The dance of the crisp bread maker
Outside the windows is Siljan, Sweden’s seventh largest lake. The Swedish history of crispbread dates back a thousand years. Crispbread bakers used to be a travelling people, walking the countryside after the harvest, baking crispbread from rye flour in the farms’ own bakeries.
Joel Lindblad doesn’t need to travel to bake his bread. Day in and day out, this bearded man stands in his flour covered Birkenstock sandals, baking his bread in Stora Skedvi in the southern part of Dalarna province. He has stood on that spot since 1979, the year he started baking.
“Next to me by the oven there was an old man named Bertil Olsson. He taught me to bake crispbread,” says Joel Lindblad.
It took him a few years to learn the craft and get to know the oven, to understand its heat. The ovens here in Skedvi knäckebrödsbageri are wood-fired. Pieces of bone-dry fir and pinewood are being shoved in continuously by the bakers.
Joel and the other bakers perform a perfectly orchestrated dance in front of the ovens, a blend of ballet and boxing. They swing their peels (long flat baking spades for deep hot ovens) with deliberate, perfect movements. They fetch unbaked crispbread cakes and put them in the ovens.
They start at the far right end, next to the wood and fire. After half a minute the cakes are moved to the far left, the coolest area of the oven. Then they are finished off in the middle. Baking a bread takes between 60 and 90 seconds, depending on oven temperature. Joel Lindblad’s Birkenstocks are in constant movement on the floor.
-When I was younger I bought cheaper sandals but they broke straight away. These ones I can wear in the shower and they still hold together.
Today, Skedvi is the only crispbread on the market that is baked in wood-fired ovens. The crispbread industry has become centralized and streamlined with the vast majority of all crispbread coming out of a few large industrial bakeries.
But in the same spirit that gave us micro-breweries, crispbread enthusiasts have grown tired of the industrial product and started their own bakeries. In Skedvi’s case they are fueled by equal measures of conifer wood and strong determination.
Did you know you can try baking your own organic Swedish crispbread at Ängavallen in Skåne? Ängavallen is an eco restaurant and farm shop.
When the old bakery was bought up, and subsequently shut down, by the giant bread company Leksands, Joel and the other bakers lost their jobs. Anders Åkerberg and Malin Floridan bought the bakery, rehired the bakers and started up again.
There are only four ingredients in the Skedvi crispbread; rye flour, yeast, salt and water. Every crispbread cake that ends up in their yellow or blue packaging has been handled by human hands.
“In the 1950’s some advertising boasted that no human hands had touched the bread during production”, says Malin Floridan, laughing.
The pendulum has swung back. Joel Lindblad hasn’t moved an inch. He has always baked by hand using fire as a heat source. He swings his peel in Stora Skedvi, in Dalarna. He picks up a cake in his flour covered hands. The edge is a little burnt. He breaks off a piece.
“It may have been a little too hot from underneath just here. A piece of wood in the wrong place. “
Joel Lindblad and his three fellow bakers at Skedvi share 138 years of baking experience between them. That probably surpasses the entire amount of sourdough-baking experience on all of Södermalm. This may well be the most fascinating thing about Ebba, Tord and Joel; they found their passion, they found a way to stick to it and they found a way to live it. Every day they refine it a bit further, improve and evolve.
For the young, modern city dweller, constantly chasing the latest of the genuine, this must be an irresistible thought. To remain.
To find home.
Meet the Original Hipsters
A thousand years before the first sourdough was set to ferment in the trendy neighbourhoods of Stockholm, crispbread bakers walked from farm to farm and baked up the rye harvests. We went looking for the origins of the modern hipster in the Swedish countryside. Written by Peter HammarbäckBack