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The delicious svartbröd or saaristoleipä gets its sweetness from syrup, or sometimes black sugar.Åland’s svartbröd is not only unique in appearance, but also in taste.

ARCHIPELAGO bread, originating from the Åland islands (Ahvenanmaa in Finnish), known as svartbröd in Swedish and saaristoleipä in Finnish, is among the best of Finnish-Swedish delicacies.

Its characteristic black colour has always been intimidating to some, and has led to the erroneous popular belief that it contains blood. The truth is that this bread is suitable for vegetarians, since it only contains ingredients of vegetable source. It does, however, hide one secret: the presence of fresh malt, also found in beer. Malt, combined with syrup (and sometimes also black sugar) are the ingredients behind Archipelago’s unique taste and dark colour, the latter enhanced by a fair amount of rye flour.

Does Archipelago bread cower in the shadow of rye bread? The facts speak for themselves. Baked all around Finland, even deep in the North and far away from its place of origin, Archipelago bread definitely stands out! In fact, its special taste and high nutritional value is preferred by many of those seeking a healthier alternative to plain white bread.

Recipe for Archipelago bread (for two loaves)

Ingredients:
• 1l sour-milk (piimä)
• 50-100g dried yeast
• 3dl syrup
• 3dl wheat bran flakes
• 3dl fresh malt
• 3dl rye flour
• 1 tbsp salt
about 1l plain wheat flour

Baking instructions:
• Warm the sour milk till it reaches hand temperature (i.e. approx.
40 degrees Celsius). Add the yeast and the rest of the
ingredients while stirring well with a wooden spoon. Do not
knead. The dough should remain quite loose.
• Poor the dough into two greased oven dishes.
• Leave the dough to rise for about two hours.
• Bake the loaves initially at 170 degrees Celsius. Reduce heat to
160 degrees Celsius and cover with foil when they have risen
and their surface starts to brown. Total baking time should be
between 2½ – 3 hours.

A Finnish-Swedish friend once talked me into buying a quite unusual-looking, yet wonderful-tasting Archipelago bread from my local supermarket. I then found out that it is not only perfect just with butter, but it can also be topped with almost anything, from plain cheese to salmon mousse. It also makes for a sublime accompaniment to soups and other dishes. Creativity is all it takes to transform Archipelago bread to fit one’s personal taste!

The Åland islands have a culture unique in Finland.Available at supermarkets, it is also naturally found in bakeries all around Åland in many shapes, sizes and versions. So, once there, just head to one of the many bakeries and take with you a most delicious taste souvenir from the Åland islands. For eager home cooks, here is a fast and easy recipe to bake it on your own.

ANNA MARIA ALEXANDROU
HELSINKI TIMES
ANDREAS HÜNNEBECK

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