SWEDISH SOFT OR HARD FLATBREADS
Adapted from The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson

Mjukböd / Tunnbröd (Sweden) 

These flatbreads are really important childhood memories for me. When you bake them and fire up the big wood-fired flatbread oven, the whole extended family will seize the opportunity to come and bake together. Baking flatbreads like these is not something we do often, perhaps twice a year, once before Christmas and once in the spring. I remember at my grandparents’ farm, especially before Christmas, vast quantities were made. Up to a couple of hundred cakes each of soft and hard flatbreads in a day. When you are a kid the first task for which you assume responsibility is to start sweeping the excess flour off the rolled out cakes before they go into the oven. This is an important task as excess flour will easily burn and turn black in the superheated oven. The task reserved for the most seasoned veteran is the baking, often done by an older lady who has, over the years, gotten accustomed to the heat of the oven, which can reach over 400.C/750.F degrees. In a very hot oven, during full production, the baking of a single bread takes only about 25–40 seconds.

The difference between soft and hard flatbreads in Sweden is simply that the soft ones, which where historically meant to be eaten fresh as a treat after baking, are a bit thicker, while the hard ones are left to dry and stored for eating later.

Preparation and cooking time: 2 hours

Rising time: 2 hours

Makes: 15 soft or 25 hard flatbreads

Ingredients

  • 750 ml/25 fl oz (3 cups) milk
  • 250 g/9 oz (2¼ sticks) butter
  • 280 g/10 oz (¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon) golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon ground aniseed
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
  • ½ tablespoon ground coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons baker’s ammonia
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1750 g/ oz (cups) strong wheat flour

For the first dough

  • 25 g/1 oz yeast
  • 750 ml/25 fl oz (3 cups) milk
  • 750 g/1 lb 10 oz (5½ cups) Swedish rye/wheat
  • bread flour (rågsikt)

Instructions

Dissolve the yeast in the milk for the first dough in a bowl, add the rye and strong wheat flour and mix until smooth and very sticky. I usually do the mixing at this point with my hand or with a big wooden spoon but it works fine using a stand mixer too. Cover with a clean dish cloth and leave the first dough somewhere warm (20–24°C/68–75°F) to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Combine the milk and butter in a pan and heat until 35°C/95°F, or until the butter has melted. Add the syrup and the spices to the milk and pour the mix into the bowl containing the first dough. Mix until combined then add the remaining flour, baker’s ammonia and salt together. Work the dough for about 10 minutes by hand or 5 in a stand mixer. It should be very sticky and quite loose. Cover with a clean dish cloth and leave to rise for about 45 minutes, or until again doubled in size.

Tip the dough onto a floured work counter and divide it into 15–25 equal pieces, depending on whether you are making soft or hard flatbreads. Shape them into equal balls and leave to rest for another 25 minutes.

Heat a pizza oven to as high as it goes or preheat your kitchen oven to 250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 9 (or to its highest temperature) and preheat a heavy baking sheet.

Flour the work counter generously and roll each dough ball into a round flatbread, around 3 mm/1/8 using a ridged rolling pin if you are making soft ones, and as thin as possible if you are making hard ones. Finish the rolling with a knobbed rolling pin (see illustration, page 511) then brush off any excess flour with a soft brush.

Use a baker’s peel (pizza shovel) to lift the flatbread into the pizza oven and bake until bubbly and just beginning to blacken around the edges. Otherwise, bake on the preheated baking sheet in a normal oven.

Fold and bag immediately when they have cooled down if you are making soft flatbreads or leave them out on a wire rack to dry if you are making hard ones.