The Bread Baking Babes are baking Hällakakor this month. Hällakakor is a flatbread from the Norrlands, the northern most region of Sweden. This region grows only barley so the traditional breads here were made with it. Hällakakor gets its name from the flat stone it is traditionally baked on. Halla means flat stone and Kakor means cakes (Singular Kaka and plural Kakor).
The more well-known Swedish Knäckebröd is a crispbread whereas the Norrländska Hällakakor is a thin but soft flatbread. This flatbread is baked for a very short time so it stays soft. It generally seasoned with fennel, aniseed or caraway or left plain. Swedish refer to caraway as kummin and what we know as cumin is spiskummin there! I understand that if this flatbread is pan fried then it is referred to as known as Stekpannebröd.
A very similar Swedish flatbread is Hönökakor. Hönö is a small island off the west coast of Sweden, a short ferry ride from Gothenburg. Hällakakor is usually eaten warm from the oven generously spread with salted butter or topped with cheese. It can also be eaten with hearty soups and stews. These flatbreads make very good sandwiches, either folded or grilled Panini style.
A demo I watched has the Swedish woman who’s making the bread saying, “Work with a piece of dough that fits your hand because that is comfortable to work with. Then use the Randekavel to roll out the dough. Work it, and after a while turn it so you get the round shape. As the old saying goes, your partner will be as handsome as beautiful as your bread is!” She also says that perhaps looks aren’t everything after all.
In the old days in Sweden, it was customary to hang Hällakakor in the attic to dry them. This dried bread became quite hard and was eaten in the winter months. Traditionally they were made with a mix of barley (very low gluten) flour and whole wheat or all-purpose flour. Some recipes call for rye flour. Hällakakor get a good part of their soft and fluffy texture from hjorthornssalt or reindeer salt. Hjorthornssalt was originally made from deer antlers, but now from ammonium carbonate. It can be substituted with double the quantity of baking powder though that’s not quite the same.
The original flatbreads also called for syrup and fat. The Swedish use a light syrup, but golden syrup or honey are both decent substitutes. These flatbreads also call for the use of special rolling pins. One is the Randakavel which is a raised stripe rolling pin that is used to roll out the dough. The other is the Kuskavel, a notched knobbly rolling pin which gives the Hällakakor their characteristic pitted appearance.
If you don’t have the special rolling pins, one of those wooden massage rollers should work well. Else you could try something different. You might not get the same effect visually but the flatbreads should be fine otherwise. I tried using an embossed rolling pin and the knobbly surface of my jam jars. They didn’t work. I ended up using a regular rolling pin and my Chekich stamp. So my flat breads look absolutely nothing like they should but they’re pretty enough. They’re also good, so don’t judge my breads by their appearance.
Hällakakor seem to be made very thin or slightly thicker, and are mostly docked. I would suggest rolling the dough out reasonably thin, as they’re more likely to have air pockets. They also cook very quickly, in about 3 to 4 minutes, because they’re thin. A pizza stone in the oven helps. Do not over bake, lest they lose their softness. Air bubbles and the hint of browning means the bread is done. Hällakakor freeze well and left overs warm in quite well in the microwave.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder or baker’s ammonia
- 3/4 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/8 cup honey
- 25 gm butter soft at room temperature
- 3/4 to 1 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp coarsely crushed fennel seeds
- Place all ingredients except the milk in the bowl of your kneading machine. If using baker’s ammonia, dissolve it in a little water before adding to the bowl. Knead well with as much milk is required until you have a reasonably soft (not too soft), smooth and pliable dough. Let rise for about 2 hours or so knocking back and briefly kneading 2-4 times in between. The dough can also be chilled overnight.
- Divide the dough into 10 or 12 equal portions and shape into round balls. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise briefly, about 20 minutes. Lightly dust your working surface with flour.Roll out quite thin into roughly 8 or 9-inch circles with a notched or regular rolling pin. Dock well if using a flat rolling pin. If using a grooved/ striped pin, follow with the notched pin. Brush off excess flour, if any.
- Bake the Hällakakor at the highest possible temperature in your oven, 260C (500F), ideally placing it directly on a baking stone. Otherwise use a lightly greased baking tray on pre-heated upturned baking sheet. Bake for 3-4 minutes each, until bubbles appear on the surface of the flatbread and they done and still soft. These flatbreads are not meant to be crisp.
- Serve warm with butter, cheese or soup or stew.
The Bread Baking Babes are –