FLATBREAD Flatbrød (Norway)
Probably the oldest and commonest form of bred in premodern Norway, this is a fine, paper-thin unleavened bread which used to be baked in the farmhouse kitchen only twice a year; it is so fine and dry and indestructible that it could remain fresh stored on a beam in the kitchen for six months at a time. There are still countrywomen around who make their own flatbrød. Since oats, rye and and barley are the cereals which can be successfully grown in the cold of northern Scandinavia, these are the grains which are used. The inclusion of wheat in this recipe makes the dough much easier to work. The wide round disks of flatbread are usually factory-baked today. For convenience they are often cut into neat rectangles and packaged in paper to be sold in supermarkets as “extra-thin crispbread”.
Each farming household had its own special flatbrød mix, depending on the cereals it could produce. The following is a basic modern recipe.
YIELD: Makes 12 to 15 flatbreads
TIME: 1 hour
1/2 pound (1 3/4 cups) oat or barley flour
1/2 pound (1 3/4 cups) rye flour
1/2 pound (1 3/4 cups) wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups skimmed milk
You will need a griddle or a heavy frying pan, or, best of all, a takke. Mix the different flours together with the salt. Pour the skimmed milk into a well in the middle, and knead into an elastic dough. Work it well to develop the gluten. Cut the dough into pieces and roll each one out, preferably with a specially grooved rolling pin, into the widest, thinnest sheets possible (you should aim to achieve a diameter of 18 inches).
Bake on an ungreased metal sheet (a takke) on top of your heat source until the flatbreads are quite crisp and dry. Store in an airtight tin. (in the cold, dry air of winter Norway this would not be necessary).
Thin flatbread was eaten crumbled into small pieces very much like corn-flakes, with fresh or soured milk or (for special occasions) cream poured over it.
A part of Christmas celebrations is mølje: flatbread crumbled into the broth from the boiling of the special Christmas meats.
In certain parts of Norway dry-baked flatbrød used to be (and still is in those places where the old traditions hold) the central ingredient of the harvest meal. Moistened to make it as pliable as a pancake, the bread is quartered, spread with fresh sweet butter, and used to wrap up tidbits such as dried mutton, slices of fresh, deep-orange-yolked, hard-cooked egg, a fine slice of the dark-brown sweet cheese, geitost, so beloved of the Norwegians, salted herring and finally a spoonful of cloudberry jam to round off the meal.