Johanna Kindvall and I have been friends for years, ever since I discovered her food illustrations on Instagram and reached out to her to share my enthusiasm for them. Over the years since we met we have collaborated on a handful of recipes together, which meant (lucky me) I got to send her one of my recipes for her to illustrate and post to her blog.
Our most recent mashup involved me creating a sourdough discard version of the knäckebröd (Swedish crispbread) from her wonderful book Smörgåsbord: The Art of Swedish Breads and Savory Treats. (In truth, my contribution here was pretty minimal: The recipe was so good already it didn’t take much in the way of additional testing on my part.) She posted it to her blog earlier this summer, and has graciously agreed to let me share it here as well. She and I have much bigger collaboration plans in the works, but I don’t want jinx the project by saying any more about it just yet. (Expect to see more of her work here in the meantime, including some things she’s drawing for Pizza November!)
I did want to mention one more thing I’ve noticed about sourdough discard recipes, this one included: They are often not as sour-tasting as you’d expect, even with the intense sourness of some sourdough discards and even if you aren’t adding an acid-neutralizing base like baking soda. Here’s my theory as to why: Of the two acids present in sourdough—acetic and lactic acid—acetic acid is particularly volatile, with a boiling point around 250˚F. So merely cooking the product can drive off much of the more assertive acetic acid, leaving behind far more mild-mannered lactic acid.
My friend Andrew Janjigian, who is behind the #quarantinystarter project on instagram, texted me to ask if I ever used sourdough discard when making my knäckebröd (Swedish rye crispbread). Andrew was already testing it in his home kitchen and it looked pretty good. Even if I never have any discard on hand (I cook and bake with it several times a week), I decided to give this a try.
And I’m so glad I did, because the extra amount of starter gives the crispbread a perfect and very pleasant sourness that works so well with the caraway seeds. I like them with creamy goat cheese, honey and fresh thyme. Or why not try them with pickled herring, gravlax, or hot-smoked fish and pickles.
The starter I used in this recipe was a thick batter like all-purpose starter. You will need to adjust the recipe if your starter is different. If your starter is very lively it will most likely be ready to roll within 4 hours. If you want a slower rise you can have it rise in the fridge overnight. If you don’t have any caraway on hand, I suggest using fennel seeds, sesame seeds or rosemary (fresh or dry).
Knäckebröd is most likely one of the oldest breads in Sweden and today they are a staple in almost any Swede’s pantry. Traditionally, in order to store these crispbreads, they were baked with a hole on the middle so they could be threaded onto a horizontal wooden stick and hung from the ceiling to dry.
Sourdough Discard Knäckebröd
(adapted from Smörgåsbord: The Art of Swedish Breads and Savory Treats by Johanna Kindvall, Ten Speed Press)
(makes plenty of crispbreads)
150 g (1 ¼ cups) rye flour (or whole-wheat flour)
485 g (almost 2 1/2 cups) 100% hydration sourdough discard
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, toasted and coarsely crushed
5g (2 teaspoons) kosher salt
about 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, if needed
(plus extra flour for rolling out)
about 1 tablespoon flaky sea salt (optional)
MIXING THE DOUGH
In a large bowl, mix together the rye flour, sourdough discard, caraway seeds, and salt. Work the dough together until well combined. If needed, add the all-purpose flour. It’s OK if the dough feels slightly sticky but it shouldn’t be wet or too dry. Adjust with more flour or water if necessary. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured flat surface and knead for about 3 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and let rest in a covered container. Let rise at room temperature in a draft-free place for at least 4 to 6 hours or in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. The dough might not rise to double but it should show some growth and feel softer when you poke your finger into it.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Grease one or two baking sheets lightly with oil.
SHAPING AND BAKING
On a generous floured flat surface, roll out one piece of dough at the time until it’s as thin as the caraway seeds (see shape ideas below). If using, sprinkle some flaky sea salt on top and roll a few more times to get the salt to stick better. The crispbread will bake well as is, but if you don’t want the crispbread to puff up during baking, I suggest pricking the surface with a fork or roll it once or twice with a knobby rolling pin.
Arrange as many as you can fit on a baking sheet and bake for 4 to 8 minutes, until the crackers are golden brown and crisp. If they are still soft, bake them just a little longer, but keep an eye on them because they burn easily. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the crackers cool on a flat surface. To ensure that they stay crisp, do not stack the crackers until they are completely cool.
Store the crackers in an airtight container for up to 1 months.
You can roll these crispbreads out with a rolling pin into small and large individual rounds or roll it out in large portions that can be cut into squares or bake whole to break up as you go. To make it simple, you can also use a pasta machine.