In honor of Santa Lucia Day (yesterday, December 13th), I’m excited to share my recipe for Swedish Cardamom Bread. This recipe is very near and dear to my heart, but not for the reasons you might think…
As an amateur baker, I love trying new recipes and new techniques, and often find myself asking others for ideas about what to try next (I’m a riveting conversationalist, I know). When I talk about baking bread, I tend to get the same responses.
“You bake your own bread? That’s so cool.”
“That sounds so hard.”
“I could never do that.”
I’m so tired of hearing those last two responses. You can bake bread! I firmly believe anyone, no matter their skill level or experience, can bake a loaf of bread. How do I know? Because I baked my first loaf of bread five years ago, and I never thought I could do it. But my 91 year-old college professor wouldn’t let me give up. I made my first loaf of bread the spring of 2010, just after my 19th birthday. I picked Swedish Cardamom Bread, for reasons I don’t remember. Maybe because of my Scandinavian heritage, maybe because I thought it looked interesting, maybe because I didn’t know any better. It was a challenging recipe, but the results were worth it. Here I am holding my first ever loaf of bread:
Look how proud I am of that hideous loaf of bread! But it was my hideous loaf, one I had painstakingly kneaded and braided and baked. My first loaf of Swedish Cardamom bread may not have been pretty, but it was delicious. I kept baking it. I made it for my mom’s prayer group, for a family party. I even baked some for friends and made them carry it around Lake Harriet for a picnic (sorry, Michael and Nick). And with each loaf I became a better baker. With each loaf I gained a little more confidence.
Five years later, I baking bread. I no longer buy sandwich bread or bagels, I bake them myself. I check out stacks of books about bread at the library, buy strange new ingredients at the grocery store and borrow oddly shaped pans from my in-laws. I’m proud to call myself an amateur baker and love trying exciting and challenging new recipes.
But it all started with an ugly loaf of Swedish Cardamom Bread.
My grandma is full-blooded Swedish and very proud of her heritage. She brags about my Swedish Cardamom Bread every chance she gets, and as a result, this recipe has been translated and sent to our relatives in Sweden. If you need this recipe in metric measurements, let me know and I can hook you up! I regret that I have no idea where this recipe came from. I printed it off a website before baking my first loaf, and never bookmarked the page. If you know where this recipe came from, please let me know in the comments section below so I can give credit!
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ¼ cup lukewarm water (105°F)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk, scalded
- 6 to 6-½ cups bread flour
- ½ stick (¼ cup) butter, softened
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons cardamom
- ⅔ cup golden raisins (regular raisins work just fine)
- 1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Scald milk in a small saucepan (learn how here).
- Remove from heat and stir in honey, salt and half of the sugar (1/8 cup, or 2 tablespoons) until dissolved. Cool to lukewarm (105°F).
- While milk mixture cools, dissolve remaining sugar and yeast in water. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Add milk mixture and 2 cups flour to dissolved yeast, beat until smooth (I use an electric mixer). Add butter, eggs, cardamon and raisins, beating until thoroughly blended.
- Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough (please don’t use an electric mixer for this part- a wooden spoon works great).
- Turn out onto a well floured board (or clean counter top) and knead 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed. Place in a greased bowl and grease top lightly.
- Cover, and let rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled, or about one hour.
- Punch risen down down, and knead briefly. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a 14-inch rope.
- Place 3 ropes side-by-side and braid, pinching ends together to seal. Repeat with remaining 3 ropes.
- Place loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Grease tops lightly, cover and let rise until doubled again, about one hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (depending on how fast your oven heats, turn on oven about half way into the second rise).
- In a small bowl, beat 1 egg white with a tablespoon of water to make glaze.
- Brush tops of loaves with glaze and bake 45-50 minutes, or until loaves are a deep golden brown and tester (read: toothpick) inserted in center comes out clean.
- Carefully remove from baking sheet, and cool completely on a wire rack.
Swedish Cardamom Bread is delicious on its own, but can also be enjoyed with a thin layer of butter, toasted or plain. Enjoy!