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.
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.