Swedish rye bread

I’m not a baker. It requires an exactitude I just do not possess. But when the holidays roll around I feel compelled to try and make the Swedish treats I so enjoyed while growing up. They get harder to find as I grow older and I find it fun making and sharing them with my family. Even if they aren’t quite right, I improve each year.

The flavor of this bread was a bullseye, but it didn’t quite rise right. So it was a little dense. After having made a different bread this weekend, I know what I’ll do differently next year and try to explain in this post.

Swedish Rye has a unique flavor of orange, fennel, molasses and rye. I used this recipe from spruce eats as a guide. But as I said, I lack precision and didn’t even buy enough orange juice for the recipe and had to improvise by watering it down.

You start off by bringing the orange juice, molasses, brown sugar, butter and spices to boil for 5 minutes. Then add yeast, salt and orange zest.

So the first mistake I made was focusing on all three of these ingredients at once. I should have had them all ready to go and in the future, I’ll put the zest in first, then salt, and then make sure the mix was just warm to the touch (not too hot) and add the yeast and take the time to proof it. Basically, stir in the yeast and wait five minutes while it activates. This is what that looks like in a different recipe.

That is yeast bubbling up and expanding, showing that its active and ready to go. This step is actually crucial for getting bread to rise. My other thought is that in future I’d double the yeast that the spruce recipe calls for and last, I used clementine zest, which is stronger so I used half, but I missed the texture of navel orange zest.

The next step is to slowly add 2 and 1/2 cups of rye flour to the sugar flavor yeast mix. Another mea culpa from me. I had three cups of rye flour left in this bag and just adjusted down the white flour amount to use up my rye. This was a mistake. Rye flour is a lot denser than white flour.

So you eventually mix in rye and white flour, knead it up and let it rise, then bake.

Here’s the recipe as adjusted to how I’ll make it next year:

  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (5 tsp.)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon freshly grated navel orange peel
  • 2 cups medium rye flour
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Mix according to the instructions above and let rise for an hour or more. Divide and shape into two loaves and let them rise another hour. Meanwhile preheat the oven to the 375. After the shaped loaves have risen, bake for 30 minutes.

The taste of this bread is so good. I love it just as toast with butter. The classic is to serve a slice of cheddar on top of it. I had good luck storing one half the dough in the fridge for a couple of days to bake a loaf fresh for my mom when she came over. She enjoyed it despite its density and it all got eaten. So I’m happy and looking forward to trying again next year.

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