Estonia's national bread

Source: Aron Urb

Estonia's national bread

Source: Aron Urb

Estonians have a love affair with their bread - a dietary staple and cultural identifier. There are several varieties, but what is black bread and why is it so special? Dense and thick, like a dark winter's night.

Rye, Estonia's Medieval export  

There is no food quite as quintessentially Estonian as rye bread. The so called must leib (black bread) gets its dark colour from the rye flour it is made from. Rye has been cultivated in Estonia for over one thousand years and was a central part of traditional agriculture. Rituals for prosperity and protection of farms sprung up alongside the grain, and in the Middle Ages, Estonia was known as a main rye exporter across Europe.

Island bread

If you find yourself on one of Estonia's western islands like Saaremaa, be sure to buy a loaf of the deliciously dark and sweet bread characteristic of the area.

Photo by: Angla Tuulikud

Sweet simplicity 

Shoppers today are greeted by a nearly overwhelming variety of breads in Estonian supermarkets, but they do not compare to a good homemade loaf. Commercial dark bread often incorporates wheat flour into the mixture, which gives the loaf a fluffier texture compared to the density of pure rye. Fresh rye bread has a slight sweetness, best savoured simply. Enjoy a rich slice with soups, alongside main courses, with Baltic herring on top or with a dab of salted butter.

A taste of home 

Estonians are even baking their bread as far abroad as China, Australia and the United States.

Photo by: Kaarel Mikkin

Where to find it 

The art of bread baking is experiencing a revival in popularity, and quality handmade breads can be found in neighbourhood bakeries and restaurants like Leib Resto ja Aed, which has bread right in the name. Just be careful not too eat too much of this heavenly baked good before your main dish arrives! If you're still longing for the bread after your meal, some restaurants even sell loaves to-go.

If you'd like to try baking your own rye bread, the ingredients are simple: water, rye flour, salt, sugar and leaven. Seeds, dried fruits and nuts make tasty additions, though not necessary. Patience is required, as the process takes over 12 hours. Further instructions here.

Source

Last updated : 17.03.2017

In category: Food & Drink & Nightlife

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