How to make Swedish Limpa bread

Since a number of our readers seem to enjoy food as much as Chris and I do, I thought I’d occasionally try to weigh in with a cooking post based on some new recipe I’m trying.  This time, it’s King Arthur Flour’s recipe (or one of them) for  Swedish Limpa bread.


I’ve been to Sweden a few times, but no one had introduced me to Limpa bread (bad Swedes).  But the recipe looked interesting, and relatively easy (bread-wise), so I gave it a go, since I’ve been on a homemade bread kick lately.

You can find the detailed recipe instructions here.  I’ll post the recipe itself, and my walk through, but you’ll want to click through to read the detailed instructions.

2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/2 cup King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour (a flour that’s much less “wheat” tasting than regular whole wheat, but has all the same nutrients)
1/2 cup pumpernickel (I used rye)
1/4 cup dark corn syrup (I used molasses)
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons EACH caraway, fennel, and anise seeds
1/4 teaspoon orange oil (I used 1T orange zest, about the amount you’ll get from a good-sized orange)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk (they mean use 1/4c of the powder, not the liquid – don’t reconstitute it)
1 to 1 1/4 cups water (I found the recipe to be far too wet with this much water – but it depends how you weigh the flour)
4 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil (I used olive oil).

The nice thing about this recipe is that you combine all the ingredients at once.  I started with the dry ingredients: flours, yeast, various seeds, salt, dried milk.  Then mixed them well.


Here’s the caraway seeds, had to get these at a local natural foods store.


And the fennel seeds – same natural foods store:


And powdered fennel – not called for in this recipe, but others called for it – so I added half seed and half powder:


Anise seeds.  Very nice stuff, wonderful aroma.  Got these for cheap at a Central American grocery store nearby – I’d read after I made the bread that sometimes crushing the anise seeds just a bit helps to bring out their flavor:


I’ve read other recipes where if you don’t like seeds in your bread, just pulverize all of them with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (though beware, because your coffee grinder could end up spicy) and mix them in the dough like that.

As for orange rind, that was fairly easy – I needed two oranges, because mine were on the small side. You just want to be careful not to include the white of the orange, you just want the orange.  And wash them well first, as God knows what pesticides are on the outside.  You’ll need a fine grater as you want the rind pulverized.

Then I started adding my liquids and mixing everything in my Bosch Compact, a wonderful European blender that can knead 100% whole wheat doughs – newer Kitchenaid blenders reportedly can’t handle 100% whole wheat dough without burning out.  The Bosch Compact (can handle about 6c flour IMHO), and its larger version, the Bosch Universal (which can handle a lot more flour), are well-loved by bread makers.  I love this thing – I haven’t hand-kneaded dough in years (I have tendonitis, so stopped trying a few years ago, then bought this baby).  And I also use it as a regular mixmaster (or I guess we say “mixer” now, since I’ m not my mom :)


After a while I realized my dough was far too wet, so I ended up adding about 4T more flour, and threw in 2T of vital wheat gluten because I wasn’t liking my results with the “window test.”  Google it if you’re not sure what I mean.  As you can see below, it finally came together as a proper dough with the additional flour.  Rye dough tends to be tackier to start with, so you have to be careful not to add too much flour.  I ended up kneading this thing a good 15 minutes or longer.


Then I put the dough in my neat little plastic thingie that I perhaps got from King Arthur or online elsewhere. It’s a wonderful tool for making bread as the marking make it easy to see when the dough has doubled in size.


View of the unrisen dough, looking down:


I forgot to grab a photo of the risen dough.  Here’s the dough after I made them into logs.  You could just as easily make it into a round ball. The bottom dough is before I rolled it up into a log. There’s a neat technique for doing this where you roll the dough out, fold the top half down. Then fold the sides in, then roll the entire thing.


After the dough had risen – I wish I’d gotten a bit of a larger rise, but the bread still turned out nicely.  I just like fluffier bread.  Which doesn’t always happen when you’er using rye or whole wheat flours.


The dough in the 350F oven, after I scored the top – which always tends to deflate my bread.  I don’t know if I’m going to score non-white-bread recipes in the future, as they don’t then get enough oven-bounce – which is when bread rises rapidly as soon as you put the dough in the oven.


The finished loaf.  I use a  thermometer – the internal temp is supposed to be 190F.  But once I got to 190F, I took the bread out, turned it upside down and thumped the back with my fingers.  If you don’t get a nice hollow thud, it means the bread isn’t done.  I ended up cooking it another 13 minutes or so, until I got a nice thud.


And voilà, my finished Swedish Limpa loaf.  I tried a slice, it’s good.  It’s supposedly better the next day. It’s a subtly sweet bread, and the spices are relatively subtle as well – tasted to me like a subtly sweet rye bread.


One of the ways they suggest eating Limpa is toasted with butter and jam. I chose apricot and raspberry, two of my favorites (Bonne Maman jam, my favorite).  It was quite good.  The bread benefits from the sharpness of the jam.  I just had it toasted with butter and no jam, and it’s good, a tinge of orange, but again I’d like more sweetness, and more orange.  I think next time I might even make the bread a bit sweeter – I’ve seen some recipes add some OJ or a few tablespoons of orange jam – I’d also consider adding a touch more molasses.  Other recipes add a bit of depth to the bread by using beer as well.

Keep in mind that sweet things tend to taste less sweet when they heat up – at least that’s my experience with drinks (coffee) and food (any kind of bread that’s sweet).  So to some degree you have to decide if you want it sweet for regular eating, or sweet for baking.

Another suggestion I read was to try Limpa with smoked salmon, and I happened to have some in the fridge:


It was quite good (I toasted the bread), but needed something sharper.  Some capers would have been nice.  Or a splash of lemon, which I didn’t think of until it was too late.  Or maybe even horseradish, which I never keep around.

So there you have it.  Swedish Limpa bread.  I think the hardest thing about making bread for beginners is getting the feel for when the dough has enough flour and/or liquid.  It’s next to impossible to get the measurements right, as they can be affected by the weather.  So you have to learn to be able to get a sense of the look and feel of a proper dough, so you know when to stop adding flour or liquid.  It’s not always easy.

But this turned out well.  When I finish these loaves I may try another Limpa recipe for fun, and maybe add some more gluten to it, as I tend to like my breads airy, even if they’re breads like this that I think are traditionally a heavier bread.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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31 Responses to “How to make Swedish Limpa bread”

  1. BeccaM says:

    It’s been eons since I’ve made homemade bread not in a machine, so no, I’ve never tried that method.

  2. Oh that’s interesting. Have you tried putting it in the fridge to rise? Takes 3x longer, but in this case, that’s not a bad thing. Lots of breads are recommended to rise in the fridge overnight to enhance the flavor – yeast apparently gives of a nicer flavor during a slow rise.

  3. sherman says:

    Memories. Went camping in northern Minnesota decades ago, and we got limpa bread at the canoe outfitter’s shop. Of course anything tastes better when you’re hungry out in the wild, but I have very good memories of it and would love to try some again. Doubt that I’m brave enough to try making my own.

  4. BeccaM says:

    Faster and more gassy, which is what I -think- leads to the bread always collapsing.

  5. BeccaM says:

    Thanks for the suggestions and encouragement. I really appreciate it.

  6. emjayay says:

    See above comment from BeccaM. Lower air pressure, faster rise.

  7. emjayay says:

    It’s the lower barometric pressure.

  8. emjayay says:

    Well that’s how kids are, or at least I was. Probably my brother never noticed. My mother used to wrap sanwiches in the bag from bread, which of course is very ecological but then back then no one knew what the environment was. I would slip the sandwich out without anyone seeing the wrapper. Later she said when she was a kid since her parents had a restaurant her sanwiches weren’t really home made and she was kind of jealous of kids who had sanwiches wrapped in the bread wrapper. And of course I was envious of kids who had real Hostess cupcakes with the squiggle on top instead of the homemade crap I got.

  9. emjayay says:

    I actually don’t have either of those things. From Amazon comments there are problems like with nylon gears in the KitchenAid on the less than 6 qt. size models. They are made in the US, but by Whirlpool not Hobart like they were years ago. I hope they have addressed the quality issues because having a reputation of being heavy duty and reliable is what the product really depends on in the long term.

  10. Naja pallida says:

    From my time living in Albuquerque, I tried a few different things with varying levels of success, it was always hit or miss, and though still much lower than where you are, I would add a little extra water ~3 tbsp, do a double rise – ie, let it rise for about half an hour, and then take it out of the bread machine, flatten it, and let it rise again for another 20-30 minutes – and lower the oven temperature to 325. I only ever use my bread machine to do the grunt work of the mixing/kneading, and take the dough out and actually bake it in the oven, but my machine is an old Hitachi, and is kinda crappy. It worked really well when it was new, but over the years it has started making bread-lumps.

  11. Does it rise less, or more slowly>?

  12. It’s scientifically not weird, but it’s weird for baking to imagine having to change all your recipes.

  13. Rising times are easy in that you let bread machine knead, then take it out and let it rise on its own. With that plastic bucket I have, it’s easy to see when it’s doubled.

  14. Your kitchenaid, if it was made any time in the last 15 years or so, is not built to handle whole wheat bread, just fyi, you’ll likely destroy it. As for food processors, you have to be VERY Careful as the dough heats up immediately and you can kill the yeast, I have. You only mix it in those for like 45 seconds, but still, I’ve often killed the yeast

  15. BeccaM says:

    Exactly. It was interesting, getting used to living at high altitude after all our years in California (800 ft) and in India (Deccan plateau…but still not all that high). I remember one trip about ten years ago to visit friends in the Albuquerque area, driving in from the Bay Area, and after being here just three days, decided we wanted to check out the Sandia Crest (11,000 ft).

    My wife handled it okay, but I literally got altitude sick from around the 8500 ft point onward. Nauseous, my long muscles ached, couldn’t seem to get enough air even when breathing deeply. In a way, fortunately it was too windy to stay up there for long. On the way back down, the symptoms dissipated.

    Having lived out here since 2009, I can handle Crest visits just fine now, being acclimated. However, the difference is still noticeable. It’s funny when talking up there, because one is used to having a certain amount of breath — and you run out several words early.

    Anyway, yep — the problem with cooking is most things take longer. Or you need to use less water. Or make other adjustments.

  16. emjayay says:

    Inspirational stuff, particulary for those of us who the immunologist looked at our blood test and said “Stop eating gluten.” Damn. No wheat. No rye. Sometimes at Trader Joe’s I stand there and stare wistfully at the whole wheat seeded sourdough bread. (That stuff is great.)

    A couple of things: A “blender” generally refers to the thing with the tallish container with the propeller in the bottom. A thing you put bowls on and it stirs things from the top is a “mixer”. Kitchenaid makes the classic kind that has a dough hook as well as a bunch of other available attachments that run off the power drive (like a Jeep). They come in three sizes: 4 1/2 qt, 250 W @ $260, 5 qt. 325 W @ $350, 6 qt. 575 W @ $450. All come with a stainless steel bowl, mixing paddle, wire whip, and dough hook. On these the mixing bit goes around in a planetary motion. No, I don’t have one.

    I think big food processors can also knead bread. As well as a cycle on a bread machine that stops before the baking part.

    Obviously you don’t have to use that brand of flour. Trader Joe’s also sells a Trader Joe brand of whole wheat white flour, which is likely to be the same stuff anyway.

  17. BeccaM says:

    It’s tricky, because there are multiple factors at play here. One is the rising times are altered, and the automatic cycle on the bread machine doesn’t do it right. Another is I’ve been trying to get some guidance on how to adjust the yeast, because it’s seeming as if the bread rises too fast and too gassy. Then it collapses and we end up with the inedible lump.

  18. emjayay says:

    It’s not that wierd. At 7200 feet water boils at 198 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 212 in DC. And barometric pressure is on average lower. The average pressure in DC is 29.9 inches of mercury. (Our olde tyme measurement). At 7200 feet the pressure would be 22.9.
    I lived at that altitude for a year. After I first got there I was steaming some brocolli and after the usual amount of time it was still pretty hard. I thought “WTF…..oh, right, duh.”

  19. BeccaM says:

    We had been living at around 5500 ft, and while it affected some recipes, it was manageable. But now we’re 1700 ft higher, it seems to affect nearly everything to some degree or another.

    It mainly has to do with the reduced boiling temperature; rather than 212F, water boils here at 199F. But another factor is we’ve found the bread rises differently here, when we’ve tried it.

  20. emjayay says:

    You can use your bread machine to do the kneading and maybe the rising and then do the baking part in the oven. Usually (always?) there is a cycle for doing that that omits the baking.

  21. Even when I could knead, I never enjoyed it – I also found I never could knead wheat bread enough.

  22. Yeah, the Compact that I have is about $200. And it can make basically two good sized loaves. The other makes more, but is quite expensive, trending towards $350 and up I believe. But it’s a GOD send for kneading. ONly thing is, when you learn bread, you need to learn how to judge when the bread needs more or less water etc, and that comes with time. And I’ve seen a lot of high altitude bread recipes, so you should hopefully be able to find some – that kind of sucks that all cooking changes at that altitude, how weird.

  23. That’s funny, I can only imagine kids trying to fit in and being embarrassed about their “dark” bread.

  24. Oh that’s right!

  25. Jim Olson says:

    Lingonberry jam. Get some at the local IKEA.

  26. GarySFBCN says:

    You’re better off without microwave popcorn.

  27. Pollysi says:

    Just like my Swedish grandmother’s bread. She always sliced it thin and served it with her homemade tomato jam, made from yellow tomatoes, which she claimed were sweeter than red.

    When she was a child, she was always embarrassed that she had to take dark bread to school instead of white bread like the “English” kids. As grandchildren, we always asked for her rye bread and her big soft ginger cookies.

    Thanks for the memories!

  28. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    It’s too bad that you and John can’t knead. Kneading is better than taking a Xanax.

  29. BeccaM says:

    That looks delicious.

    I’ve been wanting to take the plunge to make homemade breads — particularly since at our altitude (7200 ft), machine-made bread has proven to be a disaster. Tried three times, and each time got this hard, lumpy inedible mess. It’s not the machine — we know it works fine at lower altitudes.

    (We can’t make microwave popcorn here, either — it turns out these hard little popped kernels and is prone to burning.)

    I’ve had RSIs, so hand-kneading is also out of the question… guess we’ll need to get one of those super-duper mixers, too, at some point when finances allow it.

  30. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    You can buy this at Ingebretsen’s in Minneapolis, although it is more fun to make your own. The flavor will improve if you crush all the seeds slightly.

    There’s another Swedish bread called lefse. I’ve never really got into it. It’s like a giant crepe.

  31. Naja pallida says:

    It’s like Swedish sushi!

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