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Swedish Holiday Rye Bread



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"Hic jacet Robertus; obiit surfetii traditionum.
Here lies Robert; he died of a surfeit of traditions."

~ Robert Farrar Capon

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Swedish Holiday Rye Bread

Robert Farrar Capon © 1988

Christmas Memories with Recipes icon
1994, Wings Books, a division of Random House
Value Publishing, Inc.

(from “The Groaning Board”)

“My grandmother Amanda Anderson came to this country in the early 1890s
as a young widow with one daughter. She worked here as a household cook
and met my grandfather, a butler, at the French Cooks’ Ball in New York
City. So I came by my love of cooking in a direct line. My Swedish traditions, however, reached me by a kind of cushion shot. Amanda did not do very much Swedish cookery, having been trained and employed in places that looked
more to France for culinary inspiration. Her sister in Boston, though –
my great-aunt Anna – wore her Swedishness like a badge; it was from her
hands that I first experienced Scandinavian Christmas fare, although not
a lot of it. I remember clearly only ‘vörtlimpia’ (orange-anise rye bread),
herring in various guises, and ‘lutfisk’, the lye-soaked Swedish version
of dried codfish, which I absolutely despised.
This meager beginning was launched into high orbit in 1950 when
Amanda’s daughter, my Aunt Edith, gave me a copy of 'Good Food from
icon', by Inga Norberg, the book that to this day remains my bible of
Swedish cookery, and I promptly cooked my way through it…
...My grandmother sampled my Swedish extravagances only once or twice,
but she has mellowed a bit with age and made agreeable Swedish noises
as she sampled my handiwork…”


"I like a cook who smiles out loud when he tastes his own work.
Let God worry about your modesty; I want to see your enthusiasm."
Robert Farrar Capon

 Makes 6 oval loaves

3 cups dark beer or stout
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup molasses
3 packages active dry yeast
Peel [zest] of 4 whole oranges
(white pulp removed),
chopped fine
2 tablespoons fennel seeds,
well pounded in a mortar
(or 2 teaspoons ground fennel)
6 cups rye flour
3 cups white bread flour

Heat the beer or stout, salt and butter in a large pot till the butter melts. Remove from the heat, stir in the molasses, and cool to lukewarm – or
to body temperature when tested on the wrist. Sprinkle the yeast, orange
peel [zest], and fennel over the mixture and blend well.
Add one-third of each kind of flour and beat until smooth. Add another
one-third of each kind of flour and mix vigorously.
Add the remainder of the flours (using more white flour if extra flour is needed), mix, turn out onto a floured board, and knead for 10 to 15
minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
Put the dough into a buttered bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let
rise until doubled in bulk (about 2 hours).
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and divide it into 6 pieces. Shape into longish loaves and place them, seam side down, on baking sheets
lightly dusted with cornmeal.
Let rise, covered lightly with wax paper, for about 2 hours, prick the tops with a buttered skewer, and bake at 300 to 325 degrees [F] for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped. After 20 minutes
of baking, and again at the end, brush the loaves with water to which a
little molasses has been added. When they are cool, wrap them in plastic
bags to keep the crust soft.

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