Matpakkebrød – Norwegian-style everyday bread

Matpakkebrød – Norwegian-style everyday bread

Norwegian packed lunches are called matpakker – food parcels – and are traditionally wrapped in paper or stacked in a lunch box. They usually consist of sliced bread with toppings – pålegg – like slices of cheese, salami, chocolate spread, paté or mackerel in tomato sauce. The slices are stacked on top of each other rather than sandwiched together, and are separated with small squares of paper called mellomleggspapir ­– or ’in-between paper’.

The real star of a good matpakke is the bread. Compared with bread in the UK, Norwegian bread has more structure, more texture and more flavour. Even our everyday bread is closer to what would be called ‘artisan bread’ in the UK.

This recipe makes two loaves of perfect matpakkebrød (matpakke bread). You can easily halve the recipe if you want, but the loaves freeze well and make excellent presents for neighbours or friends.

You can eat this bread as it is with your favourite pålegg, use it for sandwiches, toast it or serve it as a side for soups or stews. Check out our soup bread with herbs and cheese, too.

You can make this bread using a stand mixer with a dough hook instead of hand kneading, but Amelia is a firm believer in hand-kneading being good for your soul.

For this recipe you’ll need 1kg of flour and, if you want a little more fibre, 100g of high-fibre additions. You can make it with all wholemeal or all white bread flour, but I prefer to mix different kinds. These are my go-to proportions, and they always make a delicious loaf.

Makes: 2 loaves


600g white bread flour or strong white flour
200g wholemeal wheat flour
200g wholemeal barley or rye flour
100g mixed seeds, oat bran, wheat germ or malted flakes
13g instant dried yeast
15g salt
650–750ml cold water (or lukewarm, if you’re short on time)
A little olive oil for the bowl
A little butter or other grease for the bread tins (if you’re using them)


  1. Mix all the wholemeal flour (and seeds/bran if you’re using them) in a large bowl with 400ml of water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Pour the white flour on top and mix in the yeast, then add the salt. (It’s important not to add the salt directly on top of the yeast, as it may kill it. By mixing the yeast with the flour instead, you don’t have to worry about this.)
  2. Add roughly half of the remaining water. Keep the rest back for adjustments.  
  3. With a large wooden spoon, stir until you’ve mixed all the water and flour, and the dough starts coming together. If it seems very dry and lumpy, add more water a little at a time until you have a sticky dough. Leave the dough to rest for ten minutes.  
  4. Check the dough: it should now be sticky but not runny, and easily come together to form one ball rather than being multiple lumps. If it’s runny, add more flour; if it’s lumpy, add more water. Keep stirring until it’s time to start kneading by hand. You’ll know when using the spoon stops making sense.
  5. Knead against the sides of the bowl for a few minutes, then tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Continue kneading.
  6. The dough will gradually become less sticky, smoother and more elastic. Knead until your dough is smooth and soft, and can pass the windowpane test*. It will take 15–25 minutes to knead by hand, depending on how much wholemeal flour you’ve used. (White flour is faster.)
  7. Remove any dough or flour left in the bowl and drizzle a little olive oil across the sides and bottom. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and return it to the bowl. Cover with plastic or a baking cloth, and leave to prove until it’s doubled in size. This may take 1–3 hours depending on room and water temperature. The dough is happiest somewhere a little warm and draft-free.
  8. When the dough has doubled in size, tip it onto a lightly floured surface and split it in two. Give each half a little kneading to knock the air out. Leave to rest for five minutes. Stretch, fold and roll each half to create evenly thick oval bread loaves. Place on a baking tray covered with baking paper or in lightly greased bread tins with the “seam” from the folding facing down.  
  9. Cover lightly with plastic and leave to rise for 45–60 minutes. If the room is cold, you can fill your sink with warm water and place the baking tray over it across the sink.
  10. Preheat your oven to 240°C and place an ovenproof dish filled with water in the bottom.
  11. When the loaves have doubled in size, check that there’s still water in the ovenproof dish. If not, top it up with just-boiled water from the kettle (don’t use cold water at this point, as it may cause your dish to crack).
  12. Place the loaves in the middle of the oven and turn the temperature down to 200°C. Bake for 15 minutes, then take the dish of water out, making sure not to spill any water on yourself or the loaves.
  13. Bake for another 20–30 minutes until the loaves are golden brown and smell amazing. You can check if they’re done by lightly ‘tapping’ the underside (careful, they’ll be hot!) and checking for a hollow sound.
  14. Let the loaves cool down on a wire rack. If you want a softer crust, cover them with a clean kitchen towel and top with a plastic bag or baking cloth.
  15. Enjoy!

* The windowpane test: Take a small piece of dough and stretch it out until it’s thin enough that you can see light through it without it tearing. If you’re using seeds or other sharp pieces in your dough, this may cause the dough to tear regardless of how well it’s kneaded. If the rest of the dough seems to be thin enough, don’t worry about a tear right around a seed.