Sour Milk Bread

salmon at lux

I was fortunate to only have few “clunker” meals during my trip to Sweden. You always feel kind of bad when you’re traveling, especially because you have limited time (and funds) and want every meal, and mouthful, to count. Before going to Stockholm, a friend who I was en voyage with had reserved at Lux, a restaurant in the old Electrolux vacuum cleaner factory – beautifully restored – a little ways from the center of the city.

River in Stockholm

Arriving at Lux was like breath of fresh air, figuratively and literally, as the terrace of the restaurant overlooked one of the many harbors that flow through Stockholm. And a less-than-spectacular meal that we’d had the evening before became a distant memory when we sat ourselves down at a table on the terrace, overlooking one of the many quiet waterways that envelopes Stockholm. (And speaking of keeping the air “fresh”, you gotta love a restaurant that stocks toothbrushes in the restrooms.)

lux toothbrushes

It was a short trip from the center of town – we taxi’d there, but took a bus back – and after a quick scan of the menu, I knew exactly what I wanted to order. I am kind of famous for never knowing what I want to order in a restaurant, taking great care to pick and choose correctly. Then, when my mind is firmly made up and I let everyone at the table know what I’m going to order, I stun everyone by changing my mind as soon as the server asks me what I’ll be having. It’s a odd quirk that folks who eat with me eventually get used to. (At some point, someone should release a game, “What’s David Going to Order?”)

tomato soup at Lux
reindeer and radishes at Lux
fish roe at Lux

Like all of the good places I ate in Sweden, chef Henrik Norström focuses on local and traditional Swedish ingredients. And although I didn’t see any reindeer roaming the ground, I was certain I wanted to try the grilled reindeer, which came in my salad along with watercress and radishes from Övertårneo, which I doubt is very far. And even if the reindeer weren’t grazing around the nearby apartment complex, I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s definitely Swedish.

reindeer at lux

My friend was lapping up the cold tomato soup with scallops from Lofoten, a group of island far up north. And the other was thrilled to be presented with a plate of bleak roe with brioche, cucumbers, and sour cream that could not have looked or tasted any fresher.

sausage at luxchef at Lux

For my main course, I had a stunning filet of fried salmon with beets, toasted hazelnuts, and spinach (shown at the top), although I was eyeing the plump lamb sausages that one of my dining companions had ordered, which were made in the kitchen. And although he offered me a bite, he was enjoying them so much (and I was enjoying my own meal so much) that I didn’t ask him to share.

Lux restaurant meat

Desserts were equally impressive and because I share the Swede’s love of fermented milk products, I had a bowl of puckery yogurt sorbet with caramelized rhubarb and hazelnuts, and little domes of sponge cakes scattered about. I love that idea – a great way to incorporate cake into a fruit compote-based dish, and I might swipe it for a future dessert.

Although the food was great, what I couldn’t keep my hands off of was the dark, spicy bread they had to keep replenishing in our bread basket. It was so good that I had to get up and see the loaf that they were slicing it from.

yogurt sorbet and rhubarb

On the way out, Chef Norström’s wife, Lotta, graciously gave me their recipe, which uses Mörk Sirap, a popular ingredient in Swedish baking. She said she wasn’t sure of the equivalent elsewhere but said that Swedish people used it liberally in their baking. So I picked up a few bottles to bring home with me because I knew it’d be a challenge to track that down at home. When I tried to figure out what was it was, I learned that Sweden has some interesting labeling laws and the side of the bottle, where it says “Ingredients” the only ingredient listed is “sirap“. (At the end of the recipe, I give ideas for some alternatives.)

Lux stockholmBread at Lux
Swedish syrupfennel seeds

I spent a bit of time whittling down the recipe since it made a restaurant-sized quantity. There was also a small overload of spices – namely, fennel seeds, green anise seeds, and caraway. I love spices and know how Swedes liked spices in their baking, so I crushed away. Actually, there were so many, I unearthed my spice grinder, which made quick work of the task. And in the end, I dialed those down a bit until I found the balance that I liked.

butter and salt

Swedish Sour Milk Bread

Two 9-inch (23 cm) loaves

Recipe adapted from Lux restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden.

This is more of a cake-like ‘bread’, than a traditional bread. Think French Pain d’épices; a moist batter with lots of spices, with a soft crust and bready interior. I made it twice, and mine came out slightly lighter than the one served at the restaurant (shown.) It goes well with a swipe of butter, but you could certainly serve it with a compote of cherries in red wine syrup, a sharp cheese, or snack on it just as-is, which is what I did with each loaf.

Note that this recipe uses dark syrup, which is ubiquitous in Sweden. I picked up a few bottles in Sweden to bring home, but I’ve suggested some alternatives at the end of the recipe.

  • 2 1/4 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (175 g) rye flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons anise seeds
  • 2 cups (500 ml) buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup (210 g) dark syrup, or an alternative (see Note)

1. Preheat the oven to 215ºF (100ºC.) Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) square cake pan.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and rye flours, the baking powder, baking soda, and caraway seeds.

3. In a spice grinder, or mortar-and-pestle, grind the fennel and anise seeds into they are close to finely ground, but they can still have a bit of texture to them. Whisk them into the four mixture until they are evenly dispersed.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk and dark syrup. Stir the mixture just until the dry ingredients are completely moistened, but don’t overmix.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.

6. After 30 minutes, increase the heat of the oven to 325ºF (160ºC) and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the bread feels just-cooked in the center when you press it. (If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 190ºF, 88ºC.)

7. Remove the bread from the oven and as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack.

To serve, cut the bread in half down the center, making two rectangular loaves, then cut slices of the bread.

Storage: The bread will keep for up to 3-4 days at room temperature. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months.



Note: Dark syrup is made from sugar beets or sugar cane and closely resembles dark corn syrup. You could use dark corn syrup, cane syrup, sorghum, or perhaps light-flavored molasses, which will lend a stronger flavor to the bread than the other options. I would not use all honey or agave nectar as they will take the bread in another direction. If those other ingredients aren’t available to you, you could mix honey and molasses (or treacle and golden syrup) in equal parts to temper the sweetness of honey and the robust flavor of molasses.

Swedish dark baking syrup can be ordered from Sweden’s Best or check out How to Find Foods Mentioned on the Site to find it elsewhere.


cook at Lux

58 comments

  • The bread looks good – rich and moist. Wondering about those beet slices on the salmon though, are they roasted or raw? They look caramelized as if from roasting but since they still have so much body.

  • David, while Lofoten is far north, it’s not in Sweden, but in Norway.

    • Yes, I know that – I mentioned it was farther north but purposely avoided giving geographical coordinates and designation. A number of Swedish chefs use products from there, especially the seafood.

  • Am curious about the yoghurt sorbet, since I thought sorbet contains no milk.
    How is it made, do you know?

  • Filmjölk is used to make this bread. Buttermilk is a substitute, but different. I think its hard to find buttermilk in Sweden.

  • Hi David,

    The links in the last paragraph do not seem to be working, apart from “corn syrup” and “how to find foods mentioned on the site”. And all that food looks gorgeous! The presentation is just too good to eat..

    I am very curious about the Sorghum syrup (never imagined sweet Sorghum ) cos in India we make a fresh,leavened bread from Sorghum. Very nutritious and gluten free and of course like all gluten-free doughs, not the easiest to work with. But once you get it right, its quite therapeutic to make that round flat “Jowar Bhakri” as its called! Ah I digress.. So about this Sorghum syrup..

  • The bread sounds and looks fabulous!! I think I’m going to try it using dark corn syrup if I can find it or a mixture of molasses and honey as a last resort. What a find and thank you for getting and translating the recipe! The yogurt sorbet and carmelized rhubarb and hazelnuts sound out of this world too….
    What are the little beige rectangles on silver plates shown in your last photo?

  • Oops..Not leavened bread..I meant levelled i.e. flattened using your palm..

  • Katie: Those are sticks of Swedish butter with coarse salt, ready for service (!)

    Jyoti: There is a quirk in my word processing program that converts quotation marks which has been breaking the links (which I fixed) – so the links got fixed. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

    Three-Cookies: Yes, it is not quite buttermilk but it the closest approximation that I can find.

  • Buttermilk isn’t available in Sweden – at all – but abroad it will work quite well as a substitute for filmjölk.
    In London, you can find the dark syrup along with the filmjölk at the shop Totally swedish.
    In Paris, both are available at Affären (affaren).
    The dark syrup can also be bought online at several places whereas filmjölk, as its a dairy product, cannot.

  • Dark treacle also works for the syrup.

  • Övertorneo is quite a long way from Stockholm… :p

    http://goo.gl/maps/2qV1O

    • Yes, folks can certainly go through and find things served in restaurants that serve mostly local foods. But, like Faviken, it’s not entirely possible to source everything from close to the actual restaurant. (The dark syrup is made in Denmark, I believe, too.)

  • substituting nordic “mörk sirap” ith half and half of golden syrun and dark molasses is the closest you can get. the same sirap is sold through out all hte nordic countries sweden, denmark, norway and finland, tha manufacturer is the same sugar factory, dansukker. and yes, filmjölk is hard to substitute as the culture you use to make buttermilk differs from country to country…even with the same dairymanufacturers the buttermilk is different in finland to swedish!

  • While searching to find out more information about the “Mork Sirap”, I came across this blog, which I thought might be of interest to you, David, especially as the name, “The Swede Life In Toronto” could be a play on “The Sweet Life in Paris”. Here it is; http://theswedelifeintoronto.com/2013/04/19/substitutes-for-swedish-products-and-hard-to-finds-in-toronto-tips-welcome/

    As I am lactose intolerant, I use about 1/3 cup of lactose-free sour cream to 2/3 cup of lactose-free milk as a substitute for buttermilk. The final taste may not be exactly that of buttermilk, but I’ve had great success with this substitute.

    Looking forward to trying the bread!

  • I got the cookbook you recommended The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas. She has some similar recipes she calls Finnish and Swedish Christmas breads. One includes grated orange peel and the other says you can substitute beer for the buttermilk. Both recipes have yeast in them. The Swedish Christmas dipping bread gets its name from a custom stemming back to when a Christmas ham was simmered and the family dipped the bread in the pot and ate with butter and sliced ham!

  • Hello,
    What about maple sirup? would it be a substitute for this recipe or is it too fluid?

  • I love anise flavours so the multiple layers of this with the anise, fennel and caraway sound wonderful.

  • - yeaheee to the toothbrushes in the loos – what a GREAT idea!
    – ANYTHING with rhubarb is glorious, even rhubarb with rhubarb!
    – wonderful presentation of every course – and skillful photographing (just to mention it again…)
    – why am I always hungry after reading your posts?
    – and erm, about the harbors flowing through Stockholm… :) made me smile – it’s exactly how I talk too and sometimes my rivers flow even upwards.
    – Loved my one and only visit to Stockholm – A LOT!!! Feel like hoping for another one (but 1st one came with a job…)
    Tack så mycket for this brill post.

  • I’m thinking of baking these after baking breads in a wood-fired oven. Since the only heat source is the residual and declining heat left in the oven floor and walls, I wanted to know why the initial low baking temperature, since I won’t be able to replicate that. Thanks!

  • I’m going to try this with a mixture of light corn syrup and molasses since that’s what I happen to have on hand. It sounds so delicious!

  • I’m going to try this with a mixture of light corn syrup and molasses since that’s what I happen to have on hand. It sounds so delicious!

  • David,

    you are correct in assuming that the sirap is made in Denmark it is and it is widely available in the Nordic countries. I must agree with herkkusuun lautasella that molasses and golden syrup would be the closest match.

    Thank you for a lovely blog it is always a pleasure to read.

    Sincerely one of your Nordic followers

  • Given the French influence in Sweden in the 19th Century, I wonder if the sour milk bread isn’t a cousin of pain d’epices.

  • Since you said the bread was more cake like, it reminded me of Boston Brown Bread without the raisins but with seeds for flavor. Would you agree?

  • I am interested to try this bread which has some similarity to my Swedish grandmother’s rye bread. She used fennel and anise and a little orange rind to flavor the bread and for sweetener, a combination of molasses and brown sugar. It is very delicious.

  • David, thanks for another winner! Is there a reason why you used a square pan versus a loaf pan?

    PS. Enjoyed your guesting on Washington Post’s Free Range chat last week!

    • I scaled the recipe down from the version made at the restaurant so it would fit in a home-sized vessel. But you could bake it in a loaf pan, although you would likely need 2 and you’d have to adjust the baking time perhaps. If you do try it, please report back!

  • Filmjölk is just as easy to make at home as yogurt or kefir. Once the fermentation is done, it makes a string like melted mozzarella (that’s the “fil” in “filmjölk,” which comes out as “string milk”). You can find the cultures online without difficulty. It’s well worth the time.

  • Noone has ever written about Sweden as David. Utter sheer bliss beautifully illustrated time and again. An eternally grateful nation will never let you go, David.

    There is a fine Swedish restaurant in Paris at the Cercle Suédois (the Swedish Club), 242 rue de Rivoli (www.cercle-suedois.com) lunch served daily. Open to non-members (call in advance) Young inspired chef.
    Swedes have for centuries had a love affair with France – you might remember
    the impression made on Marie Antoinette by the devastatingly handsome Swedish aristocrat Axel von Fersen. They both loved ice cream – just as he brought an
    an ice cream maker back to Sweden to console him after her horrible end.
    I think it is time someone composed ice cream Marie Antoinette melting in a heavenly delicious Axel. Love should never be forgotten.
    Those living in Paris will find .MÖRK SIRAP and FILMJÖLK at the Swedish épicérie
    Affären (www.affarenparis.com)on a small street just by place Pigalle.

  • Not too often you see nasturtium leaves on a plate. I grow them and put them in my salad; also the flowers when they’re out, of course. Yum!

  • That syrup looks similar to what’s used as an ingredient in dark belgian beer styles. Maybe try dark candi syrup from a brewing supply company?

  • David, I wanted to try this dark bread as I am going through a phase making crackers and bread of late (not sure if I need more carbs or what…) so after reading the recipe and your comments about the “dark syrup” I though I would check my local swedish deli here in Chicago. It is in Andersonville near the Swedish Museum. And yes there it was on their shelve! Armed with that bottle, I will make the bread tomorrow and take some to the owner of the deli who only takes cash or checks (of which I had neither) and let me walk out of the store with my package and a promise to pay her tomorrow.
    Is this a Swedish thing??? She said if I mentioned her store to you and put her on my facebook page she would also be happy. So her she is Erickson’s Delicatessen & Fish. A great place for Lutefish I was told as well….Enjoy your newsletters and have been making your chocolate chip cookies recipe many many times to much accolades.

  • I bought some jaggery (Indian cooking) and found it tasted more like molasses than brown sugar so after not liking it as a substitute I started using it for molasses in bread recipes. Do you think this might be a substitute for the syrup?

  • This looks like a variation on soda bread recipes. I wonder whether using a significant amount of corn syrup which has a lot of fructose would cause the bread to brown much faster than using a cane syrup which has sucrose. Fructose leads to more faster browning. Beer sounds like a flavorful alternative to a soured dairy product. It may not be authentic but sounds delicious anyway.

  • The lady at my Swedish Deli shop told me it is made from Beet sugar rather than corn sugar. I can’t wait to try this recipe out and deliver it to her after she so graciously put my purchase on “credit” till tomorrow.

  • Please, please !

    Give more information about the exquisite salad with salmon, beets and hazelnuts. Would love to hear about how the beets are prepared and what simple glaze is used for the salmon and salad. Gorgeous, David !

  • David, the same syrup made from sugar beets is widely sold in Germany, esp northern part, as well “Zuckerrübensirup”, also there is a light and dark version. We use it as bread spread on toast, but suggestions include dressings (think aceto balsamico) or coating your game/bird when roasting in the oven for a crispy finish

  • Superb as usual. I am forwarding your blog to all of my Swedish friends. Thanks.

  • Everything in Sweden looks so heavenly
    Hard to image any clunkers except for the sandwich cake…

  • Roseann: Folks in Sweden told me it was made from beet sugar as well, although I found a few references to sugar cane used. Am not sure if that’s true, but I was fairly certain someone would come up with a syrup that is, indeed, made with cane syrup and bring it to my attention. So I mentioned that they may both be used in its fabrication because of all the fact-checking ; )

    sillygirl: I would give it a try – let us know how it works out.

    Elizabeth: There are so many interested baked bread with rye and so forth from Scandinavia. Lucky you to have a grandmother who baked for you!

    Phillip: Interesting that there was a French influence during that era. Another reader mentioned in a previous post that in Scandinavia, using a lot of spices (they referenced cardamom) was a sign of wealth, so perhaps that’s why this bread has an overload of spices in it.

  • I can’t wait to try this. My grocery store sells the siggi’s Swedish filmjolk so I will usse that instead of the buttermilk in a bid for authenticity, since I doubt I’ll find the syrup! You think they sell it at ikea? ;-)

  • artistic work, thanks Chef David for nice recipe

  • Elizabeth, my great aunt made Swedish rye bread with the anise/fennel and orange rind, as well. I have her recipe — one day, I’ll actually make it!

  • David, I bought the same bottle of syrup in the photo at my local Ikea in New Haven CT about a year ago. On the bottle it says Light Baking Syrup from Sugar Beets. Ingredients: Suger Beet Syrup, Salt.

    • Ikea has, on occasion, stocked various Scandinavian baking products. (Such as pearl sugar.) Although it doesn’t seem to be consistent in all stores. I did buy another bottle of syrup in Sweden that had malt in it, which probably provides another dimension of flavor.

  • This sour milk bread recipe looks delicious. I’m going to try making this with light-flavored molasses.

  • David: the malted syrup goes under the name brödsirap (bread syrup). It does provide an extra dimension to the flavour. Now, heavy-packed (read seeds) and with dark syrup and rye flour is what I bake when it comes to bread. Have basically no experience with white bread.

  • Hi David,

    someone’s probably already mentioned this but I’d recommend that you try Parkin (a type of English gingerbread). It’s probably a lot heavier than this recipe or pain d’epices but it is still very good. However, it really isn’t a summer food, it’s more of a deliberately dark and rich celebration cake reserved for Bonfire night (5th November). It’s made with a healthy dose of ginger (powdered and crystallized) and with oats thrown into the mix; also, as with fruit cakes, it really needs to be matured for the best flavour. Have a look at this recipe below:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/31/campfire-cooking-bonfire-night-halloween-recipes

    Mike Thomas

  • Sweden’s Best is sold out of dark syrup :(

  • Heading to Stockholm (where my sister lives) and was so excited to have a new place to add to the intinerary in the form of Lux… Anyway, it is not to be. They are closing and will be re-born in a new form in September. The below is from their website:

    ***

    There are only a few days left possible to visit Lux Stockholm as Lux Stockholm.
    We close for the summer July 14 and open up again as a new restaurant in late September. The new restaurant, Lux Dag för Dag (Lux Day by Day), will still be run by us and several of our brilliant staff. The produce is still in focus and we will keep working with our local producers, growers, breeders and farmers. The difference is that we will present our courses in a more straight forward way and change courses daily depending on the produce. The price range will be lower than today. We will also vary wines more often and offer a more familiar atmosphere. It will also be possible to buy take away.
    Have a wonderful summer and thank you for 10 wonderful years with you!

    Henrik, Lotta, Peter, Annette and Daniel with staff”

    • Thanks for that. Sounds like they are turning it into a more casual restaurant. They have another place in Stockholm which is supposed to be quite good so sounds like they are taking Lux in that direction as well.

  • Can you say exactly what is on the plate that has the brown rectangular solid with some kind of gravy or sauce pouring down and two long cream colored tubes?

    Also, off topic, but your sticky toffee pudding recipe is wonderful.

  • My mother baked everything at home when I was growing up. Cakes, cookies, breads. All traditional stuff. Our own crispbread. Whenever we went to the grocery store, I’d head straight for the ready-baked breads and plead with her to get some. Which she never did. As an adult, I keep calling her to ask on how and what to do. I don’t know how much rye flour, general flour and other flours and bread spice (fennel + anise) that passes through her kitchen annually but it’s plenty.

    All your postings from your trip in Sweden has made me think more about origin and of all that one takes for granted when living somewhere. One doesn’t really appreciate the uniqueness of some methods of preserving and cooking. You just take it for granted. Even though I’ve travelled extensively, mostly in Asia, I still haven’t actually realise how some things are appreciated and others not. Despite having had animated discussions on the fabulousness of different kinds of miso and rice preparations with japanese friends, my local everyday eating here in Sweden hasn’t really paired up.

    Anyway, all posts were a pleasure to read.

  • I laughed when I saw your photo of the dark syrup. It is a Danish product made by Dan Sukker, and we can get it in any supermarket. Here is a translation of the description from their website: Syrup (sugar syrup) is obtained as a by-product when one produces white sugar from (sugar) beet sugar or cane sugar. Syrup is a viscous sugar solution in which part of the sugar is broken down to glucose and fructose. The combination of the different types of sugar prevents crystallization, and the very high sugar content of about 80% guarantees long shelf life.

    There is a light as well as a dark syrup. I’m glad to see the Swedes are buying our stuff!

    • There is also one that is malt-flavored, which I bought, and apparently they have an “organic” syrup as well.

  • I’ve always loved the way Swedes approach life. After seeing a bit of their food from Marcus Samuelsson and their design/art from IKEA, I love the bright pop and freshness that they bring everywhere. Anyways, I personally have never tried any kind of spiced bread (and I’m Indian, hah), and filmjölk and mörk sirap sound intriguing. Great to see that there’s a Swede blogger in Toronto, but I’ll keep my eye out for these two in the future!

    Thanks for the great post (as always), David.