Last night I tried my rendition of Ålandskt svartbröd without the modern ingredients.  The result came out looking like this

I used Peter Reinhart’s method for whole grain breads, so I made a separate starter and soaker on Tuesday evening.  The soaker was whole grain wheat flour, salt, and filmjolk.  The starter was rye flour, rye sourdough culture, and water.  They both sat on the counter for around 24 hours, and last night I added some barley malt syrup and a little commercial yeast, plus more wheat and rye flour to bring it to the right consistency.  I proofed the dough for a few hours, shaped it into two loaves the size of small dinner plates, and let them proof for another hour or two.  Just before baking, I pricked the surface of each with a toothpick.  They baked at 355° for 40 minutes, then another 10 at 340°.  Three times during the 40 minutes I “basted” them with a mixture of barley malt syrup, butter, and a little water.  That’s what gives them such a dark color (which doesn’t really come out in the photo).  The cooking times and temps were based on this description (in Finnish).

Things I would do differently next time:

  • skip the commercial yeast, and just rely on the sourdough.  In this case I would probably proof and form the loaves after the first 24 hours, then let the loafs proof another 12-24 before baking.  I think they would come out more sour that way.  Plus, of course, Vikings didn’t have commercial yeast. Smile
  • the third “basting” was too close to the end of cooking, and didn’t dry completely.  The tops of the loaves are distinctly wet and sticky.  If I did all three closer to the beginning of baking I think they would have dried out. 

The result is very tasty, and not dry at all.  The malt gives it a nice subtle sweetness without being overly noticeable like the first batch I made with molasses and treacle.  The sourness is noticeable, but not strong.  Again, I think a longer proof, possibly in the refrigerator, would make it come to the forefront a bit more. 

This bread would go really well with some nice strong cheese and/or some pickled fish.  Reports of the modern version say they keep well, so I’ll see how well these do.