As the weather begins to turn cold, my baking thoughts turn to the spicy, citrusy rye bread known as Swedish Limpa. A tender crumb thanks to the addition of buttermilk and a hint of orange and anise make this an exceptionally warm and comforting bread, perfect for fall and winter.
What is Swedish Limpa?
The word "limpa" simply means loaf in Swedish. Unlike some Scandinavian rye breads which can be dense and seedy, Limpa is slightly sweet with a fine crumb. In the United States there are many recipes for Swedish Limpa, most of which contain orange zest and spices such as anise, fennel and/or caraway. If you are of Swedish decent, chances are there is a recipe for Limpa in a family recipe box somewhere.
An Easy Rye Bread for Beginners
As I've discussed before, rye has a reputation for being a tricky flour to work with. But this simple loaf contains just enough bread flour in addition to rye to avoid any of the pitfalls associated with rye bread baking. If you are new to baking rye bread at home, this Swedish Limpa is the perfect place to start.
My Limpa Recipe
This recipe comes from my great-grandmother, Emma. She grew up on the southern tip of Sweden within sight of the sea. Her father owned the local flour and saw mill and also tended to fruit orchards on their land. As a child Emma travelled all over Sweden by train with her father selling fruit harvested from the family's orchards.
In the early 1900's, Emma immigrated to America, bringing this Limpa recipe with her. I've updated it slightly and added more detailed instructions, but it is very much in its original form. The combination of rye, orange and anise is as addictive as it is unusual. I often find myself craving a slice, slightly warm from the oven, spread with a generous layer of salted butter. And a good, strong cup of coffee, of course.
Food can be such a powerful link between past, present and future. Making this simple Swedish Limpa is a very tangible way for me to connect with my great-grandmother, revisit her stories and honor her legacy. And I am so delighted to carry this recipe forward and share it with you! As the leaves fly and the temperatures drop, give this warm, comforting and easy Swedish Limpa a try.
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon anise seed toasted briefly in a dry skillet and then ground, or 1 teaspoon ground anise seed
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast see note below
- 1 cup dark rye flour I use the Bob's Red Mill brand
- 2 cups bread flour
- Combine buttermilk and baking soda in a liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
- Combine butter, water, molasses and orange zest in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
- Add buttermilk mixture and molasses mixture to the mixing bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add ground anise seed, salt, yeast and rye flour to the bowl.
- Using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium low until ingredients are combined. Add bread flour and continue to mix on medium low until the dough is fully combined and clearing the sides of the bowl. Increase speed to medium and knead for approximately 4 minutes. If you are mixing and kneading the dough by hand, the process will take longer.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for approximately 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the dough from the bowl and pat into an oval shape that is about 1 ½ inches thick. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 45 minutes to an hour.
- Remove plastic wrap and decoratively score dough with a razor blade or a sharp knife. Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. The internal temperature of the dough should be at least 198 degrees when it is done. Allow bread to cool before slicing.