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Christmas loaf Finnish Christmas loaf is traditionally dark and slightly sweet and sour.

In addition to the ingredients mentioned in this recipe, the Christmas loaf may be seasoned with spices like caraway, anise seed and ginger. Also apple puree, raisins, dried apricots or other dried fruit or nuts can be added to the dough.

250 ml water
100 ml powdered rye malt
½ tbsp ground dried Seville orange peel
¼ tbsp coarsely crushed fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
100 ml dark molasses
125 ml buttermilk
25 g fresh yeast
50 ml melted butter
150 ml rye flour
700 - 800 ml wheat flour
for glazing:
50 ml water
1 tbsp dark molasses

Pour the powdered malt in a saucepan. Mix in the water. Bring the mixture to the boil, remove from heat and add the spices, molasses and buttermilk. Pour the mixture in a large bowl and let it become lukewarm, about 37 °C. Mix in the crumbled yeast. Add the melted, cooled butter.

Mix in the rye flour and finally the wheat flour. Knead until the dough is elastic and starts coming away from the sides of the mixing bowl. This is most easily done with a heavy-duty tabletop mixer fitted with a dough hook. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and knead it for a while. Form the dough into two round loaves, place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, cover with a damp towel and let rise until they are doubled in size. Meanwhile, mix the water with molasses to make the glaze for the loaves. You can warm the mixture gently in a small saucepan to help diluting.

Prick the loaves with a toothpick and brush them liberally with the molasses glaze. Bake at 200 °C for 20 minutes, then brush the loaves again with the glaze. Continue baking for another 20 minutes, or until the loaves are browned on top and make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Brush the loaves with the glaze once again, cover loosely with plastic wrap and a towel and let cool.

Serve the bread sliced along with white wheat bread at Christmas dinner.
Makes two small to medium-sized loaves.

Recipe source: adapted from "Mallaslimppu", Helsingin Sanomat/Ruokatorstai, 1996.


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