Vørterbrød or vørterkake is a traditional holiday bread eaten during Christmas, which is made from rye flour and wort beer. Its roots go back to the 1700s as a result of brewing, where someone made the first loaf with rye flour, yeast, and the sediment from the beer kegs.
Wort is the liquid extracted from the mashing process during brewing. Both vørterøl (wort beer) and malt extract are both by-products, which have been utilized by breweries. Today, vørterbrød is typically made with wort beer, a non-alcoholic drink made from water, malt, hops and added carbon dioxide. It’s typically dark and sold in Norway by a few of the large breweries. Other recipes, such as Bergensk julevørtebrød (a variation from Bergen), are made without wort beer or wort extract.
Vørterbrød is distinguished from Norway’s other Christmas bread, julekaker, because of its warm spices, dark syrup and, of course, wort beer. The smell from the kitchen as it bakes is a holiday dream, and the dark color of the bread is a beautiful sight on the table.
Typically, you’ll find vørterbrød served alongside coffee with butter and a slice of brown cheese, white cheese, or jam. This dense and rich bread will bring a welcome warmth into the home this season!
Vørterbrød (Wort Bread)
Makes 2 loaves
- 1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons (330 ml) wort beer (substitute with water)
- 1 cup (240 ml) milk
- ½ cup (120 ml) Norwegian dark syrup, light molasses, or Lyles Golden Syrup
- 2 ounces (50 g) fresh yeast or 2/3 ounces (17 g) active dry yeast
- 3 1/3 cups (400 g) fine rye flour
- 3 ¾ cups (450 g) all- purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground anise
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (200 g) raisins
In a small pan, warm the wort beer, milk and syrup over medium-low heat until lukewarm. Pour into a stand-mixer fitted with a dough hook, or a large bowl, and sprinkle in the fresh yeast. (If using active dry yeast, then whisk it together with the lukewarm mixture and let it sit for a couple of minutes to activate before adding it to the stand mixer). Add the rye flour, all-purpose flour, cloves, anise, salt and combine. Knead for 8 minutes in the stand mixture or 15 minutes by hand until the dough is elastic. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF / 200ºC. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into 2 equal loaves and place on a lightly floured surface. Flatten each dough slightly, divide the raisins between them, knead the raisins into the dough then shape into rounds. Using a sharp knife, make a coupl eof slits on the top of each loaf. Place the loaves on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a tea towel, and let rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
Brush the tops of the loaves with lukewarm water. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve with butter, brown cheese, or whatever else your heart desires.