Knekkebrød, a favorite Scandinavian staple

A taste of tradition for everyday delight

Photo: Kristi Bissell
Knekkebrød—crispbread­—is a delicious Scandinavian pantry staple that is easy to make at home.

KRISTI BISSELL
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American

Crispbread—Norwegian knekkebrød­—is a common household item in Norway today, with origins that go back to the sixth century in central Sweden. Because it was made with a small amount of water, it can stay fresh for a long time. With its simple ingredients, it was long known as a “poor man’s food,” and became a staple of the Scandinavian diet.

Swedes boast the highest consumption of crispbread, closely followed by Norway. Crispbread is Sweden’s second largest food export (just behind vodka), and on average, Swedes consume over 450 slices of crispbread per year! While crispbread might seem like just a cracker, Scandinavians see it as another form of bread and serve it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and as a snack in between meals.

Knekkebrød was traditionally made only twice a year and stored on a long pole hanging near the ceiling, hence the hole in the center of each piece. When you were ready for another crispbread, you could simply climb up, slide one off the pole and give it a little dust off. While this storage method is very charming, modern day Scandinavians are more likely to opt for an airtight container to keep their crispbread fresh and dust-free.

Thin, crisp, and so easy to make from scratch, this traditional recipe for rye Scandinavian Crispbread is sure to become a regular part of your baking rotation. These crispbreads are simple, delicious, and full of good things like dark rye flour and old-fashioned rolled oats…a serious step up from store bought rye crackers!

Perhaps best of all, it’s an easy and fun baking project to take on in an afternoon. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions for making Scandinavian Crispbread—Knekkebrød—at home!

Why this recipe works

• The dough contains only simple, wholesome ingredients and rolls out incredibly easily.

• The crispbreads are (as the name suggests) really light and crisp in texture.

• They taste subtly of rye flour and oats and make the perfect backdrop for a variety of different toppings

What is the best way to store knekkebrød?

It’s best to store it in an airtight container at room temperature. It will keep for at least a couple of weeks.

What is the difference between instant and active dry yeast?

The essential difference between the two is that instant yeast can be mixed right in with the dry ingredients whereas active dry yeast needs to be proofed in warm liquid before adding it to the recipe. Instant yeast is also more reliable, effective, and fast-acting.

Can I substitute active dry yeast for the instant yeast?

Yes, if you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast it is best to warm the milk in the recipe to about 105° to 115° F and stir the sugar and yeast into the warm milk. Let it sit until it begins to become foamy (about 10 minutes) and proceed with the recipe.

Can these be made vegan?

Absolutely! Substitute plant-based milk for the regular milk and your favorite vegan butter substitute for the butter.

What to serve on Knekkebrød

Crispbread makes an excellent base for just about anything and everything, and quite honestly, nothing quite beats a generous smear of good butter. But there are many toppings beyond butter to consider as well.

For breakfast, think butter and sliced hard-boiled egg, or maybe cream cheese and a homemade fruit compote or store-bought jam.

For lunch, how about a piece of crispbread piled high with creamy chickpea salad or egg salad?

It makes a very nice partner for gravlax (with a little mustard sauce drizzled over the top). And as an easy and delicious accompaniment to your Nordic supper, serve it buttered along side a cozy soup or stew. It’s perfect for dipping.

While there are many obvious ways to use crispbread, there a few not so obvious but popular ways to eat this crunchy bread in Scandinavia:

•     Crushed-up and sprinkled on yogurt with fruit for breakfast;

•     Covered with cheese and broiled to make crispy little toasts;

•     Crispbread pizza! Top your knekkebrød with a few favorite ingredients and a sprinkling of cheese and pop it into a 350° oven to heat through. Ingenious!

KNEKKEBRØD

(Scandinavian Crispbread)

EQUIPMENT

Parchment paper
2 rimmed baking sheets
Regular rolling pin
Notched rolling pin (kruskavel) or a dinner fork
Pizza wheel
1-inch diameter round cookie cutter
Pastry or basting brush
Wire cooling rack

INGREDIENTS

1 cup dark rye flour
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup rolled oats
½ tsp. fine salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsps. instant dry yeast
¾ cup milk
2 tbsps. unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more melted butter for brushing
Large sea salt crystals for sprinkling

INSTRUCTIONS

1.    Whisk flours, oats, salt, sugar, and yeast together in a large bowl. Stir in milk and butter. Knead briefly in the bowl with your hands until the dough comes together (dough will be quite stiff and a bit sticky). Cover and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

2.    Preheat oven to 375°. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces and cover with plastic wrap. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll to a thin round on a sheet of parchment paper using a traditional rolling pin.

3.    Roll with a kruskavel a few times or poke all over with a skewer or fork. Cut a 1-inch hole out of the center using a biscuit cutter. Set the round cut out piece of dough next to the larger crispbread. Brush both with butter and sprinkle with sea salt crystals.

4.    Transfer parchment paper to a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and crispy, about 12 –15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.

This article originally appeared in the October 7, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Kristi Bissell

Kristi Bissell is the founder of True North Kitchen, a Nordic food blog designed for the American home cook. She enjoys creating recipes that celebrate her Scandinavian heritage and that approach traditional Nordic ingredients in a modern, fresh and approachable way. Kristi is a native of Minneapolis and currently resides in Omaha, Neb. When she’s not cooking and baking in her cozy kitchen, Kristi teaches private and corporate yoga classes and leads Scandinavian cooking and baking workshops. For more information, visit her blog, www.true-north-kitchen.com.