A few days ago I shared Mrs. Lanier’s recipe for buttermilk sheet cake. Here is another of her recipes that we treasure. It is a rye bread that has only a small amount of rye flour in it but the bread has a wonderful color, texture and flavor. Even if you think you do not like rye bread or caraway seeds, you really should try this recipe. This bread tastes almost like cake.
Mrs. Lanier told Jerri that the recipe came from a Swedish neighbor. Growing up in northern Wisconsin, I believed the grownups who told me that the Swedes and Norwegians settled in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota because the thin soil, rocks and hills reminded them of their homeland. What they didn’t tell me is that a lot of good Swedish farmers headed for Kansas which is flatter than a pancake with topsoil two feet deep.
In fact, Lindsborg, Kansas is known as “Little Sweden” and still celebrates Svensk Hyllningsfest, which is held in October of odd-numbered years. It’s a two-hour drive to Atlanta, Kansas from Lindsborg, but there are Swedish families in every Kansas county today. I’m glad that at least one of them settled near the Laniers, so we can enjoy this bread.
1/2 cup rye flour
6 to 8 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups water, divided
2 T caraway seeds
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup dark molasses
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 package or 2 heaping tsp. yeast
Put the rye flour, caraway seeds and a cup of boiling water in a large mixing bowl. Stir until smooth and allow to cool to lukewarm.
Put the shortening, molasses, salt, brown sugar and a cup of boiling water into a small saucepan or microwavable bowl and stir until everything is melted. Cool to lukewarm.
Put a half cup of lukewarm water (90 t0 110º) in a cup or small bowl. Stir in a half teaspoon of sugar and the yeast and allow to proof.
Put all the lukewarm mixtures into the large mixing bowl and begin adding flour a cup at a time. Stir well between additions. As Mrs. Lanier wrote, “Use the trial and error method.” When the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, let it sit for five minutes or so, then turn it out on a floured work surface.
The dough will be sticky, so Mrs. Lanier recommends that you grease your fingers with shortening to avoid adding too much flour as you knead the dough. Knead for seven to eight minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Form it into a ball and put it into a greased bowl, turning the ball to cover the dough with grease. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and allow the dough to rise in a warm draft-free spot. When the dough has doubled in bulk, knead it briefly and return it to the bowl.
Allow the dough to rise again until doubled, then deflate it and form loaves on your work surface. Grease your bread pans. If you have standard 4 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch pans, make two loaves. Make three loaves if you have smaller pans. Put the pans in a warm draft-free spot and cover with the damp cloth. Once the dough has started to rise in the pans, preheat the oven to 350º
When the dough is even with the tops of the pans, put them on the center shelf of the oven and bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes. After 50 minutes, tip the loaves out of the pans and tap the bottoms. If the bread sounds hollow, the loaves are done. Otherwise, bake them for another five to ten minutes and tap again.
NOTES: After listing the molasses, Mrs. Lanier noted “the darker the better.” Use blackstrap molasses if you have it. She also noted that she especially liked this bread toasted.