Tasting the Past: Elda’s Rye Bread

Elda's Rye Bread: the finished product.

Elda’s Rye Bread: the finished product.

I really love bread. The smell of warm baked goods is nothing short of amazing… There is something incredibly comforting about fresh loaf bread. At home, whenever I head to the farmer’s market, my first stop is always at the St. John’s Bakery table filled with a great variety of loaves When travelling, I’ll most certainly search for the local bakery to find something delicious fresh out of the oven… Did I say I say I love bread?

I was more than thrilled to find a bread recipe in the wooden box that would be perfect for Tasting the Past. Although my previous ventures into the world of bread baking had been marred by misadventures. Either the dough just didn’t rise or the bread simply didn’t bake long enough… In other words, the odds weren’t necessarily stacked in my favour. But I would this would not want to let that interfere with the process.

Interesting observations

Elda's Rye Bread was listed on two recipe cards.

Elda’s Rye Bread was listed on two recipe cards.

The recipe card indicates that this is “Elda’s Rye Bread”. The recipe was also found on another piece of paper in the box simply bearing the indication “rye bread”. Both recipes were identical in ingredients and method. Both recipes also had intriguing omissions in the method.

First the liquid ingredients ask for two cups of milk and two cups of water. The recipe indicates that the milk must be heated. However, never do we exactly know at what point the water get mixed into the dough.

Second, both recipes did not mention how long to let the dough rest before forming the loaves and baking them in the oven.

Decisions, decisions…

The dough rests.

The dough rests.

Not really knowing what to do with the water, I hesitated for a while, but decided to add the water to the milk that was mixed with sugar, salt, aniseed, molasses and yeast. When combining the wet and dry ingredients, it was quite obvious that the dough was quite liquid. At this moment, I was torn between following the recipe in its entirety, and taking some freedom (in this case that would have meant adding flour). I kept things as is.

I also decided to let the dough rest even if this step was not indicated in the method. My quick yeast package indicated to let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Other rye bread recipes online called for anything between 20 minutes and two hours. I opted for letting it rest for about 90 minutes. The dough has firmed up a little, but it was still quite a liquid mixture.

The best way to describe the texture of the dough would be to say that it was a little thicker than cake batter. The recipe was supposed to yield four loaves. This batch was lucky to fill three loaf pans. All three were placed in the oven with the hope of some miracle of science.

The verdict

Well, the bread was dense… very, very dense. The dough had risen very little in its 40 some minutes in the oven. In certain photos, the bread looked like meatloaf. The texture itself was comparable to a dense pound cake that may have been slightly undercooked. Taste wise: it was a little on the sweet side, but was decent. You could taste the rye and the molasses.

I would have liked to have a chat with Elda. Here insight would have proven valuable to know a bit more how this bread was supposed to turn out. I would have asked her we had a choice using either the milk or the water or if both were in fact needed. I would have also inquired about letting the dough rest.

I finally kept one of the three loaves. I was suggested to cut it into thin slices and toast it and spread either cream cheese or goat cheese and top it with vegetables.

I guess this only the first of many surprises to come out of the wooden box!

The finished product: three dense loaves.

The finished product: three dense loaves.

Elda’s Rye Bread per both recipe cards


  • 4 cups of white flour
  • 4 cups of rye flour
  • 2 cups of milk *
  • 2 cups of water*
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of molasses
  • a pinch of aniseed
  •  ½ cup of butter or shortening
  • 2 packages of yeast

*I do not know where or when the water should actually be incorporated to the dough.


  • Scald the milk and melt butter. Mix in sugar, salt, molasses, anise seed and yeast.
  • Stir in 4 cups of white flour then 4 cups of ry flour and enough more white flour to handle dough.
  • Form 4 loaves.
  • Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes then lower the heat to 375°F and continue baking for 30 minutes.
  • Cool and serve.

3 thoughts on “Tasting the Past: Elda’s Rye Bread

  1. I think the water was for you to drink as you slaved over the recipe 🙂 I have never attempted a bread like this but the texture you describe and the fact that the dough was only enough for 3 standard loaf pans gave me an idea. There is a kind of Scandinavian bread ( sorry I don’t know the name)that is very dense and comes in skinny loaves (maybe 3″ wide). It is used , sliced thin,for open face sandwiches. Also, Elda is a Scandinavian name. Do I get the Sherlock Holmes award? Your wooden box is a treasure.

  2. After looking at pictures of limpa, I think you are probably right. Its very dense. Maybe I was imagining limpa in a cocktail bread shape. Anyway, I think it is incredibly fun that you are making these recipes without any idea of what the finished product will look like. I am looking forward to your next installment.

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