The Christmas holidays are just around the corner and preparations are in order! A must have on the Swedish Christmas table is this Christmas Holiday Bread. In Sweden, we call it Vörtlimpa or Vörtbröd and it is best known for its sweet taste of syrup, malt and spices.
Not only does the bread taste delicious, when baking it your house will be filled with a wonderful scent. The spices used for making the bread are, star anise, fennel kernel, grounded cloves, grounded ginger and porter. The porter gives the bread that dense, heavy and hearty feel to it.
The sweetness comes from raisins and dark syrup and also helps the bread get that dark brown look.
Some argue that you should have bitter orange (also known as Seville orange) peel, and you can absolutely use that instead. Keep in mind though that the bitter orange, hence the name, is far more bitter so if you like to keep the bread on the low end of the bitter scale I recommend you to use the normal orange peel.
How to make Christmas Holiday Bread
The first thing you need to do is to take all the spices and pour them into a bowl. Crush them gently with the backside of a steel ladle or similar and then add the orange peel and porter. Let the mixture rest for about 10-15 minutes so that the liquid really soaks in the flavours. In the meantime bring out a large bowl and combine all the dry ingredients (flour, rye flour, dry yeast, salt and raisins), mixing them well.
Next up you take the butter and melt it over low in heat in a saucepan. Once the butter has melted you add the spice liquid and syrup and put in back on low heat while continuing to stir. You want the mixture to be warm, but not hot, if the mixture is too hot the yeast will die, and if it’s too cold, the yeast will not be activated. Think bath water warm.
Once you have heated the spice liquid you need to pour it through a strainer so that you get the flavoured porter but not the pieces.
Knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes until you have a sticky but firm dough. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes in a warm draft-free place.
When the dough has risen, pour it out on a lightly floured surface and divide it into two loaves. Shape them as you want and put them on an oven plate covered with non-stick cooking paper. Let them rise again for about 30 – 40 minutes, while you set the oven to 400 °F / 200 °C / Gas Mark 6.
Mix 2 part water and 1 part dark syrup and brush the loaves before putting the tray in the oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes.
You don’t necessarily have to do this Christmas Holiday Bread just for the holidays, you can make it all year round, but the spices and the scent really go well around winter time.
Serve the bread with some butter or some mock ham with mustard.
That’s it, I hope you will enjoy this Christmas Holiday bread and if you do, don’t forget to check out the rest of the things I bake in the baking section.
Christmas Holiday Bread
In Sweden, we call this classic Christmas holiday bread "vörtbröd" and it is known and loved for it's full-bodied and flavourful taste.
- 1 bottle porter 33 cl
- 50 g butter non-dairy
- 5 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 6 dl (2 1/2 cup) rye flour
- 4 dl (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 dl (1/2 cup) raisins
- 1 dl (1/2 cup) dark syrup
- 2 star anise flowers
- 1 tbsp fennel kernels
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 orange the peel
Put anise, fennel, cloves, ginger and salt in a bowl and crush it roughly with the backside of a ladle.
Add the orange peel and pour the porter in and mix. Set the mixture aside to rest for about 10 – 15 minutes.
In a large bowl combine, all-purpose flour, rye flour, yeast and raisins and combine so that everything mixes.
Mix the dark syrup with the porter mix.
Melt the butter on low heat in a saucepan. When the butter has melted pour in the porter mix and stir until the liquid is warm, but not hot.
Pour the liquid through a strainer into the flour mix and knead the dough for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Let the dough rise for around 45 minutes in a warm draft-free place.
Take out the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into two pieces. Form the pieces to loaves and put on a non-stick baking paper covered oven tray and rise a second time for around 30 – 40 minutes. Set the oven to 400 °F / 200 °C / Gas Mark 6.
Mix 2 parts water with 1 part dark syrup and brush the loaves.
Bake the loaves for 30 – 35 minutes.