Swedish limpa is a first step toward making summery sandwiches

Starting point: Swedish limpa makes great toast, but an even better foundation for those open-faced Scandinavian sandwiches called smorrebrod.
Starting point: Swedish limpa makes great toast, but an even better foundation for those open-faced Scandinavian sandwiches called smorrebrod. TNS

Yes, it’s possible that your grandmother’s recipe for Swedish limpa is different from this one.

There are grandmas who made it with beer, those who never used orange rind, those who skipped caraway in favor of cardamom or who gave it their own secret tweak.

They are all excellent recipes, OK?

But here is ours, derived from several versions.

Limpa, by definition, is the Swedish word for loaf. It’s most often described as a rye bread made with molasses and brown sugar, so it’s slightly sweeter than the staid and sturdy loaves often associated with rye.

But limpa, at least in America, often is an orange-tinged, spice-scented loaf. It makes great toast, but an even better foundation for those open-faced Scandinavian sandwiches called smørrebrød.

These sandwiches are edible works of art, a thin slice of limpa ready to receive soft folds of smoked salmon, hard-cooked eggs, fronds of dill, rare roast beef, radishes, pickled onions, roasted beets, pickled shrimp or whatever strikes your fancy, in a combination that stokes your appetite.

On a hot summer evening, cold beverage at the ready, limpa is the first step to a perfect supper.

The bread itself isn’t difficult. Rye flour has a reputation for making a sticky dough, but a proportion of bread flour makes it easier to knead.

We like a combo of caraway, anise and fennel seeds, but if you’re among those who regard caraway as the devil’s spawn, you can leave it out. Grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. (Just make sure to wipe out the coffee grinder before the next morning’s beans.)

Orange zest is simply a joy to bake with, infusing the kitchen with citrus aromas. We’ve also added some juice to the egg yolk glaze.

Maybe your grandma did that, too. Or maybe she rubbed the baked loaves with the paper from the stick of butter, or she let the limpa be. That’s the beauty of an ethnic recipe: It’s the result of many hands over the years — now, yours among them.


1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups hot water

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons grated orange rind (from 2 oranges)

1 teaspoon caraway seed

1 teaspoon anise seed

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast

2 1/2 cup dark rye flour

3 to 3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornmeal, if desired

1 egg yolk, beaten

1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

In a large bowl, or in bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine the brown sugar, molasses, salt, 1 1/2 cups hot water and butter. Let stand a few minutes until the butter begins to melt. Grate the orange rind with a fine grater, then halve and squeeze the juice from the oranges. Strain to remove pulp and set aside.

Combine the caraway, anise and fennel seeds. Crush using a mortar and pestle, or whir briefly in a coffee grinder. (Be sure to wipe the grinder clean afterward.) The seeds needn’t be ground fine, just broken. Set aside.

To the large bowl, add yeast, rye flour and 3 cups of the all-purpose flour. Mix to combine. Add orange rind and seeds and continue to mix until a soft dough forms.

Place dough on a floured surface and knead for several minutes, adding some of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour only as necessary. Rye dough is naturally tacky, but adding too much flour will result in dry bread. When dough is smooth and slightly springy when pressed with a finger, place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until it almost doubles in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal, if desired. Turn risen dough out onto the counter and divide in two. Shape each half of the dough into an oval loaf, then place on baking sheet. Cover the loaves with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place about 45 minutes; the dough should swell, although may not double in size.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix egg yolk with orange juice and brush over loaves. With a razor blade or serrated knife, score the loaves. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool completely on wire rack. Makes 2 loaves.

Per slice (12 slices in a loaf): 134 calories, 2 g fat, 114 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrates, 1 g saturated fat, 19 mg calcium, 3 g protein, 10 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber.

Source: Kim Ode.