In two days it’s Christmas Eve.
There’s still plenty of time to bake a Christmas bread. Maybe you want to try something different this year. Something that can’t be bought if you live outside Scandinavia. Then you should try this recipe.
Traditional Swedish wort bread.
This bread tastes a lot, something you probably understand if you read the ingredients list. I should mention that it has some sweetness, but it’s not overwhelming.
Today almost all wort bread you buy here in Sweden is baked with commercial yeast. I don’t understand why. It works great to use sourdough starter. And that’s what we are going to do do.
You will face one big problem, though if you’re going to bake real wort bread. And that is to find liquid wort. It’s hard to find even here in Sweden if you don’t live next to a bakery or a brewery. If you can get your hands on liquid wort, that’s fine. If not, there’s no reason to despair. You can make wort substitute that works just fine with items that can be found everywhere. Besides, it’s easy.
You will need a porter or stout beer, Coca-Cola, and a big pot. Mix the beer and Coca-cola and bring it to boil. Continue boiling until only one fifth remains. You will end up with a dark, slightly viscous and sticky liquid. This is your wort substitute that can be used with the same amount as real wort.
PREPARING THE DOUGH
We will not use water for this bread. Most recipes call for something called svagdricka. Svagdricka is a sweet malt drink with a low alcohol content that can be found in grocery stores around Christmas here in Sweden.
Now, I understand that it can be a real challenge to find that everywhere in the world, so again we have to find a substitute.
And the solution is more beer and Coca-Cola. This time you will use
three parts beer and one part Cola.
The hydration of the dough is quite low, only 60%. If you are using very strong flour, you may have to adjust that figure. The protein content of my wheat flour is 12.5 %, and 8.5% for the rye flour.
You can use your preferred method when mixing the dough. I used my dough mixer, but If you want to use a stretch and fold technique, that should work fine. Be careful, though if you’re using a dough mixer as there is a lot of rye flour in this dough. It’s much easier to overwork a dough with rye flour than if it only contains wheat flour. Make window-pane tests regularly.
Try to find a warm place for the bulk fermentation, preferably 78ºF/25ºC. That can be tricky if you are living in the northern hemisphere at this time of year. I use to place the dough in the oven with the lamp lit. That works fine, but you have to be a bit careful. It can be too hot, so I use to open the lid now and then and check the temperature with a thermometer. I let the dough ferment for 4 hours.
I prefer to shape my wort bread to bâtards. Maurizio from The perfect loaf has made an excellent video showing how to form a bâtard. Just follow this link.
The time required for the final rise will depend on the ambient temperature, how strong your starter was and many other factors.
It’s always a good idea to look at the bread instead of the clock. The finger poke test is probably the best method to decide if the loaves have risen enough.
Most of you probably know what the finger poke test is, but for those who don’t, here’s a brief description.
You make a little imprint on the top of the loaf by pressing your finger on it.
If the imprint springs back and fills up quickly, the loaf is probably under-proofed.
If the imprint springs back partly, the loaf is ready to be baked.
But If the imprint doesn’t recover at all, you probably have an over-proofed loaf.
TIME TO BAKE
Preheat the oven to 480ºF / 250ºC. If you want to use your baking stone, dutch oven or just an oven plate is up to you. Take what you have and prefer. All alternatives will work. I have used a baking stone for the bread on the pictures.
Wort bread is normally not scored before baking, but I prefer to do that anyhow. I want to have control of the expansion of the bread. It’s not fun ending up with a bread looking like something made by a glassblower with hickup.
One thing you will notice when baking this bread is the mouthwatering smell coming from your oven. It always smells good when baking bread, but this is a bit special. The strong scent of the spices and wort always make me feel good.
It smells Christmas.