How Do I Choose the Best Limpa Bread?

Megan Shoop

Limpa bread is a traditional Swedish pastry that includes a long list of strong, spicy flavors. It is traditionally sweet, but includes the licorice tones of fennel seed, the sweetness of orange juice and molasses, and the sharp spice of caraway seeds and rye flour. Some recipes also include dark notes from instant coffee, though this is a modern addition to the recipe. When you’re choosing a loaf of limpa bread, you should typically read the ingredients label, smell the bread, and weigh it in your hands. All of these things should help you decide how the bread measures up when it comes to freshness and quality.

The best limpa bread should be bought fresh from a bakery.
The best limpa bread should be bought fresh from a bakery.

One of the first things you should do when choosing limpa bread is read the list of ingredients. The best breads should contain a combination of rye flour, bulgur wheat, and white flour as the base. The spices in the bread should include orange zest, cumin, caraway seeds, and anise or fennel seeds. The list doesn’t need to be exact, but all of those flavors should typically be present in the bread. If you’re allergic to certain spices, or you dislike certain flavors, reading the ingredients list may also help you find a limpa bread variation that meets your particular needs.

The next thing you should typically do when choosing limpa bread is smell it and gently squeeze it with your hands. Some bakeries put out very fresh bread. If you live near a bakery like this, your best bet is to go early and pick up a loaf of bread that is still warm. Warm bread should emit the mingled scents of dark rye, fruity oranges, and spicy sweetness. Good limpa bread should typically smell this way even if it isn’t warm, however. Bread that no longer has a strong scent has likely been sitting on the shelf for a while. It is probably safe to eat, but no longer has a fresh taste.

Gently squeezing the bread can also help you discover its quality. Well-made limpa bread should have a hard crust that crackles slightly when you press down on it. The crust should be thin enough to give way when it is squeezed, revealing a soft, spongy inner layer. This kind of bread often toasts beautifully, yielding a deliciously sweet counterpoint to savory breakfast meats like bacon or sausage.

Weighing the limpa bread in your hands should help you make your final decision as to which loaf is the best. The rye and bulgur in the bread generally make it dense, so authentic bread should feel weighty in the hands, but not so heavy that it feels like you’re holding a brick. Brick-like bread may be dry, while pleasantly weighty bread should still be relatively fresh.

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