Swedish Limpa

a tweak on a classic with freshly milled rye

We miss bringing in special guests to BAKE! in-person, so, throughout this year, in addition to virtual classes and events, we’re bringing chefs, authors, and friends of the Bakehouse to your kitchens via recipes created exclusively for us.

These special guests will be creating recipes that use Bakehouse breads or freshly milled flours, or that put their own spin on one of the recipes found in our cookbook or cookbooklets.

This month, we’re welcoming cookbook author Shauna Sever:

Short for “Vortlimpa”—with “vort” referring to the fermented brewers’ wort leftover from beer making, and “limpa” meaning “loaf”—this Swedish bread is a classic with many

Photo by Shauna Sever

variations. In its most old-school form, the bread is a funky, spiced, dark rye made with that aforementioned wort. Or, more often for home bakers, a good stout. It’s an acquired taste, to be sure. 

Scandinavian bakeries across the Midwest tend to carry lighter, more crowd-pleasing versions of limpa. They swap beer for water, buttermilk, or even orange juice. And, often contain light or medium rye flour combined with white flour, giving the bread a soft, spongy interior and a thin crust. This is the kind of limpa I love, and what I’m sharing with you here. It makes excellent toast, and is a terrific foundation for those irresistible open-faced Scandi sandwiches called smørrebrød. It’s even better with a high-quality freshly milled rye flour in the dough, so the flavor can really sing. 

In addition to earthy rye and a sweet, ambrosial hit of orange, there’s always some combination of potent seeds to add extra zing—usually fennel, anise, and caraway, and perhaps some cardamom, too. Aim for about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of seeds, in any combination that you like.

Make your own loaf of limpa

Swedish Limpa


  • 6 tablespoons (84 g) warm water, divided
  • 1/4 cup (57 g) firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (225 g) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups (320 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 cup (105 g) Zingerman’s Bakehouse freshly milled rye flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons fragrant seeds of your choosing, such as fennel, anise, caraway, or cardamom 
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted


  • In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup (57 g) water, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, orange zest, and salt. Warm gently over medium heat until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool until warm to the touch.
  • In a small cup, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of water, the yeast, and the granulated sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine both wet mixtures. Whisk in the buttermilk. Add the all-purpose flour, rye flour, baking soda, and seeds. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together in a shaggy ball. Exchange the paddle attachment for the dough hook, and knead the dough on medium-low speed until smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead by hand for a few minutes, the dough will be heavier and quite a bit denser than a white bread dough. Spray the mixer bowl with nonstick cooking spray or oil it lightly, and place the dough in the bowl. Cover tightly and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl to the work surface and shape into an oval with tapered ends, about 12 inches in length. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Brush the top of the loaf with melted butter. Bake until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped, about 40 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer reaches 190°F. Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving with lots of sweet butter.
Keyword bread

Order whole grain freshly milled rye flour for local pick up at the Bakehouse here.

Have Zingerman’s Bakehouse freshly milled rye flour shipped to your doorstep.

Did you miss the first special guest in our series? Check out King Arthur Baking Company’s Recipe Testing & Development Manager Charlotte Rutledge’s recipe for Pistachio-Orange Bostock!

Shauna Sever
Website | + posts

Shauna Sever is a baker, cookbook author, TV and radio contributor, and a daughter of the great Midwest. Her latest cookbook is Midwest Made. You can find her on Instagram at @shaunasever.

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Chris Jones
Chris Jones
3 years ago

Can I use medium rye for this recipe?

3 years ago

5 stars
Made this simple bread on Monday and am loving it.
The rises were slow, probably due to the chilly weather.
But the batch for 2 loaves came together just lovely.
Dark rye from Janie’s Mill; orange zest and fennel – a bit more than suggested.

Other than butter, I can’t bear to put anything on it because the flavors are so wonderful!
And the scent, oh my. Toasted – yes. Thank you for posting this recipe!