Alex’s traditional Swedish comfort food for days at home

Do you have a favourite food to make at home while riding out the crisis? We asked our chef Alex for something easy and tasty that also works as a perfect leftover lunch for the whole family. His answer: traditional Swedish tunnbröd.

Many of us are entering yet another week of self-isolation, quarantine or even total lockdown, and we ask ourselves: What would we prepare for lunch and dinner today? We asked Alexander Magnusson, who works with food innovation at IKEA, if he could help us with the comfort food we all need right now. 

Alex is a trained chef and has always worked with food in one way or another, and food played an important role in his family growing up.  

We usually stayed with our grandparents in Sweden and in France during the summers. I remember getting up at dawn to gather the night’s catch in the fishing nets together with my grandfather. We also picked berries and mushrooms and had picnics out on some remote island. In France, we would harpoon our own squid and cook them in garlic, olive oil, onions and tomatoes. Food, food, food, whatever we did, says Alex. 

At IKEA he develops new dishes for the stores around the world. Up until now, his main focus has been new food concepts for the city stores. 

“Creating new dishes also entails figuring out nutritional aspects and putting together different kinds of instructions. We also work with suppliers developing future products. Sometimes we arrange and participate in food events and music festivals around the world, says Alex. 

Just like many others, Alex is working from home right now, which means he moved his office from the IKEA kitchen to his own kitchen in Malmö.  

What is the difference working from your home kitchen compared to the IKEA kitchen?  

“Storage! Very hard to fit extra things into an already full fridge and freezer. Also, at work I don’t have to make people breakfast, lunch and dinner either!” 

How do you stay healthy and safe at home right now?  

“Same as everyone else I guess, which includes lots of handwashing, keeping a safe distance in the elevator and in the grocery store for example. I do miss the sports, but I try to work out between meetings and sometimes I also go for a run. I eat all the time, impossible not to when you spend so much time at home.” 

Any new habits? 

“There has been a baking revival at home, and my family is very happy about that because they get freshly baked bread almost every day.” 

How do you involve your kids in cooking and baking?  

“They’re lazy creatures, but as soon as it has something to do with dessert or baking cakes or cookies, they’re suddenly much more interested. We make pizzas in the wood oven a lot and my son likes to help out. He takes pride in a properly baked crust. And we make a lot of tunnbröd, the traditional Swedish flatbread, right now.” 

What is the beauty of tunnbröd? 

Versatility! It goes just as well together with strawberries and cream as with a leftover tikka masala. Since we basically eat all of our meals at home nowadays, the fridges fill up with leftovers. You can enjoy your tunnbröd with new, exciting fillings. Perfect for breakfast too — just toast it!” 

Do you have a favourite way to prepare and serve tunnbröd 

“I like it fresh from the oven, smeared with a sweet sandwich topping called ‘messmör’. It’s like a Swedish version of Dulce de Leche.”  

What is the main difference between tunnbröd baked in a cast iron skillet and baked in a wood oven?  

“The top gets a little fluffier and the bottom has more of a crust because of the intense heat. Great combo! Tunnbröd made in a skillet is still very good though.”  

For someone baking tunnbröd for the first time, give us your best tips. 

“Don’t worry too much if you have trouble getting them perfectly round the first time. They taste as good in any shape or form. And if you don’t have a perforator roll, use a fork and just poke lots of holes instead,” says Alex. 


Swedish traditional 
tunnbröd in three steps 

Alex has divided the baking of tunnbröd into three steps, which includes proofing in every step. You can bake it either using a wood oven or in a cast iron skillet on the stove. If you have a pizza stone for your oven that also worksIf you have the time and patience, you could make the first step the day before. This will add a pleasant, sour taste much like a sourdough would. Depending on which flour you use, it will absorb liquid differently. When the dough almost releases from the edges of the bowl, it’s perfectGood luck! 

Step 1:
Dissolve the fresh yeast in warm milk, then add flour. (If using dry yeast, add the yeast into flour first, then add to the milk.) Mix everything together and cover the bowl. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 20 minutes. If you make the dough the day before, leave it out for 10 minutes instead, and then let it slowly rise in the fridge overnight. 

12,5 G   FRESH YEAST or ¼ pack DRY YEAST 

425 G   WARM MILK 

75 G     COARSE RYE FLOUR 

300 G   SIFTED RYE FLOWER 

Step 2:
Move the dough from step 1 into a bowl large enough to fit all the ingredients. Add warm milk, melted butter, syrup and spices. Give it a little mix. Mix together the flour, salt and ammonium carbonate in a separate bowl, then add to the bigger bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mix it all together into a dough. It does not have to be super smooth. Cover and let proof for another 30 minutes or until double in size. 

375 G   WARM MILK 

125 G    MELTED BUTTER 

100 G   SYRUP (PREFERABLY LIGHT) 

4 G       ANIS SEED, GROUND 

4 G       FENNEL SEED, GROUND 

4 G       CORIANDER SEED, GROUND 

15 G      SALT 

5 G       AMMONIUM CARBONATE (HJORTHORNSSALT) 

800 G   WHEAT FLOUR, HIGH-PROTEIN 

Step 3:

Flip the dough onto a floured worktop. Cut into equally large squares and roll into balls. Should give you about 25 pieces. Put the balls into a lightly oiled tray and loosely cover with cling film. Proof until double in size. You can also let it proof in the refrigerator overnight if not using directly. Roll out on floured worktop, using first a normal rolling pin, followed by a perforator pin. Bake it in a wood oven, in a skillet or on a pizza stone in the oven. Be sure to cover the baked tunnbröd immediately, as they dry up quickly. If you’re not eating them straight away, stack them into plastic bags and freeze.
 

Five toppings for lunch, dinner (or in between)

“My favourite way to eat tunnbröd is fresh from the oven, smeared with a sweet spread called “messmör”. You could say it is like a Swedish version of Dulce de Leche,” says Alex. Here are five toppings Alex made at home.  

Cloudberry jam is a Swedish delicacyespecially combined with whipped cream. It is a sweet, velvety sensation.  

This is also a favourite. I call it a “roadside grill special”. Wiener sausage, mashed potatoes, shrimps in mayomustard (and sometimes ketchup).

made a version of the traditional Swedish “semla” in a tunnbröd. I used almond pastecardamom and whipped cream. It doesn’t have to be Fat Tuesday to eat this. 

A version of a tunnbröd falafel where I use the IKEA veggie ball. 

Smoked salmon and eggs is a brunch favourite. 

It also works with leftover tikka masala.