To grow up in Scandinavia is to know the smell of baking crispbread.
“If you’re from Sweden, Denmark or Norway, your grandmother has a recipe for crispbread,” says Hedvig Bourbon, the founder of Norwegian Baked, a brand-new business providing Brooklyn — and Bklyn Larder — with Knekkebrød, Norway’s version of crispbread.
Bourbon’s grandmother baked, and so did her mother. But she rediscovered homemade knekkebrød while visiting an aunt a few summers ago.
“She was baking knekkebrød, and it smelled so good and was so delicious — I got completely addicted!” laughs Bourbon.
She returned to Brooklyn and, while raising her young family, began experimenting with recipes (unlike her aunt’s, her recipe calls for olive oil), consulting Norwegian food blogs and comparing notes with friends in Norway.
“They were all like, ‘We’ve been baking it the whole time!’ But I had been living away for so long and I had no idea they were making it too!”
Eventually, she settled on a recipe using organic dark rye flour (“so it’s wheat free”), oat bran and pumpkin, sunflower, flax and sesame seeds.
“In my family we will have it for breakfast with butter and jam. For lunch I usually have it with a salad, or on the run with butter — I really love butter — or with cream cheese or a little bit of peanut butter or hummus. My favorite thing, though, is to have it with Jarlsberg. Or cheddar cheese,” explains Bourbon, when asked how to eat Knekkebrød.
“And when the kids come home [from school] I have a big tin of it, and they either snack on it straight or with Nutella. Basically, it just follows us throughout the day!” Bourbon says, with another ribbon of laughter.
It’s hard to imagine the same being said of the version most Americans are acquainted with.
“Finn Crisps, Wasa — these are the worldwide, mass-produced versions. What I’m making is the homemade version of the knekkebrød, the traditional one. In Norway you can buy it in the bakery stores,” Bourbon explains.
“And really, when I make it, I have to take some of the seeds, and mix it with the water and the olive oil, and then I have to quickly spread it on the baking sheets, because if it sits too long, then the oats and everything sucks up so much of the water that it becomes too thick to spread out. So, this version would be so hard to make a mass-produced version of. It really would always have to be artisanal, I think.”
With such an addictive snack now available, Brooklynites may want to stock up on Brie, Roquefort, goat cheese and wine — other pairings Bourbon suggests.
“It’s very versatile and then it’s just so healthy, because of the seeds and the grains,” she adds warmly, “and it doesn’t have anything in to make it last a long time. It’s pure. You can feel good about eating it.” •