Thursday, September 11, 2014

Baking in a Baking-House and The 3-Week Plan: Day 11

The small house on the far right is the baking house. 
All this talk of and drinking boiled coffee made me remember when a friend of mine bought a house and moved out in the country. On the property was a bagarstuga, a baking house. Way back, building a baking oven was quite an expensive investment, and in many villages here in the north, they would build a joint one, where the women would bake together, sometimes for days at a time. Mostly, they would bake tunnbröd (thin bread), which was dry - much like a biscuit - and could be stored for a long time, and mjukkaka (soft cake) which was a flat, soft bread.

Today mjukkaka is commerically baked by Polarbröd bakery in Älvsbyn, and their brandname, polarkaka (= polar cake, or bread), has to a large extent replaced the old name mjukkaka (I have seen recipes for "how to bake your own polarkaka"). This bread is exported all over and we once had a very expensive sandwich in Paris, salmon on polarkaka!

Anyway, my friend invited a group of us to bake in her bagarstuga, and I think I had a cold or something (it is more than 15 years ago, and hard to remember exactly), because instead of baking, I was taking photos. My friend´s husband was heating the oven with birchwood, and when it was hot enough, the embers were raked to the far side and the bread was placed on the hot brick surface. On the side of the oven was an open fireplace where he boiled our coffee. Of course, we had some fresh bread with it!

It was a great experience and when the mum-in-law tells her stories of baking the old way, I know exactly what she means. My friend and her husband have since given up this house and moved back to a flat in town, but they had some great years in the country, doing all the things they had dreamed of: raising sheep and ducks (I have some photos of myself picking feathers from dead birds, but for some reason they tend to gross people out...), had a garden (she even wrote a chapter in a garden book, about gardening in the severe northern climate), and what not. But I suppose everything runs its course eventually - they seem very happy back in town.

About my 3-week plan: I am eating alone tonight and since I can´t bother cooking for myself alone, I am having tea and sandwiches for dinner. It´s a bit lazy, but that´s ok, too.


  1. Communal baking sounds like such a friendly endeavor. :)

    I got a kick out of this: "(I have some photos of myself picking feathers from dead birds, but for some reason they tend to gross people out...)," I've heard it said that if you can't bear to watch your food prepared from beginning to end, then morally you shouldn't be eating it.

    1. My friend, when she got her first lambs, said that if she couldn´t stand to have them killed, she would become a vegan, as she thought she wouldn´t deserve being a meat eater - morally. Well, they grew, and she became very attached to them, as you can imagine. But then the ram, Bert, became old enough to breed, rather aggressive, and he started to frighten her. One day, when she went in to the enclosure to feed them, he came at her from behind and butted her (is that the right word?) so hard she fell head first into the manger. She told me later that she had turned to him, looked him in the eye and said, "Bert. You are so dead now." Then she called the butcher, and then promptly invited all her friends for Bert-steak. Which was the best lamb I have ever eaten, by the way - besides making great coffee, her husband is an excellent cook.