In the late 1800s, along with millions of other immigrants, my great-great grandparents made the life-altering decision to start a new life in America. Great-great grandmother Alfrida Jacobson left her home in Sweden to pursue the opportunities afforded by the United States. She and her husband made their new home in Chicago, Illinois, where he pastored a church. For awhile, Alfrida worked as a nanny. The couple were blessed with six beautiful children.
Alfrida’s heart, much like those of the generations of her family to follow, was focused on her home. She attended to every detail, from sewing articles of clothing to feeding her family. Alfrida cooked with excellence, but her baking skills were exceptional. She regularly filled their Chicago home with the yeasty scents of oven-fresh confections.
Her signature dish was Swedish brown bread. It was dense with rye flour, sweet with black strap molasses and dotted liberally with raisins.
“The recipe was passed down to my mother, Alfrida’s second child,” my grandmother, Carol Schumacher, explained. “My mom would make a couple loaves every month.”
Grandmother made use of Alfrida’s recipe and, following in their footsteps, I now make this delicious, traditional Swedish bread.
Swedish brown bread is an excellent addition to any hearty meal. It is also perfect with a cup of coffee at breakfast.
“The fabulous thing about this bread,” Schumacher noted, “is that it makes great toast.” She suggests slathering a slice with butter the moment it pops up in the toaster.
Swedish Brown Bread with Raisins
- 3 cups hot water
- 4 Tb. Crisco
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 cup Black Strap Molasses
- 1 Tb. salt
- 3 tsp. yeast
- ¼ cup warm sugar
- 1 tsp. white sugar
- 5 cups rye flour
- 1 to 1 ½ cups white flour
- 1 cup raisins (Optional, but recommended.)
In a large bowl, blend the Crisco, ½ white sugar, molasses, and salt into the hot water. Let the mixture cool completely.
Combine the yeast, warm water, and 1 tsp. white sugar into a separate, smaller bowl. Let yeast bloom, roughly 2-5 minutes.
In a third bowl, combine the rye flour, white flour, and raisins.
Add yeast mixture to hot water mixture. Blend gently. Gradually add flours until just combined. Do not overwork the dough. (Note: The dough should be slightly sticky and loose.)
Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hour).
Lightly grease two loaf pans. After first rising, separate the dough into the two pans. Alternatively, if no pans are available, you can free-form the loaf onto a baking sheet. Allow to rise again until doubled.
Bake at 350º for 1 hour or until done. To check for doneness, gently stick knife into center of loaf. It should come out cleanly. Allow bread to rest before slicing.
Contributed by Abigail Phinney / Text & photos courtesy of Abigail Phinney