The Gearhead had just turned toward me as I pulled the front door closed. We were leaving to go to a friend’s house for dinner. He had been waiting for me outside, patiently, while I added the last flourishing touches of mascara and lipstick. When he faced me his eyes were shot with red. He looked like a raging bull.
“No, I’m not alright, ” he handed me the keys, “you’re driving.”
In the car he said, “I put that badger balm, you know, the one with the arnica for sore muscles, on the inside of my nose.” He could barely breathe. I looked at him sideways, took in his pinched eyes, the tears running down his cheeks, his set jaw, and I couldn’t help it, I started laughing.
“It’s not funny!”
I laughed so hard, tears sprung from my own eyes. As we cried our way to the dinner party, the tension of this extended winter, with its exceptional frigidity, released with every breath.
When I look up the ingredients later I read cayenne and black pepper. The Gearhead’s eyes have stopped watering.
This post is short, because the recipe is long. And there is no segue that makes the transition from the last paragraphs to this one elegant. This winter has gone on too long. Baking is cathartic. I’ve explained this before here. This bread is not sweet, though it does contain molasses and raisins. Those warm flavours come together beautifully with just a hint of the licorice flavoured aniseed. It is traditionally served at Christmas time. But really, it’s delicious anytime. This version is from Anita Stewart‘s cookbook, Canada.
Limpa Bread (Finnish/Swedish Rye Bread with Raisins)
Time: there are three 1 ½ hour rises, so account for this before you start, but the rest is very easy and really, the recipe takes care of itself, largely unattended.
Yield: 2 loaves
2 cups (500 ml) warm water
2 tsp (10 ml) salt
1 Tbsp (15 ml) active-dry yeast
1 /2 cups (375 ml) rye flour
1 cup (250 ml) raisins
1/3 cup (75 ml) warm water
1 tsp (5 ml) granulated sugar
2 tsp (10 ml) active dry yeast
½ cup (125 ml) molasses
2 tbsp (30 ml) melted butter
1 Tbsp (15 ml) whole aniseed
1 Tbsp (15 ml) cocoa powder
4 ½ cups (1.125 L) all purpose flour
Batter: In a large bowl, stir together the water, salt and yeast. Beat in the rye flour; cover and let stand in a warm place for 1 ½ hours or until very bubbly.
Dough: Cover the raisins with boiling water; set aside to plump for 10 minutes. Drain well, discarding soaking liquid. In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup (75 ml) warm water with sugar and yeast. Let puff for 5 minutes.
Add the raisins to the rye flour batter. Beat in the molasses, melted butter, aniseed, cocoa and yeast mixture. Add flour, a cupful at a time, until the dough becomes very thick. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in any remaining flour. Continue to knead for 5 to 6 minutes or until very smooth and elastic.
Transfer to a well-oiled bowl; cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1½ hours. Punch down, divide in half and shape into 2 round or oblong loaves.
Place on parchment lined baking sheets. Cover and let rise a second time in a coll kitchen until almost doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
Bake in a preheated 375 F (190 C) oven until well browned, 35 to 40 minutes. The bottom of the loaves should sound hollow when tapped. Let cool on a wire rack.