Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BBA Challenge #37: Swedish Rye (LImpa)


Is impossible to find in Germany.

So I exaggerate, but this is the ingredient that has given me the most grief in my short German baking career. I knew that any normal store would definitely not have this in their baking department, and yet I persisted. I asked for "Melasse" at every big supermarket, and at every Bio-laden I could find. Yet, I knew I would probably not find it. A few salespeople even referred me to Zuckerrubensirup, but it's not the same. See here (in German).

Molasses are a basically stronger form of the weak beet sugar syrup. Okay, it's pretty much just a weaker version of molasses. But the flavor is different. I assure you. Molasses is heavy and tastes as dark and as rich as it is black. Whereas Zuckerrübensirup is- well, it's not as heavy but still tastes pretty sweet and rich. Kind of like molasses but without those kicking blackstraps in the back of your tongue.

This bread, however, must have been adapted from a Swedish recipe. So, it's fully possible that the original had no molasses, but, rather, the other beet syrup.

After much to-do, and searching of Bioläden- organic food stores- I went to the one place I had found molasses about two years earlier. I actually used those molasses, shortly before their expiration date, for the first bread in the Challenge- the Andama Bread. The store was called a Reformhaus, which is a chain of Health Food stores that carries the odd off-beat products like flax seeds, oat bran, whole hibiscus flowers, coffee substitutes, and organic candy bars.


Bread #37 of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is Swedish Rye, also known as Limpa, which, according to Google Translate, simply means "loaf".

On the first day you make a sponge, though, in truth, you probably also need an extra day beforehand in order to get your sourdough starter ready.

By the end, the whole thing looks black and really, really ugly. Still, the molasses should do the wild yeasties some good, since molasses contains not just sugar, but tons other minerals. After four hours, you refrigerate it and take it out the next day.

I don't always follow the directions in the recipe, though. Sometimes I'll make the starter or sponge early in the morning, and then start the bread later on in the day, when the starter looks like it's begun to stir. Of course, my disregard of directions has, on occasion, caused me to miss ingredients or steps.

This particular bread has a high percentage of rye flour- about 30%- so you can't mix it too much, lest the rye become gummy. Despite all the practice with rye in the sourdough section, I still have problems with rye. I don't want to mix it too much, but I also have trouble recognizing when I've mixed it enough.

In this case, the dough held well, and was pretty firm. When the delicate gluten in rye breaks down from overkneading, the dough has a tendency to become sticky. And by then, no amount of stretch and folds can save the bread. Thankfully, this time, it was not the case.

After a very modest first rise, I shaped the loaf and placed it on the quarter-sheet baking pan. The loaves are slashed before the second rise and the whole thing is left to proof until it is time to bake.

Despite all my precautions, however, the bread turned out disastrous. I think this is the period of time when the oven started conking out, way back in March.

Or maybe I didn't steam, the oven- which very well could be, since the loaf has all the tell-tale markings of a loaf whose crust formed first, and then begin to rise after the crust set. The bread looked like a beetle.

And the slices turned into mushrooms. This indicates that the crust baked and set before the rest of the bread. Having nowhere else to expand, the rest of the dough expanded under the bread, broke on the sides, and lifted the whole thing up.

As for the flavor? I didn't really like it despite it's licorice-y flavor. I just couldn't wrap my head around it. The bread all dense and bursting with this flavor I just don't associate with bread. I guess now I can understand people who don't like fruit and nuts in their bread. For them, it's not bread. For me, though, this bread could have been very much improved by a healthy dose of scotch-soaked fruit.

Alas, half of the loaf went into the freezer, and the other half I stuck in the breadbox at work. I recently re-discovered it in there, sealed in a Zip-loc bag, looking about the same as it did months ago when I baked it.

Other bakers who have Limpa'd along with this bread are:

Abby from Stir it! Scrape it! Mix it! Bake it!

Oggi from I can do that!

Phyl from Of Cabbages and King Cakes

Sally from Bewitching Kitchen


  1. I am one of those who doesn't like fruit in my bread. I wonder how I'll react to this bread. Sorry it was a flop.

  2. When can you ever improve a bread by adding fruit???

  3. How funny that you have a 'shroom shaped loaf! I have not had that variation yet. I'm actually excited about the limpa (I had some in Chicago's Swedish area and loved it a while back) but it seems that people have been disappointed. I have the same issues as you with rye--I think I underknead out of fear of gumminess. However, I think I underknead generally out of a fear of short-circuiting my kitchenaid.

  4. You mean, nobody at work would eat this bread? LOL! I didn't like this bread either. Btw, I have the same molasses and also found it in a Reformhaus.