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Pettuleipä and Scandinavian bark bread

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Bark bread, already mentioned in medieval literature, may have an even older tradition among the Sami people, with the oldest findings of bark harvests being around 3000 years old.
In fact the Samí, an indigenous group in northern Scandinavia, have long relied on pine and birch bark as staple foods in their diet.
This unusual practice, specifically with the inner section known as the phloem, in food preparation has proved essential to Nordic farmers in times of famine and food rationing.
During the 18th and early 19th centuries, Northern Europe experienced several very bad years of crop failure, and particularly during the Little Ice Age of the mid-18th century.
The grain harvest was badly affected, and more or less creative solutions to make the flour last longer were introduced.
For example, in 1742, samples of “emergency bread” were made including bark bread, bread made from grainless husks and bread made from burned bones but, during the Napoleonic Wars, also moss and lichen were used for human consumption.

In Finland, pine bark flour is known as pettujauho and produces pettuleipä, pine bark bread.
It became particularly popular during a two-year famine at the end of the 16th century.
Desperately in need of grain substitutes, bakers made loaves of bread from a flour of dried, pulverized bark.
Finger-sized twigs and branches were collected from deciduous trees and shrubs, the bark split and the inner bark (the phloem and sometimes the vascular cambium) collected while still fresh. The inner bark was dried over open fires, in an oven, or in the sun.
A mortar or mill was used to grind the bark to a fine powder to add to the flour, but dried bark pieces could also be added directly to the grain during milling.
The bread was then baked the normal way adding yeast and salt.
In the 20th century, wartime food rationing sparked another bark bread revival, and resourceful cooks again began to cut flour stores with the tree meal.

Now some Scandinavian bakers still work with this traditional ingredient by choice, adding small amounts to grain, and modern chefs take advantage of high-powered blenders, rather than busting out the hammer.
Although ratios of 15:85 are common in modern bark bread, traditional bark bread could’ve contained more than 50 percent bark meal, yielding a bitter, fibrous loaf.
The bark will, however, add a rather bitter taste to the bread, and gives bread an unappetizing grey-green hue and, probably, also a wooden taste to it!

Images from web – Google Research

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