A Norwegian breakfast and lunch is never complete without a slice of bread or a type of knekkebrød. These ‘crisp breads’ or ‘breaking breads’ which are flat and dry, resembling a cracker, probably originated in Scandinavia close to 500 years ago. Some sources say that crisp bread was a staple of the Vikings as they could store them for long periods of time. These crisp breads would have been baked on hot stones, while today’s knekkebrød is baked in the oven. Baking them in the oven is what makes these crisp breads so different from the Norwegian flatbrød, which is baked on a flat griddle, much like lefse.
Once considered a poor man’s diet, knekkebrød has become widely popular boasting a healthy lifestyle with numerous variants from slightly sweet to nutty to herby & salty. They are easy to make, forgiving, and require only a few ingredients, which can be interchanged depending on what you have available in your cupboards. All one needs is a little imagination and water.
My Norwegian mother-in-law first showed me how to make homemade knekkebrød in her home in Bergen. We were living in London at the time, and she knew this was something I could easily make no matter where we were. I came across my hand-written recipe and notes which, despite a couple of smudges from previous batches and a few poorly translated words, had survived our years of travels. It was something we could make with little effort to connect us back to Norway. The cracking sound it makes when you first bite into it, the intense flavor of seeds and nuts and the pride that comes from being able to say it came from your own oven make each batch truly special. This is the recipe she gave me all those years ago, only slightly adapted.
These are perfectly paired with a slice of cheese or a spread of jam or topped with fresh cucumber. Great for a snack while out on the trail or whenever hunger calls.
(makes 2 sheet pans, approximately 40 breads)
- 3 dl /135 g (1 cup) course rye flour
- 3 dl /135 g (1 1/2 cups) quick cooking oats
- 1 dl /25g (1/2 cup) wheat bran
- 2 dl /80g (1/2 cup) sesame seeds
- 1 dl /60g (1/2 cup) pumpkin seeds
- 1 dl / 60g (1/2 cup) sunflower seeds
- 1 dl /45g (1/3 cup) linseed/flax seeds
- 1 Tb honey
- Pinch of salt
- 6 dl (2.4 cups) water
Preheat the oven to 350° F / 175° C. Cover two sheet pans completely with parchment paper.
Chop the pumpkin seeds roughly.
In a large measuring cup, mix the honey with a little bit of warm water until diluted. Add more water until the mixture is 6 dl or 2.4 cups in total.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, oats, wheat bran, seeds and a pinch of salt. Slowly add in the honey water until a wet paste forms. You may need to wait a minute or two until the flours and oats soak up more of the water and you get the right consistency.
Pour half of the mixture over one of the sheet pans and spread evenly and thinly, to the very edges. You can use the back of a spatula, or take plastic wrap over the top of the mixture, pressing down and spreading to get an even thickness across the sheet pan. Do the same for the rest of the mixture and the other sheet pan.
Place both sheet pans in the oven. After 10 minutes, take them out and cut gently into rectangles with a pizza cutter or knife. This will make it easier to separate them when they are fully baked.
Place the sheets pans back in oven and bake for another 55-60 minutes, alternating the top pan with the bottom one once through the cooking time. Occasionally open the oven door to release steam. Check the knekkebrød towards the end of the cooking time and look for them being dry and brittle with light browning on the edges.
When finished, break the breads apart gently and let them cool completely on a wire rack. Store in a tight plastic or tin container and they should last for several weeks.