I go to Sweden a lot to visit friends, bake and keep learning about bread. My friend Kat has been eating and discussing bread with me enthusiastically for years and on a recent trip to Sweden we were baking again. There is a great tradition of baking in all of the Nordic countries, including Sweden of course, and you can get fresh yeast and a great range of flour in almost every supermarket, not to mention excellent bread wherever you go.
After kneading the dough and letting it rise (recipe below, of course!) we discovered that the bread tin had grown legs and taken a vacation. We could have made buns of course but somehow yearned for a loaf and so we used her Sarpaneva cast iron pot in which to bake the bread. This pot was designed in 1960 and is a classic of Finnish design. Thankfully you can still buy them today!
The bread was gorgeous both in and out of the pot. Rich with raisins, nuts, and cardamom – it was the centrepiece of the table and was eaten Scandi style – with butter, thinly sliced cheese and jam! Enjoy.
Recipe for Sarpaneva bread
650 g strong white bread flour
650 g whole spelt flour
200 g light or dark rye flour
1 kg water (one gram = one ml)
30 g fresh yeast (or 15 g dry yeast or 7.5 g instant yeast)
30 g salt
1 tablespoon of ground cardamom (if you cannot get it you can use cinnamon, ginger, anise or any other “sweet” spice that you like)
1 handful of flax seeds
1 handful of sunflower seeds
1 handful of pumpkin seeds
1 handful of raisins
1 handful of dried apricot
1 handful of dried dates
The night before you want to bake put the dried fruit and seeds in a big bowl of water. Cover and let sit over night. Drain it in the morning reserving the liquid. Weigh the liquid and then top it up to 1 kg. Reserve the seeds/fruit in one bowl and the liquid in another.
When you want to bake, put the flour in a bowl and make a well in it. If you are using fresh or instant yeast, crumble/sprinkle it into the well, add the water and mix it well. If you are using dry yeast, sprinkle it into the well, pour 250 g water on it and leave it for 15 minutes to let the yeast dissolve. Add the rest of the water and mix it well. Add the salt and the spices and turn the dough out on to the counter to knead it. It is sticky because of the rye but knead well, using a scraper to help you, for 10 minutes and resist the urge to add more flour. If the dough get at all stiff (at all – really – at all) just add a bit more water. Return it to the bowl, cover it and let it sit for 30 minutes. For a video on kneading sticky dough click here. For a video of how to make a tight ball, click here.
Scrape the dough out of the bowl and flatten it slightly. Dump the fruit and seeds on top and knead them in gently so you don’t squash the fruit which is not fragile because it is full of water! Don’t worry about the dough, it will recover. When the fruit and seeds are incorporated, Scrape the dough up and put it in the bowl again. Cover it and leave it for 2 hours.
After two hours grease the Sarpaneva pot with a hard fat (butter, coconut oil, lard) so that the fat sticks to the sides of the pot and does not just run down the sides. If your pot is not well seasoned, or if you are in any way concerned about sticking on the bottom, cut out a circle of non stick parchment paper and put it on the bottom of the pot. Grease that too. Then, pull the dough out of the bowl and shape it as best you can into a big, firm ball. To do this, stretch and fold it once all the way around and then flip it over. Flour your hands and lace them on the top of the ball of dough. Pull them down and around the dough to meet in the middle under the bottom. Turn the dough and repeat. Do this 5 or 6 times until the ball feels very firm to the touch. Place the dough into the pot and cover it again. Leave it to rest for 1 hour.
Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Pop the bread in the oven and let it bake for 45 minutes. Remove it from the oven and then remove it from the pot. Tap the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow and feel “thin” – not as if there was mashed potato under the crust. If it does not sound or feel done, put it back in the pot and back in the oven for 5-10 minutes. If at any point it is getting too brown, just cover it with some non stick parchment paper.
Let it cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into this delicious, majestic loaf.