...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Food journal number 20: Knäckebröd

Another something on my back(b)log is an explanation to my blog title's icon. I think I managed to mention it several times in different blog entries but haven't yet been able to write an entry devoted to that ubiquitous brown bread, the knäckebröd. Knäckebröd -- translated sometimes as crisp bread -- comes in different brands and types here (extra fiber, gourmet, sesame-seed flavored, etc.). This one below is the so-called "volvo of knäckebröd", i.e. the plainest, probably most purchased, no-frills crisp bread, with a trusted brand and a relatively-cheap price:

Knäckebröd is actually suppposedly very healthy: it's basically very very dry rye bread, baked in high temperature for a short time so that it only retains 10% moisture (you can tell by now that it's not called crisp bread for nothing!) It therefore also holds for a very long time -- that is, unless you're in a humid place like the Philippines, where the knäckebröd we brought kind of turned limp and uncrispy after only a week. Otherwise though, this bread is good to have in your pantry on stock and virtually never gets stale, at least not in a year's time, according to the expiry date on our latest package. Perhaps knäckebröd -- by the way a very Nordic kind of food -- was a way to preserve bread throughout the long winter. Story even has it that this traditional bread was a staple of the Vikings, who kept the bread in their boats when they were out for several months.

In our case, we almost always keep a twin-pack of knäckebröd for that "rainy day without dinner", where we can have it with sliced hard-boiled egg and Kalles kaviar on top (see that link, Kalle of Kalles kaviar is eating knäckebröd!) Actually though, you can have knäckebröd with basically anything on top, from cheese, bellpepper slices, or just butter, and this makes it a versatile staple. According to this Swedish wiki article, 85% of households in Sweden may think the same way: they always have knäckebröd at home too!

I'm told that if you're Swedish-swedish, knäckebröd is one of the things you will be sure to miss abroad. In the 80's comedy film Sällskapsresan (rougly: "Charter flight") that I got to watch last year, a psychologist even tries a "fool-proof" way to smuggle in money to another country: by replacing wads of money into the knäckebröd box and sending it over the flight with some other typically Swedish goods (guess they didn't have good x-ray machines in the 80's, at least not in that film!)

For the real knäckebröd lover though, the Wasa brand is also available and highly popular in Germany and the Netherlands, and Kristine said that it was available also in a New York shop where the bread is called by its brand Wasa. And lastly, the French apparently know about the knäckebröd as well. It makes a 5-second feature in this very entertaining Renault "crash test" ad. The ending in German says: "the safest cars come from France".

...but wait, I thought the safest cars came from Sweden! More of that on one of my next posts ;-)


Blogger Cheryl said...

husman! i originally read it as HUMAN, nyek. hahaha

3:17 AM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Haha! Maybe you were thinking too much of the Kalles kaviar cannibalism joke :-D Husman is literally "taong bahay" in Filipino, but I guess with more a homey (and not bum-like) associations. For example, "husmanskost" is "lutong bahay", that familiar comfort-food.

10:31 AM

Anonymous ria said...

Oprah plugged Wasa in her show and goodness, knäckebröd sales in the US skyrocketed! I love the white/paler variant which is not as hard as the original brown one...for some reason i get so paranoid that i will hurt my front teeth (o kaya become buck toothed ulit) if i take a bite into it...tigas kasi eh...hahaha

8:13 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Interesting story, Ria! I wonder how much Wasa paid her though. Maybe it will find it's way to the Oprah Christmas givaway basket too!

Oh yeah, I like the delicatess variant too. It's good with pepparot cheese :-P yummmm

12:12 AM

Blogger vlado&toni said...

yup knäckebrot, that's what we call it here in Germany. It's quite popular here, but I'm not much of a fan of it -- except the one with sesame seed on it :) that i still can take. I find it really dry even if I put something on it. Maybe that Kalles Kaviar can make it more interesting :)
i haven't been to Ikea this summer but when I go there I will really explore on that food corner, your posts make me really curious about swedish food. when I was with a friend in stockholm, there was free tasting of a knäckebrot and it was really good, it has some caraway seeds (kümmel in german, maybe it sounds almost just like the same in swedish) and cardamon. that was really good but i haven't seen this kind here yet.

6:09 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Hi Toni! Nah, Kalles kaviar won't make the knäckebröd/brot less dry, but I definitely think it makes it flavorful (i.e. if you like salty things on your bread too. There are mixed reactions about this. My friend Kristine liked it and said she could have it everyday for breakfast; her officemates thought it was the strangest thing).

Nowadays, I just eat hardboiled eggs with Kalles instead of salt, with or without the bread. On the other hand, I could eat the bread (the less fibrous variants) on its own.

I think caraway seeds are kumminfrön (or kummin) in Swedish... Pwede na, it's a bit close to the German kümmel if you stretch it, heheh. :-)

12:50 AM

Blogger Christianne said...

I didn't know maglalanta ang knäckebröd sa Pinas - we bought some packs last time we went home and gave them to my in-laws, I wonder how long it lasted hehe. And yup, Wasa's being marketed as a health food in the US and Canada too - I saw an ad in a magazine my aunt brought with her when she visited. :)

9:37 AM


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