Swedish Limpa Bread

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My grandfather has always been two.

That was always his answer when, as a child, I would ask him how old he was. It would send me into fits of giggles every time, playfully punching his stomach as I sat on his lap and asking other silly questions. Every year passed and I got older, graduated high school then college, got married, and had a baby. And truth be told, I don’t know what my grandfather’s actual age is. He’ll always be two.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do for this challenge as soon as I read it. Despite Sweden being the main country of my heritage, I had never made a single thing from its cuisine. Sadly I’ve barely even tasted it.

While chefs like Marcus Samuelsson are taking Swedish foods to modern levels, it seems that to the mainstream, the only Swedish food in existence is meatballs and lingonberries – and that’s because of IKEA. Some know about gravad lax or lefse, and the stories of lutefisk, but Sweden has more to offer.

Of course, the harsh winter climate lends itself to a certain type of eating – preserving has been a large part in Swedish culinary tradition, and oftentimes the meal had to be reduced to simple meals that gave you fuel, but not much to look at.

That isn’t to say Swedish food is devoid of flavor. Spices and herbs like fennel, anise, caraway, juniper and dill all lend a hand. Creamy sauces assist wild game and smoked fishes. Less becomes more as you learn to really taste what’s in the food.

While Swedish food did not appear often at my grandfather’s table, I have to wonder if he longed for it. He was a mechanic in the Navy but picked up some cooking along the way and continued to use his skills at home, although cooking for the younger versions of my brother, my cousins, and me probably did not lend to much experimentation when we were around. I do, however, remember there always being fresh loaves of vört limpa on the table. He would bake the limpa into small loaves so it would be the perfect size for a quick bite. As a child I hated it (I was quite the food brat as a child) but I knew instantly I would make it for this challenge. But what to pair with it?

Limpa, baked

Fish has a long tradition in Sweden, especially smoked or pickled fish, so that was where I headed. Salmon? Too pedestrian. Herring? I just can’t get behind something that is labeled as a “kipper snack”. Lutefisk? Yeah, we’re not going to go there.

Finally I settled on a dish called Janssons Frestele, or Jansson’s Temptation. The dish is said to be named after Swedish opera singer Pelle Janzon, and after it was published in 1940 it began appearing on smörgåsbord tables everywhere, especially the julbord (Christmas feast). (As a side note, the smörgåsbord is probably why Minnesotans are often known for serving “a little lunch”.)

Jansson's Temptation - Ingredients

This dish uses sprat, a small fish similar to sardines. The recipes I found for Jansson’s Temptation usually listed anchovy, although they said sprat is more authentic. Which meant, of course, that I had to find this Baltic fish in the middle of Texas. Thankfully, after coming up empty-handed at a few stores, I was able to snag a can and we were on our way.

What does sprat look like, you ask?

Sprat - Jansson's Temptation

I freaked out a little but I was ready to tackle the task at hand.

Jansson’s Temptation

serves 6-8

5 to 6 potatoes, cut into large matchsticks
2 medium onions, sliced thinly
1 tin smoked sprat
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400. Grease a large baking dish. Saute the onions in 2 tablespoon butter until just softened and translucent. If the sprat is not already filleted, halve them and remove the spine, if you’re weirded out by bones like me. Layer 1/3 of potatoes in the dish, and top with 1/2 of the onions and 1/2 of the sprat.

Jansson's Temptation - Uncooked

Repeat layer, and cover with remaining potatoes.
Pour cream over top and dot with remaining butter. Sprinkle on breadcrumbs.

Jansson's Temptation - cooked

Cover with foil and bake for approximately 1 hour.


Swedish Limpa Bread

Homemade rye bread with spices
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Rest Time 2 hrs 20 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 5 mins
Course Breads
Cuisine Swedish
Servings 2 loaves
Calories 238 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 3/4 cups orange juice
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 300°F, turning off immediately once heated.
  • In a small saucepan, combine orange juice, butter, molasses, brown sugar, fennel seeds, and caraway seeds. Heat just until butter is melted, sugar is dissolved, and liquid feels about the same temperature as your inner wrist.
  • Pour into a mixing bowl and whisk in yeast and salt. Stir in rye flour, then add in AP flour gradually until dough is soft and pliable. It should still be somewhat sticky. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for approximately 5 minutes. Set in a large greased bowl, cover with a towel, and put into warmed oven. Let rise until doubled, approximately 1 hour.
  • Punch down dough, divide in half, and shape into loaves. Place loaves on lightly floured baking pan or a greased bread pan. Cover and let rise on the counter until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • While dough is rising, preheat oven to 375°F. Once ready, slash tops with a floured serrated knife and place bread in oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until loaves are dark and crusty.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 238 kcalCarbohydrates: 47 gProtein: 6 gFat: 3 gSaturated Fat: 2 gCholesterol: 6 mgSodium: 340 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 8 g
Tried this recipe?Share on Instagram and mention @stetted or tag #stetted!
Limpa ingredients
Limpa after rise


I served these dishes with a Swedish-style sausage purchased from my favorite sausage people, Kocurek Family Charcuterie. In Swedish sausage the meat is spiced and combined with potato before being cased. It was the perfect way to round out these two classic dishes. I hope my grandfather is proud of the way I chose to honor our heritage through food, and I can’t wait until the day I can visit Sweden and experience it all for myself.

Swedish Simplicity
This is my entry for Challenge #2 in Project Food Blog. Please consider voting for my entry from September 27 to September 30. You can vote by going here. Thank you!

75 Comments

  1. That looks GREAT!

    I have the exact same cannister for my flour, labeled EXACTLY the same way (same label font, label tape, etc.)

  2. I just read a quote that said something like every great dish is formed in memory first. That’s where this post is from. Wonderful memories of times spent with a loved grandfather.

    Now I have to go find some Sprat. It looks and sounds delicious. And the bread? I love the color of the sliced loaf. I can see me just piling the Janssons Temptation on the bread and eating it open faced. Mmm.

  3. You sure did your grandfather proud Megan. This is so well written adn evocative, and the dishes so intriguing. Well done. You certainly hit this one out of the park. Good luck although I am sure we will see you in Round 3!

  4. I love swedish food actually, it is the polar opposite of indian food and I relish it for that. one of my very best friends growing up was swedish (her mom immigrated), and there were midsommers with the pole, cardamom infused pastries, st lucia and lots of fish. this looks delicious and I think you did a wonderful job.

    1. @Erika – Ha! I didn’t think to look at the 99 cent store but it seems like a perfect place to find it! Yep, it’s a gratin but without cheese. I thought I would miss the cheese but it’s good without!

  5. Good for you for taking inspiration from your heritage! That bread looks delicious and together the lunch looks like something I could eat right this second. You gladly have my vote 🙂

  6. I love anything with potatoes and smoked fish (yes, I even eat the bones) but it’s that bread that’s calling my name! I am intrigued by the mix of juice, molasses, rye flour and flavouring in it! Voted 🙂

  7. Well, I did the meatball thing but this is truly outstanding! The bread is making my jowls water and the simple sprat dish is a perfect pairing. Your Grandfather would most definitely be proud. You got my vote!

  8. I love your story about your grandfather and how you decided to choose Swedish food for this challenge. That limpa looks awesome! I can almost hear the crust crackling. Another vote heading your way!

  9. Despite having been to Sweden a number of times, I have to admit that I remember little about the food, apart from the concept of smorgasbord and the regional affinity for rye breads. Having said that, I did go and make lefse for my PFB challenge, so between that experience and this post, I’ve just learned a lot more about Scandanavian food!

  10. I loved reading the story about you and your grandfather. It was really nice to also learn about Swedish food from you! Everything you made looks wonderful, especially the bread. YUM!!! Great job with the 2nd challenge, I’m definitely voting for you!

  11. Amazing post! That bread looks incredible, so tasty. I love how you showed everything.. every step of the way. I must say.. I am scared of the sprat, but the finished plate looks amazing!

  12. I love that you chose to make Swedish food! I’ve got a little bit of Swedish heritage myself, and I’ve always been curious about the cuisine. From what I’ve seen here, there is lots of yummyness to be found! 😀

  13. The only time I eat Swedish is when I am at Ikea, but I do love that lingonberry sauce. I am slightly obsessed with all things Swedish. You have an enthusiastic heart from me! Best of luck in round 2!!

  14. You get huge points for writing the best first line ever: My grandfather has always been two. Love, love, love your post! Best of luck in moving to Round 3; you certainly have one of my votes!

  15. What a beautiful way to tackle this challenge! I love that you explored your roots. I think that our own personal heritage is so important to who we are, and that includes our food heritage!

  16. What a great post! You’ve got my vote 🙂 I think your grandpa would be more than proud. He’d still be two, with a happy tear in his eyes.

    XOXO best of luck!

    p.s. I love your userpicture–it reminds me of my favorite movie of all time: Amelie.

  17. I really enjoyed reading this – the combination of your words and the lovely photos meant I could practically smell and taste these recipes. The Jansson’s Temptation really caught my eye. I have a Swedish friend here in Shanghai, so I’ll ask her if you can get tinned sprat anywhere.

    Sent you a vote!

  18. To me, both dishes look wonderful but I’m so impressed by your limpa. It’s beautiful. I tackled bread making for the challenge but mine didn’t come out like yours. I just voted for you.

  19. Your grandpa sounds like he was a wonderful man and you did him proud with this lovely post. I surely would love to be served this plate! Voting now, and Here’s to both of us hopefully advancing to the next round.

  20. Truly lovely post that garners a vote from me! I love IKEA, but I love your exploration into Swedish food even more 🙂

    My own entry, Indian dessert Gulab Jamun, is soaked in rosewater, cardamom, and saffron syrup as well as lots of sweet memories.

  21. A terrific meal.

    If you wanted to substitute something for sprats due to availability, would you recommend anchovies, herring, sardines, or something else? What do the sprats taste like right out of the can?

  22. looks great I bet your grandfather would be proud if he saw it…looks authentic to me and im a native Swede. You got the bread nice and rustic…perfect meal for the winter season that is around the corner….most swedes actually only eats Janzons temptation around x-mas but some use it as comfort food…

  23. If you’re ever in Chicago in the winter, you need to head to Tre Kronor restaurant for some of the best Swedish food in the U.S. It’s on the north side of the city (across the street from North Park University, founded by Swedes in 1892). They have amazing Swedish food year ’round, but in December they host a julbord, complete with gravlax, lutefisk, numerous kinds of herring, potatiskorv, Janssons frestelse, limpa, hardtack, and so much more. It’s $50/person, but you can stay for two or three hours and go back as many times as your stomach will let you! This regular customer — of 100% Swedish heritage herself — promises you will not be disappointed.

  24. Your bread is beautiful! I love rye bread but have never made or tasted limpa. I’m really intrigued by the addition of orange juice. It certainly gives the crumb a nice color. 🙂

    1. Hi there! I honestly can’t remember if I got them at Central Market or Whole Foods, but it was one of the two!

  25. Well I’m born and bread swedish and this has me scratching my head.
    The bread u posted looks great but does not look like traditional limpa.
    Jansons Frestelse is ALWAYS made with anchovies and nothing else. This is not authentic nor correct.
    I do understand that recipes change when people come to a new country, I’m sure that’s what happened here.

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