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Zweeds wittebrood – powerful symbol of Dutch liberation

For the Dutch who lived throughout the Second World War, the unique smell and flavour of Zweeds wittebrood (Swedish white bread) is still fresh in their memory. Those who endured the notorious Hongerwinter (the Dutch famine of 1944) in particular, remember just how delicious Zweeds wittebrood tasted and for them this typical white bread has come to symbolise the liberation.

zweeds wittebrood

Although many believe that Zweeds wittebrood was only distributed in the Netherlands via food drops from American and British bombers at the end of the war, the first Zweeds wittebrood was already being dispensed by February 1945, in the midst of the horrifying famine. Despite the name, Swedish white bread was not actually from Sweden, but was made in Dutch bakeries from Swedish flour that had been transported on ships to Delfzijl. This so-called Zweeds wittebrood was then dispersed throughout the country by volunteers from the International Red Cross.

In the weeks prior to liberation, Swedish flour could no longer be transported to the northern provinces of the Netherlands and it was decided to drop the bread in parcels from planes, in a campaign that became known as Operation Manna. The food parcels that fell to the ground contained, amongst other things, Zweeds wittebrood and margarine. And those that remember the food drops fondly recall just how good the Swedish white bread tasted, so good in fact that it was often compared to cake. For countless Dutch people, Zweeds wittebrood also became a symbol of hope that the long-awaited liberation was finally in sight.

You can bake your own Zweeds wittebrood at home by kneading 500 grams of wheat flour, 2 grams of butter, 2 grams of sugar, 2 grams of bread salt, 2 grams of fresh yeast and 3,5 dl water into a firm dough. Place the dough into a large bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place (e.g. next to your radiator) to rise for 45 minutes. Then pop the dough into a bread tin and leave to rise for a further 10 minutes. Finally, bake in an oven or bread maker at 210 C until the white bread is a lovely, golden brown.

Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?

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