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Ryebread – Cutting it too thin?

In Danish, Dutch, Eats, Swedish on September 25, 2010 at 11:23 am

I tend to be easily influenced by the people around me, that means new habits rub off quickly and without conscious awareness. Often, I don’t realize it until I receive comments like: ‘do you always eat your sandwiches open?’ – the Hawaiian wwoofer asked as he passed me the top half of a sliced-open crusty bun to complete my sandwich.


Yeah, I’ve picked up a new habit of eating dense ryebreads while living in Copenhagen for 5 months earlier this year. Rye is a cereal grain that is higher in fibre, darker in colour and stronger in flavour than wheat. It is nutritionally better than its wheat counterparts, keeping one full for longer (not to mention, more sensory satisfaction) due to its high soluble fibre content. However, because of its heat-stable amylases that break down the weak gluten content, rise of the dough is greatly inhibited, and this is partially mitigated by the use of sourdough starters to inactivate the rye amylases by creating an acidic environment. That of course, results in a sour and dense-but-not-so-dense-as-it-would-otherwise-have-been product, that is sliced thinly because of its density but threatens to crumble into ruins if you try to sandwich more than a slice of cheese between it.


And then the habit of snacking on crisp rye bread (a long-shelf-life dried cracker-like bread) caught on, and I grew to love it as an alternative base for my open sandwiches–2 meals of rugbrød a day is enough.

And during my recent backpacking travels through N.eastern Europe, I fell in love with the dense yet soft wheat-rye breads of Czech Republic and Poland. These breads are soft enough to be made into typical sandwiches (if you wish to), but dense enough to be sliced very thinly (<1cm) without being able to see your dining partner through it.

While I once used to marvel at the thinness of these breads after being used to the thick fluffy slices all my life, the novelty has mostly worn out over the past year….

UNTIL I SAW THIS:
With a thickness / thinness of <4mm, the Brabants roggebrood leaves me confused whether to eat 2 slices or 6 for breakfast. With 15 slices in a loaf for 85 euro cents, a slice works out to about 25 calories and <6 cents each. I ate 2 slices with Camembert cheese (another habit I picked up from my recent travels), and I’m satisfied for now. For Now. I guess it’s a great way to fool the brain that is used to portion control by the number of slices.

I had thought the Danish ones were thin enough at about 1cm thickness…..why cut this so thin then?
(1) obsession with low carb diet?
(2) to complement the delicatessen ingredients popular in the south without engulfing them in fluff?
(3) value for money? 7 breakfasts for 85 cents?
(4) so lunch takes up less space in the bag?

Why? Why? Why? I wanted an answer,… so I asked a Dutch man. His reply was:
Because the Dutch don’t like the taste of ryebread.” LOL.

So Long, Scandie #1 – Messmör

In Eats, Swedish on June 11, 2010 at 8:31 pm

It suddenly dawned on me that it is a mere 2 weeks before I wave goodbye to Scandinavia. Normally, when I travel to a new place, the first thing I would do is to comb the shelves of the supermarket and the list of ‘cuisine of XX’ on Wikipedia to make sure that I’ve eaten everything local that there is to eat. At least, everything affordable and remotely edible-sounding.


Recently, a fellow foodie friend (thanks, I!) bought for me some messmör (browned soft whey butter) from Sweden – apparently the OTHER ‘weird’ thing (besides brunost) that the Scandinavians do with the co-product (whey) of cheese production. It is like a semi-liquid brunost: whey that is boiled down a little less, without the cream, and with a little more sugar, to yield a spreadable whey ‘butter’ that is low in fat (5%), high in sugar (~50%) and tasting something like sweet boiled caramel milk with a creamy consistency.

I must say that it is pretty difficult for someone who didn’t grow up with it to take an instant liking to messmör, because it doesn’t quite fit the expectation of caramel (different lactose-type sweetness), nor butter (not quite as creamy), nor cheese (really really sweet), but it does grow on you. I first got accustomed to it on my hands-free bread (last FAB), and now I enjoy it on soft Swedish bread (got more again from Lund!).


Well, if that’s not convincing enough, perhaps knowing that it’s a more enjoyable form of whey supplement, high in good quality protein, calcium and iron would be an incentive to give it a shot 😉


While googling info about messmör, I realized I’ve overlooked the entire supermarket cultured milk shelf — the cartons of STUFF that resides above the milks and beside the yoghurts. The STUFF called : Tykmælk, Ymer, Ylette, A38, and Koldskål. They all come in the same dairy-style cartons, they all indicate some level of fat content (0,1% , 1,5% or 3,5%) in big bold fonts, and they all have ingredient lists that say ‘Højpasteuriseret homogeniseret sødmælk, syrnet med mælkesyrekultur’ — simply meaning pasteurized and homogenized milk soured with milk culture (i.e. some kind of lactic acid bacteria). What are the differences then, and are they so huge that they warrant this variety of labeling, boggling the mind of a frazzled foreigner who still can’t figure out the simplest Danish? Hey, that’s what I’m trying to find out now — I’ve currently eaten my way through one carton of Tykmaelk and half a carton of A38… would you care to join me to complete my mission? 🙂

Hemophobics Beware

In Eats, Swedish on April 9, 2010 at 1:57 am


Not for the faint hearted. Last Wednesday, I was combing the supermarket in Sweden with a 100 Swedish kronor note (77DKK/SGD$19) in my pocket for picking out interesting eats (thank you supervisor K!). I found many appealing new foods, like lingonberry and cloudberry jam, flat and crisp breads, apple-pear cream cheese, bright green sweet pastries and awesome marabou chocolates that a normal person would probably have picked out. But something compelled me to grab THIS off the shelf. My food weirdo gene told my brain that I have to try some of this. Black pudding. Blood pudding. Mmm. Mmm?

It sat a week in the fridge because I didn’t want to try it on my own. I’ve eaten lots of weird foods before (snake, crocodile, ostrich, whale, crickets, jellyfish, sea urchin, octopus, century eggs…) and foods in weird [but really good, I insist!] combinations (ham&jam, icecream&bread, milk&peas, blacksesamesoyamilk&oatmeal)… but to eat blood, I needed some extra courage of a fellow food adventurer. So, the day yz came over to study, I cooked blood pudding for lunch.


Doesn’t look too bad, eh? The texture was rather unexpected. I’d thought it’ll be soft and crumbly, but it turned out gooey and clayey like a paste, nothing like the texture of clotted blood. Didn’t smell of it either — all hints of bloody metallic iron were totally masked by the flavours of cinnamon and cloves. I pan fried thin (0.5cm) slices of it in a little butter, that transformed it to a pitch black cakey mass. A slightly gummy blood pudding with a crisp crust, topped with brunost sauce (that I made by adding some brown cheese to a basic bechamel sauce), unsweetened applesauce (apples boiled in a little water and mashed), strawberry rhubarb jam and slices of gherkins and laid on Swedish Tunnbröd. — It actually tasted really good!

But that’s not how my story ends.

One important lesson I’ve learnt from my sensory science classes is that single exposure to a new food is not predictive of long term acceptance of the product. It’s because most people assume that preference is as simple as i-like-it-now-therefore-i-like-it-forever, that many products on the market fail despite extensive consumer research. Time is a factor, context is a factor. And because I have a penchant for new experiences, novel first experiences is most of the time positive for me.

With leftover ingredients from the lunch, I decided to reconstruct the meal in the lazy microwave way. I put the blood pudding in a bowl, scooped some leftover cheese sauce onto it and heated it up. Then I topped with some applesauce and pickles again and had some toasted bread to go with it. Mistake. DO NOT microwave blood in sauce because it becomes one bloody BLOODY mess.

Even though the ingredients were the same, this time, the texture of the blood pudding resembled blood more than it did before when pan fried till crisp. Now I can understand why some people can tell such horrifying stories of blood pudding, or strongly denounce it for its high fat content for the amount of sensory pleasure it gives (nobody ever says how terrible a brownie is, do they?). Eating the blood pudding soft wasn’t so much a bad sensory experience than it was a sudden psychological realization of disgust. I gobbled it up quick and fulfilled my iron requirements whilst persuading myself that I’m eating the same thing as the first time. After that, I went on eating rampage (ice cream, fruits, tom yam soup, ABC cake…). I prefer to think that blood pudding is calorifically unhealthy because of the amount of things you have to eat after that to wash those disgust emotions out of mind. But mind you, only if you don’t cook it right.

I’ve still got 200g of blood pudding sitting in the fridge, waiting for me to do it right again the next time, but this is a good example of how aversive learning (associating an experience with a negative consequence) can have such a commanding presence over earlier positive experiences.

Food choice and acceptance exam in 5 days. Wish me luck.

Thanks to yz who diligently translated the packaging with google translate while I was cooking, that I can share with you that Swedish blood pudding from ICA supermarket contains: 35% pig’s blood, water, rye flour, sugar, bread crumbs, fat and scraps of beef and pork, potato starch, pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, marjoram, onion powder, 220kcal /100g, 9g fat and 140% RDA of iron. Costs only 10SEK (~7DKK / 1Euro /SGD$2) for 400g, so it’s really an excellent and cheap nutritional source of iron. Good for you if you like it! 🙂