Once upon a time in Sweden and elsewhere in the Nordic countries bread made using the ground bark of common trees instead of flour from wheat or other grains was basic peasant food. In fact, during the 18th century Carl Linneaus once described during his travels the dire situation of forests which could not survive the widespread debarkation that peasants’ need for bark flour resulted in. Today science is discovering that there are clear health benefits to the consumption of bread containing meal of bark, particularly birch bark meal. In the latest issue of the scientific publication Cell Metabolism, scientists suggest that a substance in birch bark called betulin (which we have previously written about at nordicwellbeing.com in birch sap), could provide an equally effective if not better treatment for high blood pressure and high cholesterol than the existing medicines available today.
So, bark bread, in particular birch bark is suddenlyback in again and everyone is out looking for a best recipe. I will be testing a few but for now I provide a translation of a recipe from a traditional Swedish kitchen. Ingrid Ölund from Örnsköldsvik has got a recipe for bark bread that is so tasty that she has had to move her bakery to a larger location. Here it is with a link to Ingrid at alltomat.se (“All About Food”, a popular Swedish food magazine). Ingrid notes that she only adds about 15 percent bark flour in contrast to the 50 percent traditionally used by the peasantry which produce a bitter tasting bread.
Ingrid’s Bark Bread
100 g or 3.5 oz yeast
1 liter or 1 quart lukewarm water
1 liter or 1 quart rye flour
1.5 liters or 1.5 quarts white flour
2 dl or 1/2 cup bark flour (Ingrid uses bark from her own pine forest)
Blend the ingredients and knead the dough. Allow to rise for one hour. Roll out into smaller rounds. Baking time varies according to the size of the bread.
(I suggest for medium rounds which are the size of pita breads 10 minutes at 225 C or 437 F – sprinkle water over before baking)
Learn more about the traditional uses of Nordic trees for good health, including more about betulin, in my book On My Swedish Island: Discovering the Secrets of Scandinavian Well-being (Tarcher Penguin 2005).