Sámi Ember Flat Bread

Ark of taste
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Gáhkku, Gaahkoe, Gáhkko, Glödbröd

Ember flat bread is a bread that is baked over an open fire inside a traditional Sámi hut. Ember bread was baked in the hut, directly on the embers or on a slab of gray stone or soapstone. One side of the bread was baked directly on the embers, or in a pan over an open fire in the hut. The other side of the bread is then cooked by placing the round bread on the edge of the open fireplace. After a few minutes, the round bread was ready to be eaten. When the Sámi moved between different settlements, they always packed flour in their bags. This was so that they could quickly bake bread, either in a hut or in an oven if they lived in a cabin. Gaahkoe or ember bread was traditionally made using wheat flour, water and a little salt. Barley flour, rye flour and groats were also used. In order to make the bread denser, they also mixed in mountain sorrel (Oxyria digyna) and reindeer lichen. Today, the old baking method has been substituted and ember bread is now used when people go hiking. The bread now contains wheat flour, yeast, salt, water and syrup and it is baked in modern kitchens in an oven or on an electric stovetop. When the soft bread is ready, it should have a golden-brown color on top and underneath and at the same time the bread should be a little tough to chew so that it does not crumble when it is put in a backpack. The syrup makes the bread taste sweet, and the more you knead the dough, the tougher it becomes. The dough is rolled out into a 30–40-centimeter round shape. Sometimes a hole is made in the middle of the bread and it is tied to a stick so that the bread can be hung and dried. The bread lasts longer if it is dried.

Ember bread is well-known, and all of the Sámi households bake their own bread. Some of the Sámi people also sell the bread but only to other locals. No company currently exists which focuses on selling only Sámi flat ember bread. But it is sold to reindeer meat producers who attend markets or have their own small delicatessen shops close to their wooden houses. According to the National Food Administrations laws, when you make gaahkoe you can use either organic wheat or rye flour with water and organic yeast and salt. You make gaahkoe bread over an open fire in a Sámi tent or in an oven. You can also add syrup to the dough, but traditionally the Sámi people did not use syrup, it is a modern addition to the recipe.

Historically the ember flat bread was usually dried so that it became hard. In order to eat it, it was softened up by dipping the hard bread into soups or broths. Later on, however, syrup was used to make the flat ember bread so that the reindeer herders could keep the bread soft without it breaking or crumbling in their backpack. During the summer when the reindeer herders and their families live in the mountains, the flat ember bread is dried in order to extend the shelf life of the bread.

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Norrbottens län

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Bread and baked goods

Indigenous community:Sami
Nominated by:Mariusz Rybak e Anneli Jonsson