Polarbrød; Scandinavia’s pita bread

In January most people are swearing off bread and other carb laden foods, but that doesn’t have to include healthy, whole grain breads such as polarbrød. These fluffy, pillowy creations have been popular for quite a few years as an alternative to the traditional, whole grain loaves so commonly eaten and see around Norway.  They are similar in look to pita bread, except Norwegians tend to eat these for breakfast or lunch, topped with whatever smears or other “pålegg ” eaten during these meals.  (“Pålegg” is essentially anything you could possibly put on a sandwich).

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What makes these breads unique is that they typically are frozen immediately after being baked, following the original method of how they came about.  Read on…

Polarbrød (Polar Sandwich) is actually a Swedish brand of breads sold in stores in Norway and has a long history in Scandinavia dating back one hundred years. Johan Nilsson was the founder, and when he started his bakery back in the late 19th century.  He didn’t have much capital, and while he had ingredients like flour and spices, he lacked yeast.  He solved this by trading his “spark” (pictured below) for one kilo of yeast.

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Image from polarbrod.no

In the 1950s, the business was taken over by Johan’s grandson, who started a bakery and cafe with his wife Greta.  The couple saw huge possibilities with this bread.  But in order to scale the business and sell to the entire country of Sweden, they had to find a way to distribute it. How could they keep the breads fresh when they were to ship it all over the country?  To avoid spoilage, Greta tried freezing the already prepared sandwiches, and it became a huge success. She baptized them “Polar Sandwich”, and the rest is history.

Today, the business is run by Greta’s granddaughters, Karin Bodin and Anna Borgeryd.  They are 5th generation and plan to continue the family business for generations to come.  In Norway, polarbrød has been sold since 2002, and the family business Findahl & Krogh AS is responsible for sales and marketing of this bread.

The details above were translated from the website polarbrod.no

Instead of buying the already made polarbrød in the stores, many Norwegians opt to make their own.  Super easy to make and they are quick to bake too, I can see why this tradition is so popular in many modern homes.

There are a million varieties of polarbrød using different flours and the ratios vary as well.  You can add seeds like chia or flax for added texture and  I hope you will try mine out, I also use these as pita breads and serve them with hummus and other dips.

WHOLE GRAIN POLARBRØD

Makes 16-20 pieces

4 tbsp or 50 grams vegan butter

1 1/4 cup (300 ml) non-dairy milk

1 cup (200ml) water

2 1/2 tsp (1 packet) dry yeast

2 tbsp maple or brown rice syrup

2 tsp salt

1 scant cup (200 ml) quick oats, roughly pulsed in blender

1 1/4 cup (300 ml) whole wheat flour

1 scant cup (200 ml) rye flour

2 1/2 cups (600 ml) all purpose flour

Melt the butter in a small pot, add in the milk and water and combine. The temperature should be around 110F, then drizzle in the dry yeast, let sit for about 5 minutes.

Place yeast mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the remaining ingredients, and knead on medium for 5-6 minutes until you have a smooth dough. Add more flour or liquid as you see fit.

Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celcius).  Place a baking sheet in the oven.

Divide the dough in half and roll each half out to a link. Cut each link into 8-10 pieces, shape the pieces into a ball, then with a rolling pin form a circle that’s about 1/2 inch thick (1cm or so). Use a chopstick or a fork and prick some “holes” on top of each circular piece.

Cover the pieces with towels and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Place 4 or 5 pieces in the oven on the baking sheet at a time, and bake for about 3 minutes.  They should be slightly puffed up and light brown on top when done. Quickly remove them, add another 4-5 pieces and repeat until you have all the breads baked. Cover them with a clean towel while they cool off, this will help them stay moist.

These breads should be enjoyed right out of the oven, or wrapped up and placed in freezer as soon as they have cooled off.  They will thaw in about 30 minutes and will taste just as good out of the freezer as fresh.  Top or stuff with your favorite spreads, like vegan cheese, lettuce, sliced peppers, cucumbers, bean pate or even hummus!

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