Swedish dark Christmas bread or vörtböd and pickled herring, both homemade, are two culinary regulars at our Christmas table.
Photo for CMC © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro-Nilsson 2009
Bread baking in general usually fills the kitchen with such warmth and coziness, it’s recommended strategy that those holding a house viewing for the purpose of selling their house (or apartment), bake bread and make coffee just before the viewing guests arrive.
Now the smell of dark Christmas bread filled with raisins baking in the oven is unbeatable and it’s something I look forward to every year end, when spending the holiday season here in Sweden. What’s exciting about the making of this bread is that we get to choose which dark Christmas beer of the year goes into it!
Adding raisins to the dough.
The recipe that we use makes one very large loaf (or at least, we prefer to make one large loaf out of it) and it serves about 8 persons.
250 ml lukewarm water
250 ml dark Christmas beer
40 g yeast
150 g 5 spice or dark Christmas bread spices
550 g rye flour
650 g plain flour
50 g butter (melted)
125 g dark molasses
5 g orange rind
20 g salt
Dough, after it has risen.
We began by crumbling the yeast into the warm water and stirring till the yeast had dissolved. Then we added the rest of the ingredients – the dark molasses, Christmas beer, spices, melted butter, rye flour and plain flour – and stirred with a wooden spoon till it all came together. You could use a blender too if you had one, probably making the job easier on the hands.
Once the dough was of a good consistency, we added the raisins and the orange rind, stirring to incorporate them evenly throughout the dough.
We covered the dough with a damp cloth and set the whole tub of dough in a warm corner of the room, leaving it to rise for about an hour or so. The dough should be twice the size we began working with after rising.
Dough on the board, for the kneading process.
Once the dough had risen, we poured it out onto a working bench and kneaded it till it got smoother. We covered it and let it rise again for about 30 minutes.
Then it was into the oven at about ca. 220 deg C, for 30 minutes.
Some recipes recommend that you brush the top of the loaf with water at intervals during the baking process. Others recommend that you brush the top of the loaf with butter after it has come out of the oven. We did neither of these and it turned out fine, so I think you can pretty much do as you wish with the loaf you’re working on.
A slice of ham with dollops of mustard and apple sauce usually complements the Swedish dark Christmas bread or vörtbröd.
Vörtbröd is a rich, dark bread that is deliciously liquorish in taste. I most of all like to enjoy a slice of this bread with a bit of honey mustard ham. Gravenstein apple sauce is a good complement to this baked ham and vörtbröd ensemble.
Alternatively, because of the deep spicy and fruity flavour of the bread, a simple slice of well matured Dutch Edam cheese over butter and bread, works perfect as well.
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