I’ve now made this bread (or something similar) about ten times, and this is the best version yet in the opinion of my local bread aficionados. Here is the recipe for a BLACK rye that is easier to make than Swedish Limpa bread, but just as tasty, with a pleasing crust, and the kind of flavor that goes especially well with a strong cheese, or toasted with a smear of cream cheese.
Note: All measurements are in grams, because precision and proportions count when you’re making bread or anything yeasted. Use an electronic scale that gives weights in both grams and ounces.
200g freshly boiled water
150g cold water
150g levain 5g instant yeast – a generous teaspoonful
250g rye flour
250g bread flour
10g kosher salt
5g anise seed
5g ground cardamom
5g caraway seeds
5g fennel seeds
1 navel orange, grated zest or 1 tsp orange flavoring
Secret ingredient: 1 tsp freeze-dried coffee or espresso powder, OR 1 Tbsp espresso coffee
Additional flour for dusting
Baking parchment, baking sheet or pizza stone, or use an oval Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot with lid
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together the molasses and the boiling water. When fully blended, add 150g or so cold water so that the mixture is hand hot. Add dried yeast and the levain, and stir. Set aside in a warm spot for five minutes to get nicely bubbly.
While you’re waiting on the yeast mixture, measure out the rye flour, bread flour, salt and spices in a smaller bowl.
Using an electric hand mixer, first beat the yeast mixture, then add the dry ingredients. Beat until combined. If necessary, add a bit more boiling water until you have coherent but sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with oil or Pam, and set aside for 20 minutes. This allows the proteins to relax.
Sprinkle your counter with flour, and knead the dough enthusiastically for five minutes. Wash the bowl, dry it, spray with oil or Pam, and drop in the dough. Cover with the same bit of plastic and either set aside in a warm place for one hour, or pop in the fridge overnight. If the latter, bring up to room temperature next morning before proceeding. This will take two hours, or one hour if you put the oven on warm for five minutes, then pop in the dough in its bowl.
Half hour before baking, preheat your oven to 450°F/240°C, with the pizza stone (if available) placed on the middle rack. Place an old cast-iron frying pan in the bottom of the oven for boiling water. If you don’t have a baking stone, put in your le Creuset or Dutch oven, with its lid; the casserole pot will retain the steam so you don’t need to add extra in the frying pan.
Place the dough in its bowl in a microwave oven for 25 seconds. Wait five minutes and heat for a further 25 seconds. Set aside in a warm place for 15 minutes, then blast for 25 seconds again.
If you’re using the stone, lightly knead the dough and place on a piece of parchment, and then on your peel. Let rise again for half an hour in a warm place. Score the dough with a razor, lame, or sharp serrated knife; place on the baking sheet or pizza stone. Throw a cup of boiling water into the frying pan, and shut the door rapidly to trap the steam. Bake until the internal temp is about 205°F/95°C, and tapping on the bottom produces a hollow sound – about 30 minutes.
If you are using the Le Creuset or Dutch oven, gently pour the dough from the mixing bowl into the heated pot. Slash the top, and quickly put on the lid. Place in the oven – no boiling water is required because the lid keeps in the steam. Bake for 25 minutes, then tip the loaf out of the pot onto the baking stone and bake for a further ten minutes, or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Let the bread cool on a rack before slicing and eating.
When completely cooled, bread can be frozen, wrapped in plastic and placed in a ziplok bag. Otherwise, store in a loose plastic or paper bag at room temperature.