Thursday, October 23, 2008


Swedish Rye slice
Swedish whole-grain rye bread... buttered, of course.

Ask She Who Must Be Obeyed what her favorite food is, and she may surprise you.

Ice cream? Chocolate? Nope.

Potatoes... or bread... that’s another story. Get between the Missus and a hot chunk of freshly-baked bread and you may get a chunk bitten out of you.

And I understand, I really do. Because bread, in all its chewy, crusty goodness, is one of the real pleasures in life.

Like a lot of suburban kids of the 1950’s, I grew up on a diet of vile, squishy Wonder Bread. It’s a wonder I survived. But at least I had access to some good Ethnic Stuff. Jewish rye. Bagels and bialys. Challah, with its golden eggy sweetness. And, from the local German deli, Westphalian pumpernickel - the kind that comes in little loaves with the approximate density of Dwarf-Star Matter. The brownish-black slices (they’re only about 1/8-inch thick) are so moist and heavy, they have to be carefully pried apart with a knife. The Missus calls this stuff “nastybread,” but I love it.

Alas, I am lazy about baking my own bread. It’s a skill I would like to learn, but I have never spent much time investigating the mysteries of flour and yeast. We had a bread machine, but I was too lazy to use it more than once a year or so... and besides, isn’t the point of baking your own bread to get involved in the processes of kneading, proofing, raising, et cetera?

The other day, whilst browsing the food department (yes, there is one) at IKEA, I found the perfect Bready Item. No, it wasn’t the huge discs of Swedish crispbread (although I got some of that, too). It was - prepare to be astonished - Nastybread in a Box.

Yes: Swedish whole-grain rye bread, in the form of yeast, flour, and salt in a convenient gable-topped carton, looking like nothing so much as a half-gallon milk container. And so easy to make. Just open the top, dump in 20 ounces of lukewarm water, shake vigorously, then dump the resulting goop out into a greased loaf pan. Let it rise for 45 minutes, bake for an hour, and - presto! - fresh, hot nastybread! And no need for kneading.

Swedish Rye loaf
Fresh out of the oven. Nastybread!

I am happy to report that this stuff is pretty damn good. It does not taste like the other items IKEA sells, i.e., Scandinavian furniture. It is dense... but not quite as dense as Westphalian pumpernickel, a distinction for which your intestines can be grateful. And if you spread it with butter and Swedish lingonberry preserves, in a day or so you can create your own Lingon Logs. Oh, boy!

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