There is nothing more satisfying than the thick, crispy crust of Solothurn’s cantonal bread, Solothurnerbrot.
According to Elisabeth Pfluger (the valiant chronicler of all things Solothurn and author of dozens of folk histories of the canton, not to mention the wonderful Solothurner Liebesbriefe cookbook) good Solothurners know not to press too much air out of the bread with overzealous kneading.
They also know that to get that magnificent crust you don’t cut the dough before it goes in the oven—just a simple fold to hold in all its airy goodness and crisp up its outer shell.
Slicing a loaf of Solothurnerbrot means a satisfying crunch and a generous spray of crumbs.
As Pfluger quotes in her book:
Alts Brot isch nit hert; aber kei Brot, das isch hert!
(Old bread isn’t hard, but no bread is!)
500 g flour
10 g salt
390 ml water, room temperature
20 g yeast
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
In a measuring cup, whisk together the water and yeast.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the liquid. Mix until you have a dough, and then knead for about ten minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Alternatively, use a stand mixer with a dough hook.
Let rise for about 50-60 minutes, or until doubled in size. During this process, fold the dough very gently in half a couple of times to improve structure.
Once it has risen, form into a round loaf and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make a light indentation in the dough, then fold in half.
Let rest for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 230 C / 425 F / gas mark 7.
Dust the bread with flour, then bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned and it makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
This recipe is easily doubled (as the pictures above show), and you could even freeze your second loaf if you don’t need it right away.
For a super crispy crust I use a trick I learned in baking school—add water when it goes in the oven. Have a baking sheet in the bottom of the oven and as soon as you put the bread in, pour about 500 ml into the baking sheet. This will immediately evaporate and help make the crust crunchy.
For something closer to Baslerbrot, replace the regular flour with Halbweissmehl / farine mi-blanche / farina semibianca or Ruchmehl / farine bise / farina bigia .
What’s the difference?
While white flour (Weissmehl / farine fleur / farina bianca) contains mostly the inner part of the grain, Halbweissmehl contains some of the outer layers, and Ruchmehl even more of the outer layers of grain. Different countries have different guidelines for how much grain denotes what kind of flour—the varieties above are, of course, easily available in Switzerland, but abroad Halbweiss/Ruchmehl would mean a light whole wheat flour.