Traditional Swedish rye bread

Swedish rye bread recipe

Payback for those Sunday evenings on the bike

When I was little, I did what many other young boys in need of a first extra income did – I handed out leaflets. Fortunately, my patch was a central area of Sala which mainly consisted of villas. The good thing with these was that you could have your bag across your shoulder and, without stopping, fill their letter boxes, which were strategically placed near the pavement. It was like a scene taken from Paper Boy and at times, I wonder just how much that game affected my urge to cover as big an area as possible of this district.

Admittedly, there were a few highlights (once again, thanks to the house owner who let the branches of their Åkerö apple tree reach out towards the street, which enabled me to nick an apple during autumnal shifts) but there was also my nemesis, my black hole.

As I’m the kind of person who always leaves things until the very last moment, I usually spent my Sunday afternoons doing the distribution. Johansson’s Bakery had their shop here and I usually passed them just as I had started to get a bit peckish, and by then they had got the ovens going and there was a whiff of freshly made bread in the area. I found it almost unbearable to smell the wheat bread, buns, short bread, almond cakes, loafs and above all – rye bread.

When we settled in the area we live in now, we learnt that our local supermarket, take their bread from Johansson’s Bakery and in their range I found my beloved rye bread. Full of flavour from aniseed and fennel, the right level of sweetness from the syryp and carefully pricked, they are lovely to eat with a bit of paté, a few slices of tomato and a hint of cress. A proper favourite breakfast for a 70s child.

But you can’t live on ready-made bread alone. Especially not the kind of bread which is so easy to make yourself, that you don’t have to devote an entire day to keep an eye on the dough or own lots of equipment.

Children love it, it’s perfect for freezing and goes with anything from cheese to paté to salami – do you get how good it is?

Traditional Swedish rye bread

Time: 2 hours-ish

  • 100 g butter
  • 500 g milk
  • 50 g pressed yeast (if using dry yeast check package for equivalent amount)
  • 100 g golden syrup (as dark as possible)
  • 10 g salt
  • 3 tsp fennel
  • 3 tsp aniseed
  • 400 g rye flour (approx  7.5 dl)
  • 400 g wheat flour (approx  7.5 dl)
  • 60 g extra wheat flour for the kneading (approx 0.1 l)
  1. 10. Melt the butter in a saucepan and pour over the milk. Heat through to 37 degrees (check using your little finger and if it feels warm but not hot – it’s finished).
  2. Crumble the yeast in a bowl and pour over the liquid. Mix until all lumps are gone.
  3. Add syrup and och salt. Grind the spices and add these, too. Stir a couple of turns and then add the flour.
  4. Mix the dough until smooth. Knead for ten minutes, using the wheat flour to make it smooth and even. It shouldn’t stick but can’t be too dry either.
  5. Let the dough rise to double its size. I placed mine in a relatively cool place and that took an hour. For a warm kitchen, count on 40-50 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into four parts, roll these and shape into balls. Allow to rest for 10 minutes to reduce the gluten elasticity. Roll out to round cakes, 5-8 mm thick, take out a hole in the middle and prick the cakes with a fork. Cover with a towel and leave to rise for about 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
  8. Moisten the oven well, by using a flower spray bottle and then stick the bread in. It will take about 10 minutes before it gets a nice colour. Let it cool on a rack and whatever won’t be eaten during the coming day, you stick in the freezer, as soon as it’s cooled down.