Traditional Swedish sourdough wort bread

Swedish wort bread

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.

Boiling 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.

Cinnamon

BULK FERMENTATION

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.

FINAL RISE

Dough

 

Forming loaves

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.

Swedish wort bread

 

Wort bread

Print Recipe
Traditional Swedish sourdough wort bread
Wort bread is a traditional Swedish Christmas bread. It's loaded with tastes from spices, wort, and sourdough. It tastes Christmas.
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Wort substitute
Wort bread
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Wort substitute
Wort bread
Instructions
Wort substitute
  1. Mix porter and Coca-cola in a big pot and boil until 200 gram remains. Let it cool.
Wort bread
  1. Mix all ingredients except the salt in a dough mixer until the dough is elastic. Use windowpane test. Add the salt the last minutes.
  2. If you prefer to knead by hand you can use a stretch and fold technique. You will find a link to a description of the technique in the recipe notes. There's also a link to a video. Start by letting the mixed dough autolyze for an hour, and then run a stretch and fold session every half hour, 3-4 times in total. Add the salt during the first stretch and fold session.
  3. Let the dough ferment until doubled in size. Use the dough-in-the-glass test. Place a small piece of dough in a narrow, straight glass. Mark the starting level with a rubber band and cover with cling film. Now it will be easy to see when the dough has doubled its volume.
  4. Lightly flour your work surface and dump out the dough. Divide it into four pieces with your bench knife. Flatten the dough gently with your hands. Form each piece of dough to a bâtard There's a link to an excellent video showing how to form a bâtard in the recipe notes.
  5. Let the loaves rise until they pass the the finger poke test. The time required depends a lot on ambient temperature so don't look at the clock.
  6. Preheat your oven to 480ºF / 250ºC with two oven plates. One to bake the bread on and one just below. If you have a baking stone or dutch oven, use them.
  7. Score the loaves in your preferred pattern and place them in the oven. Pour some water on the plate below and bake each loaf in 35-45 minutes.
  8. Let the wort breads cool on wire racks.
Recipe Notes

For those who prefer to use a stretch and fold technique instead of running the dough into a dough mixer, you may find this video helpful. You can also look at one of my previous recipes.

Maurizio from The perfect loaf has made an excellent video showing how to form a bâtard.

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Glögg, Swedish mulled wine.

Mulled wine

Last weeks post mentioned how important meatballs are for us Swedes when we celebrate Christmas. Something that is almost as important here in Sweden during Christmas is mulled wine, or glögg as we prefer to call it. It comes in different strength and shapes. The traditional glögg is made of red wine, but varieties made of white wine is quite popular as well.

It was probably the Romans who introduced the beverage in northern Europe. The herbs that were used to flavor the wine were considered to be a cure. But I suspect it was also an excuse for drinking more wine. And they probably needed that. Even the most battle-hardened badass roman legionary probably found it hard to stand the gruesome winter weather in the north. Not to mention all the hostile barbarians who did their best to make their life miserable. Anyone can have homesickness in such circumstances.

The Roman legions never reached Sweden, but the mulled wine found it’s way up here anyhow. Mulled wine was popular throughout the middle ages, but it was not until the 18th century that it became a Christmas drink. And its popularity has only increased.

1.3 million gallons of mulled wine is sold in Sweden every Christmas. That means, with 10 million inhabitants, every Swede has to drink about 2 cups of mulled wine every Christmas. Infants included. I suppose you don’t have to be a Roman legionary to feel depressed here up in the north sometimes.

Making glögg is easy. You may in fact have some of the ingredients in your pantry already. Let’s start with the wine. For this recipe, you can use one bottle of any type of red wine. Don’t look for anything expensive. A budget wine works fine.
Avoid using a sweet dessert wine for this recipe. You will add sugar, and a glögg overloaded with sugar is just disgusting.

Now it’s time to make an inventory of your spices. You need cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, star anise, and ginger. In Sweden, we also use the dried peel from Seville orange. I’m not sure how available it is outside Sweden, so as an alternative you can use peel from an orange. Just be sure to avoid the whites parts of the peel.

Seville orange

 

Cinnamon

 

cloves

 

You can make a quick variant by adding all the spices to the wine and heat it gently and let it simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Don’t let it boil. Add the sugar at the end. Remove the spices by pouring the wine through a strainer. Serve the glögg hot with raisins and flaked or minced almonds in small glasses. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

The glögg will taste a lot better, however, if you let the wine and spices steep overnight. That’s what I use to do, and I encourage you to try it if there is enough time. Besides, it’s worth waiting for.

Spices in pot

 

First boil

 

Glögg

Print Recipe
Glögg, Swedish mulled wine.
Traditional Swedish glögg or mulled wine is a hot and sweet wine drink that taste Christmas and warms a frozen spirit.
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine wine and the spices except for the sugar in a pot. Heat it up to 170ºF / 80ºC and remove the pot from the stove. Place a lid on the pot and let wine and spices steep for 24 hours.
  2. Remove the spices by pouring the wine through a strainer. Add sugar and liquor and heat it up gently. Don't let it boil.
  3. Serve in small glasses with raisins and flaked or minced almonds.
Recipe Notes

If you are in a hurry, you can just heat wine and spices and let it simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Don't let it boil, or the alcohol will burn off. Add sugar and liquor just before serving.

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