Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Branch Bread

So, I'm sure you've heard of branch bread.  I mean, who hasn't?  *Room raises their collective hands* Oh.  Well, let me go into a bit more detail than.

I originally got a recipe for branch bread from my dad.  See, my dad was one of those people who would read voraciously.  I think my step-mom lost count of the amount of books on his Kindle when he died.  And he read EVERYTHING.  One of the things he read, throughout his adventures, was a lot of material on Iceland.  And thus, is how I became in possession of one recipe for Icelandic Branch Bread.

The original recipe I got called for some rye flour to be added, which makes sense as it seems most countries besides America love the stuff.  But, I didn't have the money for rye flour (nor could I really find any that wasn't in bulk bins and we have a peanut allergy to worry about) so I used all white flour.  And it actually came out REALLY tasty.

This recipe calls for no yeast.  No bread flour.  So, really, unless you don't bake at all you should be in possession of the ingredients in your kitchen.

Now, just to warn you.  These crackers (my dad called it flat bread, but seriously it's a cracker) have some serious pros and cons.  Pros:  These crackers are tasty, the size of a dinner plate and will keep up to a month without any special things you have to do.

Cons:  These crackers are the size of a dinner plate *laugh* and you get to roll dough into the thickness of a flower petal.  Now, I'm not sure how hard this really is to accomplish with a normal rolling pin.  The original recipe said it would take five minutes to roll out each cracker.  I, who am used to lifting a 70 lb six year old and have in my possession one marble rolling pin was able to get two trays of crackers done in that time.  So, I'm not sure what kind of advantage that lends me.  But, just be aware these might take you a while to roll out and plan your schedule accordingly.

I store mine in air tight containers in the middle of my table (yay Tupperware!), but if you aren't in possession of a container as large as a nine inch dinner plate (or in my case 8 1/2 inch salad plates), just place these carefully in some ziploc bags before storing them in your pantry (as they are thin and crunchy).  They might last longer than a month without going stale, but we've never kept them around long enough to find out!

Wonder why it is called branch bread?  Before you bake the crackers you create a cross hatch/chevron design in the crackers with a knife.  When the crackers bake and the cuts separate the cuts resemble branches on a tree.  Cool huh?

Branch Bread

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (I use kosher for bread baking)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 tbs. butter or margarine
  • water for brushing
  • additional salt for sprinkling on crackers
Mix together flours, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center.

Heat the milk and butter/margarine until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Turn off heat and mix until the butter/margarine is melted.

Pour hot liquid right into the flour and stir to combine as well as you can with a wooden spoon.  Once the dough is cool enough to handle (it only took a few moments for me), work into a smooth dough with your hands.  Press the dough to combine, don't knead it.  Think smoosh, not pulling.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and place the upturned bowl on top of it.  Let the dough rest for 30 minutes (it's still going to be warm when you do this).

Heat oven to 425 degrees and line two half sheet pans with parchment paper (or grease the baking sheets).

Divide dough into 12 equal portions (okay, I HATE when recipes say this as I'm bad at it, so here's how I do 12 equal portions.  Form dough into a round, like a small pizza and then divide circle into four equal "slices".  Then divide each of those four pieces into 3 equal smaller pie slices).

Roll out each portion of dough as thinly as possible (I made sure to flour my surface and the dough a LOT to do this.  The dough is actually pretty tough so move it around as needed to keep it mobile and not sticking to things).  The aim is as thin as a flower petal.

Use a 9 inch dinner plate (or an 8 1/2 inch salad plate if you are me) as a guide and cut the dough into rounds.  Lift each round onto your baking sheet (on a 1/2 sheet pan, carefully positioning the rounds at two opposing corners I was able to fit 2 per cookie sheet).  With a sharp knife (I used the same one I cut the rounds out with) cut a series of chevrons in the dough to make the traditional "spruce tree" design.

Brush the dough very lightly with water and then sprinkle additional salt on to taste (the salt does NOT fall off after baking, it bakes into the dough very well, so go light with this...I learned my lesson the hard way).

Bake, preferably, one cookie sheet at a time 8 to 10 minutes (watch them as they burn FAST).  Transfer the breads to a tea towel (or if you have tons of them lying around cooling racks) to cool.  They'll cool off in a few minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Once completely cool transfer to airtight containers or ziploc bags and store for up to one month.

Makes 12 breads.
Goes great with cheese, soups, dips...use your imagination.


  1. question.. did you ever try this gluten free?? did it work??

  2. No I never did try these gluten free. I'm not sure if you could make the dough tough enough to work with rolling them out and such. If you used some coconut flour to dry the dough out and then added some eggs...maybe? I'll see if I can pick Megan's brain on this one as she's my go to expert on gluten free bread baking.