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Aug 10, 2021

Swedish Rye Bread (Limpa)

Swedish Rye Bread, or Limpa, is a faintly sweet rye scented with orange, anise, fennel, and cardamom. It's very different from deli and other rye breads. 

Swedish rye loaf.

Abandon any preconceived ideas you have about rye flavor. I'm pretty sure it's the caraway seeds or other flavorings that we taste in deli breads. Not that the flavor is bad, it's just not the rye flour.

This bread's flavor is very different. With the orange zest, aniseeds, fennel seeds, cardamom, molasses, and brown sugar. The bread smells intoxicating. 

It is really good toasted with butter and jam. It also is great for open faced cheese and meat sandwiches. 

Sliced rye bread.

You can bake this limpa in a loaf pan, or form it into batard and bake it on a baking stone. You can also make one large two-pound loaf (first photo), or divide the dough in half and make two smaller loaves (second photo). 

Tips for making Swedish rye bread:

The recipe calls for a 30/70 ratio of rye to wheat flour. At that ratio, you have to be very careful about not over mixing the dough as rye flour can become quite gummy. Knead it just enough so that the gluten in the bread flour has a chance to develop. 

This recipe calls for white rye flour. If you can't find white rye, you can sift some of the bran out of medium flour by running it through a fine mesh sieve. 

For maximum freshness, buy the anise, cardamom, and fennel in whole seeds and grind them yourself for this bread. 

You can substitute orange oil for the dried orange peel if you have that on hand. 

This bread takes two days to make so plan ahead. On the first day, you make a "sponge" of sourdough starter, rye flour, molasses, the dried orange peel and the spices. You let it ferment for four hours at room temperature and then refrigerate it overnight. 

Swedish rye loaf.

On baking day, you let the dough sit at room temperature for about an hour before mixing the final dough. 

The final dough includes all of the sponge, plus brown sugar, salt, some vegetable oil, and instant yeast. You just knead it briefly by machine or by hand, and then let it rise. If the dough is too sticky, add small amounts of bread flour, not rye flour. 

Be sure not to cut into the bread until it cools completely. 

Swedish rye bread top.

Try scoring this bread after shaping and before the second rise for a different look. The cuts opened slightly and filled in while the bread rose, and then spread out more duing baking. 

This month's Bread Bakers theme is Spiced Savory Breads and our host is Renu of Cook with Renu

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Swedish Rye bread with butter.

Swedish Rye Bread (Limpa)

Swedish Rye Bread (Limpa)
Yield: 1 2-pound loaf
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 30 MinCook time: 50 MinInactive time: 12 HourTotal time: 13 H & 20 M
Swedish Rye Bread, or Limpa, is a faintly sweet rye scented with orange, anise, fennel, and cardamom. It's very different from deli and other rye breads.


For the Sponge
  • 7 ounces water
  • 1.75 ounces (2 1/2 tablespoons) molasses
  • 1 tablespoon dried orange peel or 1 teaspoon orange oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground aniseeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 7 ounces (7 ounces) 100 percent hydration sourdough starter
  • 5 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) white rye flour
Final Dough
  • 11.25 ounces (2 1/2 cups) bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2.25 ounces (4 1/2 tablespoons) brown sugar
  • All of the sponge
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, warmed


To Make the Sponge
  1. Combine the water, molasses, orange peel, and spices to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Pour the mixture into a heat proof bowl to cool to lukewarm. 
  2. Add the sourdough starter and the rye flour and stir until combined. Cover and let sit for four hours at room temperature. 
  3. Refrigerate overnight. 
  4. Remove from the refrigerator the next morning, one hour before mixing the dough.
To Make the Bread
  1. Place the bread flour, yeast, salt, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk together. 
  2. Add the sponge and the oil and stir with a dough whisk or large spoon. 
  3. Mix on medium speed with the dough hook for four minutes (or knead by hand). The dough should be tacky. If it's too sticky, add a little more bread flour. 
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours. 
  5. Degas the dough and press it into a rectangle about 6 inches by 8 inches. Beginning with a 6 inch end, roll the dough tightly into a log. It will grow longer than 6 inches in length. Rock it back and forth to even it out and to match the length of the pan. Transfer the log to a bread pan, seam side down. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. 
  6. You can make one large loaf (use a 2-pound loaf pan) or two smaller loaves (in 1 pound loaf pans). You can also shape the dough into a batard or boule. 
  7. Score the dough with a sharp knive three times on an angle. 
  8. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until it crests the pan in the center. 
  9. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for 15 to 30 minutes more, until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees F and the loaf is golden brown. 
  10. Remove the finished loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. 
Did you make this recipe?
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Recipe adapted from The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I have made every recipe in the book. It's how I learned to bake bread! 

Would you like to comment?

  1. Love the crumb and texture of this beautiful bread Karen!

  2., anise and fennel....what a great flavor combo.

  3. I wish I would be your neighbor Karen, I could get some nice bread each day :-). So many flavours in this Swedish bread. I could just smell the aroma..

  4. Ah, the kitchen aroma! Love this sourdough version, haven't made Swedish limpa in many years.

  5. Beautiful, I litterally lived with Limpa bread while in Sweden.

  6. Limpa bread seems to be bursting with intoxicating flavours. love the tall handsome loaf. The crumb is awesome.

  7. All your projects are very impressive. Looking forward to see what is next.

  8. Love that this is made with sourdough starter! The loaves came out great, and folks who haven't had rye bread -other than with a pastrami sandwich at a deli -- were surprised to like it (it doesn't look 'pretty' LOL). And the best surprise is that it lasts quite a long time; I took a loaf to my mother a week later, and it was still good! I'd love to see if this can be made without any yeast at all, perhaps longer proofing times, I don't know, but for now -- this is my rye bread recipe.


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