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“Bread is part of the national identity in Norway. To come here and see all the different types of grain and grovbrød (wholemeal bread) – that was all new to me,” says Neil Allsopp.

He’s the brains behind Sour To The People in Hønefoss in Eastern Norway, one of many artisanal bakeries that have popped up around the country. The former gunsmith moved from England to Norway in the 2010s and started baking as a hobby.

Now, he’s a full-time sourdough expert who is excited to wake up every morning to bake tasty bread. According to Allsopp, he’s actually obsessed with baking.

The process of creating sourdough is so transformative. You start with flour, water and salt, then a few days later you have something healthy to eat. Even though it takes more time to make than regular bread, it’s worth the wait! Sourdough breads stay fresh longer, and they are the best option for your digestion,” he explains.

Handle with care

Sourdough is certainly not new, but it’s seen a renaissance in recent years. It’s a global trend, and lots of people bake their own at home.

“It’s brilliant. People have had more time, especially during 2020. Social media has also played a massive role in this boost because people want to try what they see there. And bread is really big on Instagram,” says Allsopp.

Learning how to bake sourdough is a test of both your patience and your nurturing skills. No, we’re not joking – you actually have to take close care of your sourdough starter.

“The starter is the stumbling block for most people, having the patience to let it grow. You need to feed it every day, and you can’t neglect it,” Allsopp explains.

Don’t aim for success on the first try, though. Allsopp says it’s better to be prepared to fail the first few times. But once you get the hang of it, the sky is the limit. You can even try to decorate your bread, so it'll look as delicious as it tastes!

Gives you energy

Allsopp considers eating bread to be really positive, especially when it's filled with healthy ingredients. You can add everything from seeds to nuts and make a wholegrain bread full of flavour. Even bakers like Allsopp can’t get enough!

“There are still so many combinations that I haven’t even thought of trying yet. And you can use many different kinds of pålegg (toppings) and open up all the flavours in the bread,” he says.

For Allsopp, the best flavours come from the best ingredients. He only uses local and organic products and cooperates closely with talented farmers.

“Grain has always been very important for Norwegians. Centuries ago, it was thought of as Gudslånet, which means ‘something we’ve borrowed from God’,” says Norwegian cookbook author Bodil Nordjore.

She has won multiple awards for her work with Norwegian food culture. What she receives the most questions about is bread. She has therefore written an entire 255-page book on the subject, including 120 recipes!

Ancient traditions

In the Viking Age, people ground wheat berries into flour by hand and made a flatbread, which they baked on a hot flagstone.

“They called it brauðiskr ('bread plate') and ate it with toppings like fish and meat.”

It’s like the original Norwegian pizza – and we’ve kept parts of this tradition alive, making lefse (sweet flatbread) and flatbrød (unleavened flatbread eaten with fish, soups etc.). Baking traditions have modernised a lot since then (thank you, technology!) and bread now comes in all shapes and sizes.

“In Norway, the most common bread types are made from oats, barley and wheat, but we are also inspired by international baking traditions, with things like French country bread and Italian focaccia,” says Nordjore.

She points out that even though Norwegians like to try out new trends, we often go back to what we know and love: healthy and nutritious 'everyday bread' filled with grain.

In addition to our beloved grovbrød (wholegrain bread), we also eat a lot of kneippbrød, landbrød (country bread) and rye bread.

We also know how to treat ourselves, and lots of people bake varieties of loff (white bread) for weekends or public holidays. The common ingredients are wheat flour, milk, butter and yeast, but there are several varieties. Some add sugar and eggs for an extra sweet flavour, while others sprinkle poppy seeds on top.

At Christmas, many people enjoy julebrød  (Christmas bread) – a real treat, filled with raisins. It’s sweet, almost like a bolle, and tastes delicious with sweet brown cheese. It’s too good to only enjoy once a year, so a lot of people bake it whenever they like.

Nordjore emphasises that whatever variety you prefer, bread is very easy to make at home. This is one of the reasons why Norwegians love it.

“In addition, wholegrain bread fills you up. Two slices of bread will keep your belly full until your next meal,” she says.

The proof that we eat a lot of bread

In Norway, bread is sold at bakeries, supermarkets (many have 10-15 varieties!) and some petrol stations. In total, Norwegians buy 206,115 tons (!) of bread from these vendors a year, according to Sissel Flesland Markedsinformasjoner AS, a company that gathers statistics for the baking industry.

What’s even more crazy, is that this number does not even include sweet buns and baguettes, or the bread we bake at home! We were not joking when we said we eat a lot of bread!

And we don’t like to let our brød go to waste. The Norwegian Information Office for Bread and Grain has recipes for everything from toast and croutons to churros (a sweet Spanish snack) using dry bread we might otherwise waste!

It’s healthy and good for your wallet – and you can use every last crumb. What’s not to love about bread? Time to don an apron and discover the tasty world of brød!

Bake your own healthy bread at home

Feeling inspired to bake your own? Try the Norwegian Information Office for Bread and Grain’s recipe for brown bread with barley and oats! It’s healthy and delicious.  This recipe was created by talented Norwegian baker Arild Mellemsæther.

This recipe makes: 2 loaves
Difficulty level: medium
Total time: 3-4 hours, including prep., rising, and time in the oven.

Ingredients

Grains to soak
150g wholemeal, brown
25g wheat bran
60g barley flour
60g oats
350 ml water

The main dough
450g wheat flour
300g wholemeal flour
20g salt
25g fresh yeast
350 ml skimmed milk

A little milk for glazing, and oats for topping.

Instructions

1. Soak the grains: Mix wholemeal, wheat bran, barley flour, oats and water in a large mixing bowl. Let the grains soak for approximately 30 minutes at room temperature.

2. Complete the dough: Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl. Knead the dough using a stand mixer (food mixer). First on low speed for 3 minutes, then 3 more minutes on a higher speed.

3. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes, before kneading the dough with your hands. Let it rest for another 20 minutes.

4. Divide dough in half and create two loaves. Glaze the loaves with milk and roll them in oats before placing them into two 2-litre loaf pans. Cover the pans and leave the bread to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 210 °C. Bake the bread in the lower part of the oven until golden brown, approximately 40 minutes.

6. Remove the bread from the loaf pans right away and leave them to cool on a cooling rack/oven grid.

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