Our baking traditions this season include German Christmas stollen and cookies for Santa such as Swedish rye cookies, hazelnut cloud cookies, award-winning buckwheat cocoa nib cookies, and rugelach (because why shouldn't Santa enjoy a Jewish treat). This year, as an addition to our Swedish Smörgasbord, I made limpa, a Swedish rye bread from Elin England's new book Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home: Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seed.
This is a dense bread full of fragrant spices and orange rind, with just a hint of sweetness. I used our new crop of rye and wheat flours from our Lonesome Whistle Farm CSA. Today the aromas of freshly baked yeast bread, anise, fennel, and cardamom mingled throughout the house with the excitement of anticipation for Christmas.
Elin's Farmor's Limpa
2 packages (4 1/2 tsp) yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F)
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp each: fennel seed, anise seed, and cardamom seed, pulverized together in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle
Grated rind of 2 oranges
2 Tbsp soft butter
2 1/2 cups rye flour
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over the warm water, and stir until it is dissolved. Set in a warm place for 5 to 10 minutes to proof the yeast.
When the surface is nice and bubbly, add the molasses, sugar, salt, spices, orange rind, and butter. Stir in the rye flour, then when thoroughly blended, mix in the whole wheat flour, a cup at a time.
When the dough is too stiff to work in the bowl, turn it out onto a counter or breadboard dusted with flour and knead until the dough is satiny, about 10 minutes.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel, set in a warm place, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Punch down and let rise again, until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch down yet again and divide the dough in two. Shape each half into a round loaf, then place both loaves on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake for 35 minutes. When the loaves come out of the oven, brush the tops with melted butter and let cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy warm out of the oven or toasted and slathered with butter.