Category Archives: Bread

Whole Grain Swedish Limpa

Just like meatloaf, there are a lot of bad limpa recipes floating around the universe. But if you are lucky enough to have tried good limpa you know it can be memorable, surprising and even divine. For breakfast – smeared with apricot jam and a slice of good farm cheese there is nothing better.

I have a good dozen recipes for limpa that I’ve clipped or been given over the last twenty five years and I’ve tried them all. None of them really captured that light, slightly sweet and aromatic loaf that is the limpa of my memories. I’ve given it up as being situational. Maybe, like eating food while camping, it’s more about the camping than the food.

A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas and of course the first thing I tried was the limpa recipe. It called for mostly white flour so I adapted it for whole grain and swapped out things like salad oil which I’m pretty sure would not be historically accurate. It smelled ethereal even before it hit the oven. But once it hit the oven and began to spring and perfume my kitchen, I knew there was something different about this limpa recipe. I knew this was it.

When I pulled the loaves out and brushed the crust with molasses, I committed a cardinal sin. I sliced that steaming hot loaf and tasted the breadbaker’s right (that is the most flavorable piece of the whole loaf, the crust piece). I closed my eyes and visions of Sweden danced in my head. I was in an airy wooden kitchen with red and white striped curtains and dish towels, Bjorn Skiffs on the radio, warm bread smells in the air, and I was tasting good bread for the first time. Swedish limpa with fennel, caraway and orange zest. If anyone ever offers you limpa with candied orange peel in it, just politely decline.

This limpa recipe, with quite a few adaptations, embodies my memory of real Swedish limpa. I hope you enjoy it.

Swedish Limpa
makes 3 loaves

8-9 cups hard red wheat flour
2 cups rye flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
3 teaspoons salt
grated peel of one orange
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon caraway seed
4 cups milk (if not using raw or buttermilk, substitute 1/2 cup whey or yogurt as part of the milk. This acidic medium will help reduce the phytic acid in the grains and soften the dough considerably)
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup dark molasses

Before bed, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Cover bowl and let stand on the counter overnight.

In the morning, turn all the dough out and knead by hand, adding as little flour as possible. You can also split this into two batches and knead using a bowl mixer. Continue kneading until the dough is shiny and smooth-looking but still tacky and passes the windowpane test (when you stretch a small piece of it, it stretches to form an opaque window rather than tearing), about 6-8 minutes.

Butter 3 loaf pans or cake pans. Shape into oblong loaves for bread pans or rounds for cake pans. Place loaves in pans, cover and let rise until almost doubled in the warmest spot in your kitchen, about an hour. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 F.

Score and lightly spray tops of loaves with water just before placing them in the oven. This will keep the surface supple and allow the loaves to continue rising in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the loaves are a deep brown and the inside registers 190 F. Brush the loaves with molasses and allow to cool before slicing. You may even want to put some ABBA on for this loaf. It’s that good.

100% Whole Wheat Pizza

Pizza is one of those compromise foods we make as a family. I’m pretty picky about it. I like it in Rome and Florence and liked it from the now-defunct Fremont Trattoria. I enjoy Serious Pie but it’s just not the same. Other than that you can pretty much keep your pizza.

But since my family loves pizza I’ve been working on it for years. I want a crust that uses 100% whole wheat flour but doesn’t overpower the toppings (which should be minimal.) I want the crust to be crunchy on the bottom but still have some toothiness and chew. I want it thin but with pockets. I want the toppings to change frequently since I don’t like to eat the same thing more than a few times a year. I’m not easy to please.

I think I’ve probably tried every pizza dough recipe I’ve come across and then some. We’ve had blind pizza tastings and sighted pizza tastings and conducted panels of friends to make notes on them all. We’re crazy like that. But you may not be so I’m going to spare you your own blind tastings and just give you my recipe.

It’s not at all authentic because it’s whole wheat and contains oil but I feel like it’s pretty darn good. Not blessed by the Pope kind of good but still I bet the best whole wheat pizza dough you’ll ever have kind of good. It’s essentially the same recipe as the Neo Neapolitan Pizza Dough from American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizzaadapted for an overnight soak with acidic medium, 100% whole wheat and some tricks to get you nice bubbles in a regular home oven. Here Willipa Hills Little Boy Blue is graced by onions caramelized with Rockridge Orchard Balsamic Vinegar. Local Black Walnuts on top would be divine.

4 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon yeast
1 3/4 cups water with 3 tablespoons of whey from yogurt or raw milk making up the total liquid
2-3 tablespoons olive oil (not necessary but this helps tenderize the dough so it’s soft inside yet crunchy on the bottom)

Combine flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the water and the olive oil and mix using the dough hook until the dough comes together (about 3 minutes). Switch the mixer off and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Turn on the mixer and knead it for another minute or two. By this time the whole wheat flour will have absorbed the moisture and you can tell if it needs more flour or water. The dough should be fairly wet and sticky, a little tricky to work with but this is necessary to get the final texture the way you want it.

At this point you can either leave the dough in the mixing bowl covered with a plate overnight to soak the grain and make it more digestible as well as develop the flavor or you can divide and refrigerate or freeze the dough for future pizzas. I usually make this the night before so the grain has time to soak and the flavor develops.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces, rubbing each one with olive to keep them from drying out. Place each in a ziplock or small plastic container to refrigerate or freeze. Be sure and remove your dough several hours before using it so it comes to room temperature, otherwise it will be difficult to work with.

About 30 minutes before making pizza preheat your oven and pizza stone as hot as it will go. We bake ours on 550 but if you have a wood fired oven in the backyard, 800 is ideal.

If you are using white flour it does make a difference whether you stretch or roll but we’ve found with whole wheat it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you get your dough as thin as possible by hook or crook. We sprinkle our pizza peal with semolina to keep the dough from sticking and then roll it out as thinly as possible with one of these.

You could certainly use a regular rolling pin but the short sides on this and the handle let you get inside pans for things like tarts and gives you some nice leverage. During the heat of pizza making my kitchen counters are often piled high with all sorts of things easy to knock over so it’s nice having such a small implement to work with. Plus the kids love using it with playdough.

My ideal pizza dough has a crispy bottom and just a bit of soft inside, ideally with nice bubbles. You don’t want bubbles so large that you end up with pita bread so the secret that lets you achieve bubbles using 100% whole wheat dough is to gently dock your crust and pre-bake it naked. I use one of these for docking pizza dough and crackers.

Once your dough is sufficiently rolled and docked you deftly shake it off the pizza peal with a flick of the wrist and onto the pre-heated pizza stone. Pre-bake the dough for 3 minutes, remove it from the oven and poke any bubbles that approach pita bread size with a fork, then add toppings.

We use cheesy white sauce, red sauce, plain olive oil, taco sauce or barbecue sauce to match our toppings du jour. Hold off on any fresh toppings that will singe in the oven such as basil or other leafs, fresh herbs or fresh tomatoes. Bake the pizza for another 3 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the bottom is darkened and crunchy. Remove the pizza then top with the fresh ingredients and let the pizza site for 5 minutes to meld the flavors and set up before slicing.

Here leftover taco filling and queso fresco meet home canned jalapenos.

Crack open a bottle of local red wine and make a fresh garden salad while you wait. Now that’s the kind of pizza meal I can sink my teeth into.

Makes 4 small pizzas.

Desem Bread – Pulling it All Together

Sorry if I’ve left any of you hanging on the desem – this week has totally gotten away from me. I’ve been working on an article for Canning Across America which will be up hopefully next week, planning the spring/summer/fall garden, organizing a large seed buy for the Seattle Urban Farm Coop, and managed to squeeze in a weeknight date with my hubby so I just haven’t been in front of the computer.

So from the top, to start a desem based on the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book:

Day 1 Combine 2 cups of organic stone ground bread flour with 1/2 cup filtered water. Knead it until you have a nice ball of stiff dough. If you are using a bag of ground bread flour simply bury your wild creature in the middle of the flour bag, seal it up and store it somewhere that is between 50 and 65 degrees. If you have no flour bag simply use a plastic container with a lid or another small paper bag that you can roll up and secure against bugs somehow. It will stay in that spot for 48 hours.


Day 2 Do nothing with your desem.

Day 3 After digging out your ball of dough cut off any of the hard crust that may have formed and remove enough dough so that your remaining dough is about half of what you started out with after taking it out of the flour.


Add 1/4 cup of filtered water and work that well into the dough ball.


At that point add enough flour and/or water to get your dough ball back to the size you started with. This is called “feeding” the starter. Knead the flour and water in until smooth and then bury your dough ball back in your flour again in your cold cellar or garage (50-65 degrees.)

Day 4 Repeat day 3 directions.

Day 5 Repeat day 3 directions.

Day 6 Add 1/3 cup filtered water to your desem and work the water in so that the dough is completely dissolved. Knead 1 cup of flour into the dough mass to create a nice dough ball then store the desem in a covered non-reactive container like a glass bowl or quart sized yogurt container with tight fitting lid. Return the desem to your cold cellar or garage.

Day 7 Add 1/3 cup filtered water to your desem until the dough is completely dissolved just as on day 6. Add 1 cup of flour and knead for about 10 minutes to a nicely developed dough. Cut your dough into quarters and return one quarter to your closed container and ultimately to the cold cellar or garage.

Combine the other three quarters into one dough ball, place in a large mixing bowl and cover it with a platter. Leave it on the counter overnight so it’s ready for baking in the morning.

Day 8 through Day 14 Each day soften the desem from your cold storage with a few tablespoons of filtered water and then feed it 1/3 cup of flour just as you have been doing all week.

Day 15 on Feed your desem twice a week according to how frequently you bake bread. You will feed your desem about a half day before you want to make bread. Just remember to save a portion of your desem for future loaves.

On Day 8 or Later – to Bake Bread In the first two weeks your desem is not fully ripe and therefore won’t make loaves as light but you can still bake with it at any time.

Using about 2 1/4 cups of desem, soften it with 1 1/3 cups of filtered water. Add another 3 cups of flour and 2 1/2 teaspoons salt until your dough comes together. Using the bread hook on a mixer, knead for about 3 minutes, then turn off the mixture and let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Check to see if your dough is too sticky or too dry and adjust by adding small amounts of water or flour accordingly. Knead for another 6-8 minutes until the gluten is developed.

To test for this pull off a small blob of dough and stretch it gently while looking towards a source of light. If the gluten is developed enough it will stretch without tearing and form a “window pane” that you can see through.

Place the dough in a large bowl and cover it with a dinner plate in a draft free location at room temperature for 8-10 hours. As your desem gains in strength over it’s life this time will reduce by half. It’s ok for this first proof to go over so if you need to just ignore it and go to bed. Proceed with the next steps when you wake up (or calculate the following steps backwards from when you have time to bake the bread.)

Take the dough out of your bowl and gently deflate it on a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough and press it into a flat circle about 1″ thick. The following shaping directions are a little difficult to understand so I’m hoping to take pictures on Saturday. Until then try to use your imagination. Although complicated, they are necessary to develop surface tension which is then distributed throughout the dough. It’s this tension that gives your dough the structure to support a good rise and give you a nice, airy texture.

Take the top edge of the dough and fold it down to the middle of the circle, pressing to seal with the heel of your hand. Take the right edge and fold it in to the middle of the circle, pressing to seal with the heel of your hand. Take the bottom edge and fold it up to the middle of the circle, pressing to seal with the heel of your hand. Take the left edge and fold it in to the middle of the circle, pressing to seal with the heel of your hand. Think of these folds as the petals of a flower all folding in to the center.

The center of the circle that you are looking at will become the “stem” of the flower and ultimately the bottom of your loaf. Take your loaf on it’s side and roll it gently under one hand, putting pressure at the base of the flower so that your loaf tapers into a tear drop shape with the point of the tear drop being the flower stem.

Now taking both hands on either side of the flower lift it up so the top of the loaf (the side that was down on the counter in the beginning) is facing you. Very gently take both hands at 3 and 9:00 respectively and pull them down on either side of the dough, stretching and smoothing the top layer of dough. Now place your hands at 12 and 6:00 respectively and repeat the process.

Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes and then repeat the process again – by flattening the dough into a 1″ tall circle and shaping once more. Place the dough either seam side down in a round glass casserole dish with lid which you’ve dusted with cornmeal, or seam side up in a bowl which you’ve lined with a tea towel dusted with cornmeal. If you have a glass casserole dish you can bake it directly in this once it’s finished the second rise. If not you would let it raise in the bowl and then gently turn it over onto either a wooden peel heavily dusted with cornmeal or directly onto a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal to bake. If you have a pizza stone this is the time to use it.

Your second rise will take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours and the more humid you can get the environment, the lighter your bread will turn out. One way to achieve this is to boil water in your microwave and then remove it and raise your bread in the microwave. You could use a recently unloaded dishwasher as your proofing oven. Or you could also use your oven with a pilot light on and place a pan of boiling water in there with the bread dough. Proof your dough until it “feels completely spongy to the touch and loses all it’s firmness, it may even sag just a little.” according to the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book.

When your dough is ready, barely slash the top to avoid having the top crust lift up on the loaf. Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes and then at 350 until it’s done, around 190 F. This should take about an hour in total.

The longer this dough takes to rise, the tangier and darker it will be so don’t throw it out if you aren’t happy with the flavor from this first loaf. Just eat it with some mustard, cheese and beer and bake with it again a week later, then another week later before making up your mind.


This dough can also be used to make pitas or crackers anytime you want in the same way those logs of cookie dough are always ready to be shaped and baked just when you need them.

Starting a Desem – Day 7 and Seasonal Citrus

On the seventh day you don’t rest and neither does your desem. Again add 1/3 cup of water and enough flour to get a medium stiff dough. Knead your dough about 10 minutes, divide it into four parts and return one part to your container in the garage.

The other 3 parts place in a bowl on your counter and cover it with a dinner plate. We’ll begin to make bread with our desem on the eighth day but because it’s still a young desem it doesn’t have much leavening power yet so it will take 11 or 12 hours to rise at this point.

You may choose to make crackers and wait a few more days, or you may choose to make baguette shaped loaves which you can slice thinly into cocktail sized pieces of bread. These are perfect for melba toast or little open faced sandwiches.

I promise to add photos over the weekend! I’ve been in citrus heaven, mad canning for Tigress, year end bookkeeping in preparation for looming tax deadlines and dreaming of spring seeds and additional perennials.

Although citrus is not local (hopefully my potted meyer lemon and outdoor planted yuzu will be productive in a few years!) they are seasonal right now so I’m juicing, freezing, zesting, freezing, canning, salt preserving, gorging, tarting and will soon be lacto-fermenting them.

I remember when I was very young we would always get clementines in our stockings at Christmas and we appreciated them because that was the only time we had them. It’s like that again – now that I finally got my husband to kick his orange juice habit thanks to Rockridge Orchards apple cider and our juicer full of beets and carrots.

One thing about seasonal eating is you really appreciate each thing when it’s in season. You gorge and celebrate it and when it’s gone a new thing fills it’s vacant seat. At the peak of the dark days there are few exciting things to look forward to that can’t be found in the depths of the freezer or pantry.

Right now it doesn’t get any better than this lemon tartfrom Dori Greenspan. We’ve snitched so many spoonfuls out of the tart pans in the fridge that we are out of clean spoons!

Starting a Desem – Day 6

I promise I’ll get caught up soon with recipes and posts but in case you are starting a desem along with me this week I want to give you direction.

On the sixth day soften your entire ball of dough with 1/3 cup of water and knead enough flour in to make a nice soft dough. Instead of burying it in flour today you will place it in a closed container. I have mine in a quart yogurt container. It goes back into my garage which is between 50 and 65 degrees.