Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Archipelago, ahoy - dark, dense, sweet and malty archipelago bread

The Herring Fair might have finished, but my love of herring, sail boats, schnapps songs, the Swedish spoken on the West coast of Finland with a very distinctive singing note and all the other treats of life in the archipelago hasn't. And the archipelago bread is pretty high up there. Not least because of its charmingly challenging name: skärgårdsbröd (pronounced more or less schaergoordsbroed for you willing to give it a try).

Now, for those of you not in the know, Finnish archipelago and the West coast are a world of their own. People there speak Swedish, everyone seems perpetually happy and everyone (or so it seems, to a non-boating Finnish speaker anyway) sails. In addition to language of their own (which they speak in a very different way to, say, the Swedes) they seem to have a rich culture of their own, which seems to revolve around sea and joyous get-togethers (inevitably somewhere by the sea) to the tune of schnapps songs. See, every schnapps they take (and they looove their schnapps) tends to come with its own, lengthy song. Unlike Finns, they rarely get belligerently drunk though - probably because more time is spent singing about drinking than actually drinking. 

Archipelago bread somehow captures the very essence of this magic: its dark, chewy sweetness just calls for salty herring, new potatos and endless care-free summer days so full of laughter even the screams of the seagulls take the backseat.

I have always been under the impression that making that bread is a time-consuming and technically demanding process that people without ålandish roots simply won't have a chance of succeeding at. Until I came across this recipe in a Finnish magazine and ahoy! Piece of cake! Like my other favourite, the no knead bread, it doesn't even require any kneading! Though it does take fair bit of time: after mixing the dough you have to let it rise (1,5 hours) after which it needs to be baked (2 hours) after which you need to wait - malt breads are best after a couple of days from baking. 

Since even after my recent shopping sprees my collection of loaf tins is very limited, I resorted to the kind of disposable loaf tins they sell in shops. Their volume was 1 litre each and this recipe called for 3 of those. If you have bigger loaf tins (á 2 l), 2 will be enough.

Makes 2-3 loaves

1 l buttermilk
75 g fresh yeast
3 dl syrup
3 dl rye malt
3 dl bran
3 dl rye flour
1 tbsp salt
10 dl all purpose flour

For greasing the loaf tins: 2 tbsp butter

For glazing the loaves: 1,5 dl water + 0,5 dl syrup

Warm the buttermilk to 37° . Crumble yeast into it and then add rest of the ingredients mixing with a wooden spoon. Don't knead. Not that you really could - the mixture is fairly wet.

Grease the loaves with butter and divide the dough into the tins. Cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place for 1,5 hrs.

Pre-heat the oven to 175°. Bake 1,5 hours in the centre of the oven. The  take the loaves out. Mix the glaze thoroughly and glaze the loaves with it. Return to the oven and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the tins. When cool, wrap in plastic and let rest in fridge for 2-3 days.

The loaves keep well and can be frozen too.

What do you know! Even if the person working her magic with that wooden spoon was a Finnish-speaking socially challenged Northerner, these turned out beautiful. I'm already toying with several ideas for Christmas bread. With figs, raisins, nuts, cloves... Ooh, I can't wait!

And now that I'm fully immersed in my archipelago mode... I just had to have some herring with these, hadn't I! Recipes for these to follow!




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