The Swedes and Dill
The Swedes have an obsession with dill. Dill is the king of herbs in Sweden. In most Swedish grocery stores, live plants are sold in pots like basil in the United States. Gravadlax, or gravlax as you often see it marketed in the United States, is a cured salmon dish made with fresh dill, salt, lemon, and vodka or gin. Gravadlax is cured, refrigerated, and not smoked. The cured salmon is sliced razor thin and served on simple buttered toast, rye, or pumpernickel.
Alaskan Fishing Lodges
One of my favorite jobs was cooking in the remote areas of Alaska. The lodge(s) are conveniently located next to the largest wild salmon runs in the world. Thus, cooking, curing, and smoking salmon happens daily. Swedish dill bread is one of my favorite indulgences. This enriched bread is made with fresh chopped dill, onions, and cream cheese baked right into the bread. It is delicious hot out of the oven or toasted, either dry or brushed with butter on the grill.
Swedish Dill Bread
- measuring cups and spoons
- chef knife
- cutting board
- 9x5x3 inch bread pan
- rubber spatula
- stand mixer or wire whisk
- cooling rack
- bread knife or electric knife
- 3¼ cups bread flour
- ½ cup water, room temperature (79°- 81°F or 26°- 27°C) works best
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2¼ tsp yeast, instant or one packet
- 2 tbsp butter, melted good quality
- 1 whole egg
- 2/3 cup cream cheese, softened to room temperature Neufchâtel cheese is a perfect substitute.
- 2 tbsp dill, fresh stemmed, and chopped fine
- 2 cups onions(white or yellow) peeled, cored, and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil for glazing (optional)
Blooming the Yeast
- Blooming the yeast is to verify the yeast is still alive and will do its job. This is not always necessary with modern supplies, but something I still do, just in case.
- Add the packet of yeast or 2¼ tsp to a large mixing bowl. To this, add warm water (79°-81°F or 27° - 32°C) and mix thoroughly. You should see the yeast bubbling up and blooming in about 5-6 minutes.
Making the Wet Mixture
- To prepare the wet mixture, first peel, chop, and measure 2 cups of onions and set aside. Next, pull the soft fronds off of the tougher dill stem and chop to yield 2 tbsp.
- Measure out the 2/3 cup softened cream cheese.
- In a small saucepan or pot, melt 2 tbsp of good quality butter.
- To make the wet mixture add the whole egg to the bloomed yeast. Then, use a whisk or the whisk attachment on a stand mixer to incorporate.
- Next, add the melted butter, fresh chopped dill, and cream cheese. Whisk again until the mixture is incorporated.
- The onions are the last item to go into the wet mixture. The onions can be mixed with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or folded using a rubber spatula.
Prepare the Dry Mixture
- In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine the bread flour and salt. Next, attach the kneading hook attachment.
- Make the dough; add ⅓ of the wet mixture into the dry mixture, lower the dough hook attachment, and start the stand mixer on low.
- After the first 1/3 is absorbed into the flour (about 1 minute), add another ⅔ and allow the dough hook to mix.
- Once the dough has come together (about 2-3 minutes), turn the mixer off. The dough will need to be worked by hand at this point.
Kneading the Dough
- Prepare the working surface with a light covering of flour, just enough to keep the dough from sticking. Turn the dough out onto the prepared surface and begin to knead the bread. Use the heel of your hand to push through the dough.
- Fold over the dough upon itself and repeat the process. (Note* Many of the onions will fall out of the dough during this process. Just add them back into the dough as you knead.) I typically knead the dough for 10 minutes until the dough is soft, elastic, and fully incorporated.
- Form the dough into a large ball.
- To prepare for proofing, add a thin layer of oil inside a large mixing bowl or container. I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil, but any oil will work. Next, add the dough ball to the oiled mixing bowl and roll it around to cover the dough with oil.
- Cover the dough ball with a clean, light towel. Place in a warm spot in your kitchen or use the proofing program on your oven. Proofing times will vary depending on how warm the kitchen is. The warmer the kitchen, the shorter the time will be. Whichever system you use, the idea is to proof the bread until it is doubled in size.
- While the dough ball is proofing, prepare a bread pan by coating it with a light coating of olive oil or butter for the second proof.
- Using the proofing feature in the oven, I set the first proof at (100°F or 38°C) for 1½ hours
- Once the dough ball has doubled in size, form the dough ball into a rectangular loaf shape.
- Place the dough into the prepared bread pan and cover with a clean, light towel.
- Proof the dough a second time as you did the first time until the dough has doubled in size. The dough loaf is ready for baking once it has risen 2 inches above the rim of the bread pan.
- If you have a proofing feature in the oven, lower the temperature to (80°F or 25°-27°C). This time the dough loaf should reach 2 inches above the bread pan rim in 1 hour.
Baking and Testing for Doneness
- Once the bread is ready to be baked, preheat the oven to (350°F or 175°C). Ensure there is enough clearance in the oven to accommodate the bread, so the top of the bread will not touch the top of the oven. You may need to adjust the oven racks.
- Before baking the bread, brush on a thin layer of oil on top of the dough to help brown the crust. I prefer extra virgin olive oil, but any oil will work.
- Place the bread dough into the center of the rack in the oven and bake for one hour.
- After one hour, check. The bread should be golden brown. To verify the bread is done, gently roll the bread out onto a work surface or cooling rack and lift the bread pan off. Using your finger, you can test doneness by thumping the bottom for a hollow sound. Another method is to check with an instant-read thermometer. The bread's internal temperature should be (195°F or 90°C).
- Notice that the bottom of the bread crust is not as golden as the top of the bread. You can fix this by putting the bread back into the oven upside down for 10-15 minutes until the crust becomes golden.
- After crisping up the bottom of the bread, remove it from the oven and place it right side up once again. Brush on a little more extra virgin olive oil or butter and allow to rest for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing.
Slicing the bread
- To slice the bread, use a very sharp bread knife or electric bread knife to make clean cuts.
- If you have any leftovers, store them in a bread bag or gallon plastic ziplock. Make sure the bread is completely cooled before storing.
- Set the cream cheese out on the counter for at least 1 hour before making the bread.