Vörtbröd is a flavourful, somewhat sweet bread that is an important part of the Swedish smorgardsbord at Christmas and Easter. In English, it literally means 'wort bread,' but 'malt bread' is probably a better and more descriptive translation.

Vörtbröd is essentially a wheat/rye bread, sweetened and flavoured with malt, spices and raisins. The original version of vörtbröd did not have spices or raisins, just the malt that was available for making beer prior to the big holiday celebrations. The sweetened bread was a welcome change from the unsweetened variety served during the year (Wikipedia).

Swedish vörtbröd is not something that you can buy in bakeries around here so making my own loaf with ingredients available in Canada has always been the only option. This year, I decided to try a vörtbröd recipe from one of Sweden's celebrity bakers: Leila Lindholm. I had to modify the recipes slightly since all ingredients were not available locally. I replaced the rågsikt with 60% bread flour and 40% rye flour and the bread syrup with malt syrup. Swedish bread syrup contains 20% malt extract while the malt syrup I used contained 50% malt extract. (I called the manufacturer because the percentage was not listed on the jar.) In the end, the higher malt extract content was probably good thing, as many vörtbröd recipes call for concentrated wort (i.e., malt extract) in addition to syrup, I happened to have a little bit of Swedish bread syrup at home so I tried both syrups to see what the difference in flavour was. There was less of a difference than I expected. The malt syrup had a somewhat more intense flavour, but not by much.

The malt syrup from Happy Home available at natural food stores and the Bulk Barn in Ottawa contains 50% corn syrup and 50% malt extract.

I am trying to simplify bread making as much as possible these days. Any elaborate baking projects are doomed to fail since the new baby needs a lot of attention. I therefore decided to use a less labour intensive, but a prolonged method for mixing and proofing the bread: a version of the autolyse method. Instead of kneeding the dough for about 10 minutes in a stand mixer and then proofing it for half an hour as instructed in the original recipe (i.e., the straight dough method), I blended the ingredients together briefly and then quickly folded the dough about once every half hour three times.

Finally, I reduced the recipe to yield one rather than two loaves.

Swedish Vörtbröd (Malt Bread)

Makes 1 loaf

Takes about 15 minutes to make, but the whole process including proofing and baking takes about 4.5 hours. (Alternatively, you could use the straight dough method and reduce the overall time to about 3 hours - see instructions below.)

Ingredients

25 g butter
1 tsp dried orange peel
3/4 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tbsp ground cloves
1/4 tbsp ground cardamon

12 g fresh yeast
225 g beer - porter or stout (I used Guinness) (225 ml)
22 g canola oil (25 ml)
70 g malt syrup (50 ml)

160 g rye flour (270 ml)
245 g bread flour (410 ml)
1/2 tbsp salt
56 g  raisins (150  ml)

Preparation
  1. Melt the butter in a pot together with the spices. Let cool.
  2. In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in some of the beer. Add the rest of the beer, oil and malt syrup.
  3. Add the butter and spice mixture.
  4. Add the flour and then the salt. 
  5. Mix the ingredients briefly until blended. 
  6. Let the dough proof for about 30 min, wet your hand and then fold the outside edge towards the middle (about four folds). Repeat this step two times. Once you have folded the dough the third time, let it proof for about 60 minutes.
  7. Carefully shape the dough into a bread by shaping it into a rectangle, by folding the four sides towards the middle and turn it over. Let the dough proof for about 60-90 minutes or until the bread does not spring back when you poke it. 
  8. Bake the bread for about 50 min in total: Start baking it at 190°C (375°F) for 15 minutes to get a nice crust and then decrease the temperature to 165°C (330°F) for the remainder of the time. The bread should reach an internal temperature of 96°C (205°F)
Mixed dough

Loaf ready to be proofed

Proofed loaf

Alternative Preparation if Using the Straight-dough Method
If you prefer to finish your bread within a shorter time-frame, you could increase the amount of yeast to 25 g and use the straight-dough method. You would need to replace step five to seven above with the following steps:

5. Mix until the dough turns soft and elastic and add the raisins in the very end. (Takes about 8-10 min on medium speed in a dough mixer.)
6. Let the dough raise to double size. (Takes about 30 min.)
7. Shape the dough into two breads and let rise until the dough does not spring pack when you poke it. (Takes about 60 min.)


It was the first vörtbröd (malt bread) my baby has ever touched


The recipe worked well. The bread tasted delicious and I got inspired to bake some more so I went to DeFalco's in Ottawa to get some 100% malt extract for another vörtbröd recipe that I really want to try. Now all I need to do is find the time!


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