There’s really not a way to preface this for the non-Estonian mind, so I’m just going to put it out there: today, I’m asking you to make dessert soup out of bread. Yup, that’s leviasupp.
When I started brainstorming recipes for my #GentGoesGlobal series, I realized I gravitated towards countries that I am familiar with. Italy, Japan, China – all places that I have at least a little working knowledge of. When thinking of countries that I had never eaten food from, Estonia popped into my mind, so I researched Estonian food and stumbled upon leviasupp.
To me, it sounded so strange. Bread in a soup? But after doing some more research, it seems that bread soups are found around the world. From ribollita in Italy to soup pain in Haiti, many countries and cultures have their own versions of savory and sweet soups made with bread. And if you think about it, it’s not so different from a roux, which is flour and butter cooked into a paste to thicken soups and stews. Bread is just flour that has been baked, so by soaking it in water, you’re helping it revert to a thickening paste. While it may seem strange at first if you’re not used to it, it’s just a different version of a common concept!
I was not surprised to find that Estonian cuisine has many of the same stark, bitter, and earthy flavors that Scandinavian cuisine has. There is an emphasis on preserved fish and produce, as well as a lot of dairy and dark bread. This recipe uses a bit of all of those (no fish though, don’t worry). Lingonberry preserves, dark rye bread, and whipped cream give this leviasupp an undeniable “Northern” flavor.
I’m not going to lie, this leviasupp might not be for everyone. I try to open myself to all cuisines and flavors, but Scandinavian and Northern European foods can stump me sometimes. Wholegrain flatbreads, dark rye breads, preserved fish – none of that is necessarily my vibe. However, I did surprise myself with how much I enjoyed this. The bitter malty flavor of the rye is there, but accompanied with sweetness from the apple and a hint of autumnal flavor from the spices. It looks a little unappetizing by itself, but paired with a dollop of cardamom whipped cream, it takes it to the next level.
Much like when I researched my peanut stew recipe for Ghana, I turned to my local library for inspiration in book form. I ended up checking out Estonian Tastes and Traditions by Karin Annus Kärner. I learned a lot from the book about Estonian food, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the cuisine as a whole! There were a lot of recipes I want to return to one day, because I feel like my education is just beginning. Maybe the fact that it’s hard to find the things I like makes me even more determined to get myself to like them? Hopefully by the time I make my way around the rest of Northern Europe, I’ll have acclimated to some of the flavors that I’m iffy on right now and fully embraced the culture!
Despite my initial reservations about the color and texture of this soup, I honestly appreciated the complexity of the flavor due to the rye and various fruits it contains. I’d recommend making it, whether because you love the flavors or you want to experience something new. It’s never a bad time to learn something! Give it a shot and tell me what you thought in the comments! I’ve got some more #GentGoesGlobal posts coming soon, as well as some holiday content that I’m excited for. Until then, here’s to good drinking, great eating, and even better living!
- 1/2 lb sliced dark rye bread (crusts removed – dry them and make breadcrumbs!)
- 4 cups water
- 4 oz lingonberry preserves
- 1/2 cup cranberry raisins
- 1 baking apple (peeled, cored, and sliced thinly or diced if you prefer smaller pieces)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground clove
- 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/8 cup sugar
- Toast the bread, then cut into cubes and place in a large saucepan. Fill with the water and let soak for at least 30 minutes. Then beat with a wooden spoon to make sure no large chunks remain.
- Add the lingonberry preserves, craisins, apple, sugar, and spices, and put on a medium heat to bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, lower the heat and let the soup simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning on the bottom or a skin forming on top.
- When all of the flavors have melded together and the apples are cooked, let the soup cool before placing in the fridge. This soup is best served chilled, though you can eat it warm if you really want to!
- To make the whipped cream, beat the whipping cream on high in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until peaks begin to form. Add the spices and sugar and whip until incorporated. Serve a dollop on top of the soup and enjoy!