Several times, the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge has definitely asked me to go far beyond my flavor comfort zone. Swedish Rye, also known as Limpa, is one of those breads. There’s no way I’ve ever even heard of Swedish Rye, much less tasted a bread with ground orange peel, aniseed, fennel seed, cardamom, brown sugar, molasses, sourdough starter, and rye flour all mixed together.
I began preparing for this bread by drying orange peel in my oven at a low temperature. I mean, why buy something, when you can make it, right? If I had oranges growing in my yard the way limes, lemons, and Rangpur limes are thriving, I could have started truly from scratch. (Note to self: plant an orange tree, already, jeez!) Once the peels were dry, I ground them in an old coffee bean grinder, where the aroma reminded me of sunshine. Which was a big plus, since this has been the rainiest winter/spring in a long, long time. I then ground the rest of the spices the same way.
To make the gorgeously orange-colored sponge, I added those ingredients to water and molasses, and brought the mixture to a boil. Once that had cooled to lukewarm, I stirred in white rye flour and sourdough starter. After about four hours, the sponge was foamy, and it got refrigerated overnight.
The next morning, after the sponge sat out to warm up a bit, I mixed bread flour, yeast, salt, and brown sugar together. Then I added melted shortening and the sponge, and kneaded for a bit. From there, this was a typical process, with two rises, and a bake. (Although slashing the bread before the second rise was new to me, and it created the pretty pattern you see on top of the loaf.)
How to describe such an exotic flavor? You can probably imagine the orange-infused licorice flavor mixing with the flower-scented cardamom. But then you still need to layer in that white rye nuttiness and the slight sourdough effect. And the deep molasses spiciness and sweet brown sugar. It was strange and wonderful, all at the same time; a soft dough with a chewy crust.
It’s not a flavor profile that will appeal to everyone. My family thought it interesting, but abandoned it for more familiar breads. I kept on tasting it for several days, amazed at the complexity. Then, I had an epiphany. Bread pudding would never, ever be the same for me again. I’ll share that recipe with you later this week. Because it was the best bread pudding I’ve eaten. Period.
You can find the recipe I used for Swedish Rye in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I’ll be submitting this post to YeastSpotting, a collection of the week’s yeast breads around the web, by Susan at Wild Yeast.