Swedish Rye Bread

Swedish Rye Bread reminds me of childhood. When my mother would make it, she would let my brother and I punch down the dough after it had risen, which of course was the highlight of the day. So I asked my elderly mother to show me how she makes her bread and to give me her tips and tricks. She agreed and went to the cupboard and retrieved this little old piece of paper known as a “Recipe Card”. Apparently, that is what they used before there was the internet and “The Google”. People would actually physically write down their recipes on special note cards for their keeping. I was reading over a few of her cards and realized that the instructions are the most interesting thing about them. Because there isn’t much room to explain the process, there is somewhat of a cryptic shorthand that is used. It’s understandable, but very rough. Although I don’t use recipe cards myself, I have to admit I really enjoy the idea of having your own handwritten recipe that is unpublished and completely personal.

Back to the bread. When I was in college, I actually had a couple of friends who would make bread for themselves all of the time. They would brag about how they made fresh bread for themselves in the morning for breakfast. I thought it was really cool, but they were cheaters… they used a bread machine! Before bread machines were available, people actually kneaded and mixed their own dough and baked it in the oven. Most people don’t even bother with the more traditional way that this recipe involves, however, I like the more hands-on approach… and I don’t own a bread machine…

Here’s the recipe:

1 Quart of Buttermilk
1/2 tsp. of Baking Soda

Combine these first two ingredients in a large mixing bowl

2 cups of water
1/3 cup of Vegetable Shortening
1/3 cup of Sugar
1 T of salt
1 cup of Molasses

Heat Water, Shortening, Salt, Sugar and Molasses in large saucepan until everything is homogeneous and then add to the Buttermilk mixture.

2 packets of yeast (1/4 oz. packets)
1/2 cup of warm (110 F) water
1 tsp. Sugar

Mix together and allow to sit for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is activated and add it to the liquid mixture.

3 cups of dark Rye Flour
9-10 cups of All-purpose Flour

Add the flour gradually to the wet ingredients and then Knead. Place the dough in a bowl greased with vegetable shortening. Let the dough sit until doubled in size and then divide the dough into six equal portions and form into loaves in greased bread pans. Bake at 350 F for 50 minutes. Brush with butter on the top of the loaf after baking.

We started out mixing the yeast with the water and sugar. As you can see the “activated” yeast decided to turn into a latte. You can see the distinct line of separation in the mixture which is what we were looking for.

Trick: My elderly mother likes to add the rye flour to the buttermilk/molasses/water mixture before adding the yeast. She says it’s just a precaution in case she heated the liquids up too much and doesn’t want it to disturb the growing yeast. Also, she uses a wire whisk to incorporate the flour gradually until it gets to be too much.

The Consistency should be a little sticky. The woman told me “Less is More when it comes to the amount of flour.” The bread is more dry when more flour is incorporated… makes sense!

A little trick is to allow the dough to rise in a warm water bath. It seemed to work fine and the dough doubled in about an hour.

Punch it! The white stuff on there is vegetable shortening. I asked the woman if we could use butter or something other than shortening. Mother: “I don’t know… I’ve never tried anything else.” Me: “But shortening is so unnatural and unhealthy.” Mother: “Well, It hasn’t killed us yet… and it’s better than Lard!” I guess in perspective… shortening isn’t all that bad… but I think I’m going to try it with butter next time to see what happens.

We formed the loaves into six separate pans, slightly covered them and let them rise for about an hour.

Bake at 350 F for almost exactly 50 minutes and what do you know… you have homemade bread. I find that this bread is at its best when toasted and a generous amount of salted butter is applied… just so you know…

9 responses to “Swedish Rye Bread

  1. Your elderly mother manages to bake delicious bread…in spite of her feebleness. It’s a wonder she could still walk you through this process at her age:).

  2. Sweet Mother of God I can smell the bread! I have seen old family recipes well loved and stained with history, framed!

  3. Great blog, Josh. I love rye bread. I have used butter in bread recipes and it works okay. By the way, your Mom is far from elderly!! She is much younger than me.

  4. Pingback: A Summer Birthday Lunch | Essentially Josh·

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