Secret Recipe Club: Limpa (Swedish Rye Bread)

There’s something about cold snowy days that makes me crave freshly-baked bread.  I suppose it’s because it’s the perfect excuse to stay indoors on a wintry day, while the steam from the oven fogs up the kitchen windows and gently blurs the landscape outside into indistinguishable shapes in different shades of white.

Swedish Limpa

So when we returned from spending Christmas in Rhode Island to find Toronto almost knee-deep in fresh snow, I knew it was a sign I’d picked just the right recipe for this month’s Secret Recipe Club post – a giant triple-loaf recipe for Limpa, a Swedish rye bread perfumed with orange, fennel and caraway seed.

The recipe comes from Ewa, my SRC buddy for January, by way of her blog Delishhh.  I discovered her blog when I first joined the Secret Recipe Club a little more than a year ago, and I’ve been a fan ever since – I love her beautiful photos, and her eclectic mix of recipes that reflect her Swedish heritage, her Asian upbringing and her current life in the US.

Swedish Limpa

As soon as I got my assignment, I knew I had to try one of Ewa’s Swedish recipes. I’ve been dying to get more familiar with Scandinavian food, particularly since my experience with it so far has been limited to occasional forays into the Ikea cafeteria (which, I’m sure, is hardly the most stellar example of what Sweden has to offer, no matter how tasty those little saucy meatballs might be.)

I stuck to the original recipe for the most part, though I did replace some of the water in Ewa’s version with some freshly brewed coffee to give it a little extra oomph. Totally not traditional, I’m sure, but I like the way coffee adds a subtle roastiness that plays up the brightness of the orange zest.

Swedish Limpa

I’m pleased to say that this bread was just the thing I needed on a cold, snowy day. The texture reminds me a little of pumpernickel, with its thin, soft crust and dense, hearty crumb. It’s also surprisingly sweet, though not so much so that it feels out of place next to a savoury dish, and the delicate citrus and licorice aroma is totally unlike the tangy (and sometimes outright sour) Eastern European ryes that I grew up on.

We devoured it for dinner the first night with bowls of split pea soup, still warm from the oven and cut into thick slices slathered with lots of butter.  It was equally good the following morning, lightly toasted with a generous layer of homemade whiskey marmalade with big mugs of coffee and juicy clementines on the side… and again a little later that day, when lunchtime rolled around, sliced a little thinner and sandwiched around slices of black forest ham and gouda cheese with a dab of dill mustard. Honestly, I can’t stop eating this bread. I guess it’s a good thing that this recipe makes three loaves!

Swedish Limpa

From the looks of it, we’ll be in for lots of cold snowy days this winter of 2013, so I’m hoping that means I’m also in for a few more afternoons spent in a warm sun-filled kitchen with fogged-over windows, nibbling on a slice of freshly baked bread slathered with as much butter as it can possibly stand.


5.0 from 5 reviews
Limpa (Swedish Rye Bread)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A traditional Swedish rye loaf - subtly sweet with hints of orange, caraway and fennel. Absolutely perfect when sliced thick and toasted, preferably with a generous slathering of melting butter or chunky orange marmalade. This recipe makes 3 large-ish loaves, so either plan to give some away or make some room in the freezer to store the extras.
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 30
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1½ tbsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp grated orange rind
  • 4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 2 tsp salt
Prepare the Sponge:
  1. In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring water, coffee, sugar, caraway, fennel, butter and orange rind to a boil. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until butter is melted and sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm.
  2. Meanwhile, stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and rye flour in a large bowl. Measure out 4 cups of this mixture into a small mixing bowl, and set aside to use in the first rise. (You should now have 6 cups of flour left in your bowl.)
  3. Pour the cooled water and coffee mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add yeast, and mix on medium speed until well combined. Gradually add the 6 cups of flour, mixing until you have a very soft and elastic dough.
  4. Scrape the sponge into a large lightly buttered mixing bowl, and cover with a clean dishtowel. Place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until double in size, about 1 ½ hours.
First Rise:
  1. Once the sponge has doubled in size, punch the dough down and knead in the salt and reserved 4 cups flour using your hands or a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Dough should feel smooth and elastic.
  2. Transfer the dough to a large lightly buttered bowl and let it rise again until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Shaping and Second Rise:
  1. Once the dough has once again doubled in size, transfer to a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead for 2-3 minutes or until smooth.
  2. Divide the dough into 3 equally-sized pieces, and shape each one into a chubby oval loaf roughly 10" long. Arrange the loaves on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (don't worry if the loaves are very close together - this is fine).
  3. Cover with a clean dishtowel, and let rise again for about 30-45 minutes, or until roughly doubled in size. It's okay if the sides of the loaves are touching by this point.
Baking the Bread:
  1. Shortly before the loaves are done their second rise, preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Bake the loaves in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until tops are dark brown. If the crust starts to brown too quickly, tent with foil for the last 15 minutes of the baking time to avoid burning.
  3. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely (or dig in while the bread is still warm, if you don't want to wait that long.)


  1. says

    I buy swedish rye crisps all the time – this beautiful bread reminds me of those. I’m not one for making a long list of new year resolutions but bread making is on my list of things to master this year. I’m going to bookmark this for future reference. I’d love to try it out. Coffee and Orange inside? How intriguing!

  2. says

    That beautiful hunk of carbs is making me wish I were knee-deep in snow here in PA and that, in addition to perpetually donning sweatpants, I had a big bowl of lentil soup on the stove and the smell of rye bread wafting through my apartment. Maybe I’ll make some paper snowflakes for my windows, turn the heat down, bake this bread and pretend!

  3. says

    nothing beats fresh homemade bread. the smell, texture and flavor is all just so oddly comforting. your bread looks fatnastic!!!! i want to have a slice of that with nutella…lol

  4. says

    Beautiful loaf of bread! I love the smell of freshly baked bread…looks like the snow will be gone soon…I hear it’s supposed to go up to 11 C on Saturday..our snowman is already starting to melt!

    • Isabelle Boucher says

      I know! The weather is so weird this week… I don’t even know what to wear on any given day, the way the temperature keeps bouncing around. I’m hoping we’ll be back to proper snowy weather soon, though. I do so love those bright winter days when the sun is out and the snow is sparkling.

  5. says

    I used to make Swedish Limpa pan rolls a few years ago, love the flavors! Seeing your beautiful loaf has motivated me to get on them again, not to mention..I have to try your SRC recipe! I want to grab it from the screen and I bet a few slices of my flank steak would make a great sandwich with it. A great ‘fusion’ sandwich, that is :)

  6. says

    Only recently, I’ve started baking my own bread and I have fallen in love with it. This loaf sounds like perfection. It’s beautiful and I’m sure it tasted as good as it looks.

  7. says

    I am not a bread baker as I never seem to have luck making it so I’m always super impressed with those who do make gorgeous loaves like you did, sure wish I had the knack as I’m drooling over yours.

    If you haven’t already, I’d love for you to check out my SRC entry: Creamy Mints.


    • Isabelle Boucher says

      Bread is actually a lot easier than you’d think… you mostly just need lots of patience to wait out the multiple rises, plus a little upper body strength to knead the dough into submission. :)

  8. says

    What a beautiful bread, and so much fun that it has all that flavor hidden inside – coffee and orange? I’m so curious to try this out. Beautiful photos, as always Isabelle.

    • Isabelle Boucher says

      Thanks for the kind words, Jess. The spices and the orange are actually quite subtle, and you get almost no coffee flavour at all – so really, this bread isn’t nearly as in-your-face as you’d think!

  9. says

    I have never had limpa made with sugar or coffee — my recipe, which I got from a childhood friend of Swedish origins, calls for molasses, orange rind, anise seed. Yours certainly looks good and it is clear that you liked it.

    • Isabelle Boucher says

      Thanks, Sharyn! I’ll have to check out your recipe the next time I’m in the mood for this kind of bread. Love the idea of using anise for a sweeter licorice flavour, especially since it would distribute through the dough much better than the larger fennel seeds.
      I’ll admit, the coffee is my own addition and not at all traditional… and it’s probably redundant if you’re using molasses anyway, given that the molasses would add a similar layer of deep roasty flavour.

  10. says

    First i have to say THANK YOU for the nice words. So humbled! Secondly wow, your pictures are amazing, i haven’t done this bread in a few months, and i LOVE the idea of putting coffee in it. Just gorgeous write up! Happy New Year to you!

Crumb Divider