowl, combine the rye and whole wheat flours, oats and salt. Fit the stand mixer with a dough hook and add the flour mixture to the liquid yeast mixture and combine well.
Then add the all purpose flour and knead the dough for about 10 minutes until you have a smooth dough. Pour the dough onto a clean, lightly floured work surface, divide into three equal pieces and roll out to loaves.
Place in three 2 quart loaf pans (or you can just place them in free form on a lightly oiled baking sheet which I did for two of my loaves) cover with a towel and place in a slightly warm area for about 1 hour. You can see the difference in shape/appearance of the loaves baked in a pan and the loaves just placed loosely on a sheet. I kind of prefer the latter, and not a ‘perfect looking’ bread myself 🙂
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. Brush the top of the loaves with melted vegan butter, and bake for about 45 minutes. Let cool on a rack but not too long—because warm bread and butter is the BEST!!
Freeze any loaves you and your family don’t devour immediately! 😃