It's gettin' steamy in here: Steamed Sigtebrod a.k.a. Danish Spiced "Rye" Bread (gluten free, vegan)

I've been wanting to try my hand at making a gluten free steamed bread for quite some time now. Baking buns, biscuits, breads and puddings with steam is a very traditional way of baking that isn't done very commonly here in U.S., with the exception of Boston Brown Bread. But in other cultures, it is a standard, everyday way of preparing baked goods! In India, there is the dhokla, a steamed bread made of besan (chickpea) flour, yogurt, and spices. In Kenya, millet and sorghum are fermented, and then steamed into biscuits. In the UK and Australia, steamed puddings and cakes are common special occasion treats. In China and Japan, rice flour dough is filled with various sweet and savory ingredients, and steamed into little buns and mochi.

Many steamed recipes are naturally free of eggs, gluten, and dairy, due to the traditional cuisine of cultures who steam. A perfect solution for those of us on special diets! Steamed breads don't require added fats or oils, so they are great for people watching their fat intake. Plus, you don't need to use the oven! All you need is boiling water, a large covered pot, a can or baking tin of some kind, and a couple hours to sit back and let your bread steam over a low flame. Simple!

I've been wanting to try out this recipe for dhokla, but I'm in the midst of a detox, and all dairy is out the window for the next month. While I could adapt it to be dairy free, I really crave the tang of goat yogurt with the besan flour. So, February will be dhokla month (if I don't cave and make a dairy free version before then). Instead, I decided to adapt a steamed bread recipe from The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook, by Marjorie Hurt Jones. I would highly recommend this cookbook - not only does it have a wide variety of recipes that are free of all the most common allergens, it also has tons of great, useful information about ingredients, substitutions, basic nutrition, food families, rotary diets, etc etc etc. The recipes are delicious, clever, easy, and don't use lots and lots of crazy, expensive hard-to-find ingredients.

Rather than make the sweet, fruit-studded rice and sunflower seed bread from Marjorie's recipe, I decided to throw in a Danish twist. In my gluten-eating days, I was always a sucker for a dark, heavy rye-based loaf, laced with caraway, dill, or fennel. I can't help it, I'm a Dane through and through. I've been craving the deep taste of a heavy, dark loaf - so, I decided to make a gluten-free, yeast-free steamed version of sigtebrod, a traditional Danish spiced rye bread. To emulate the rich flavor and color of rye, I chose a healthful blend of buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and carob flour. I used a traditional combination of spices from this recipe. To fit my allergies, I omitted the orange zest, but you should use it! Throwing back to Marjorie's recipe, I included ground almonds extra protein, and dark agave nectar replaces the sigtebrod's traditional molasses.

The result? A moist, dense loaf, studded with aromatic seeds, boasting a rich flavor, dark rye-like appearance, and lots of fiber and protein. Plus, a thick slice has as much vitamin C as glass of orange juice, thanks to vitamin C crystals. All in all, this bread packs a nutritious punch in a fun, ridged cylindrical shape. You can even slice it thin.

Steamed Sigtebrod a.k.a. Danish Spiced "Rye" Bread (gluten free, vegan)

1/2 c buckwheat flour
1/4 c + 2 T millet flour
1/4 c amaranth flour
3 T carob powder
1 1/2 t baking powder*
1/2 t fennel seeds
1/2 t caraway seeds
1/2 t anise seeds
1/2 t ground cardamom
optional: 1/2 t orange zest
1/2 c almonds, or other nut
1 1/4 c boiling water or apple juice
1/4 t unbuffered vitamin C crystals** (or 1 T lemon juice or vinegar)
optional: 1 T - 1/4 c agave nectar, depending on your tastes and sugar tolerance

large covered pot or dutch oven
boiling water
1 qt baking mold or empty 1 lb can (bean tins work great!)
tin foil
rubber band/string
metal rack or empty bowl
food processor


  1. Liberally oil mold/can.
  2. In large bowl, combine flours, carob, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  3. In food processor, pulse almonds until finely ground, stirring between pulses. Add boiling water/juice, and process for 20 seconds. Add agave nectar and vitamin C crystals, and process briefly.
  4. Pour almond mixture into flour, and mix until until evenly moistened and combined. Do not overmix! If too dry, add a little more boiling water.
  5. Spoon batter into the well-oiled tin/can, leaving 1/2-1 inch between the batter and the edge of the can for bread to expand. Cover top with double layer of foil, creating a slight dome shape, leaving room for the dough to rise, and secure with rubberband/string. I did not do this and mine exploded through the foil!
  6. Place a wire rack in the large pot, and put the can on the rack. Pour in enough freshly boiled water to come half way up the sides of the can.
  7. Cover the pot, placing a towel between the pot and cover if necessary to create a tight seal. Place the pot over medium-low heat, and steam for 2 hours. Do not remove the cover while steaming!
  8. After 2 hours, remove lid, and check if bread is cooked by inserting a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, bread is done! If not, re-cover can with foil, steam another 10-15 minutes, and recheck.
  9. Remove mold/can from pot, remove foil, and let bread cool in the mold/can for 10-15 minutes. Transfer bread to wire rack to finish cooling completely before slicing. Once ready to slice, serrated knife works best!
  10. HINT: Have a little leftover batter, but not enough to warrant a second can? Blob leftovers onto a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, spread 3/8-1/4 inch thick, and bake 8-10 minutes at 350 F. It makes a tasty flatbread.

Serve bread slices with your favorite nut butters or spreads, use for tiny finger sandwiches, or slice thick and dish up along with a warm cup of soup. Would be delicious served with lox, mustard sauce, and capers. I think it should freeze well, so make a double batch and stash the extra loaf in the freezer for later. Nyde!


Approximate nutritional information:
Per loaf: 975 cal, 36 g fat, 145 g carbs, 22 g fiber, 30 g sugar, 30 g protein, 1,250 mg vitamin C (2083% daily value)

*If allergic to corn, make a baking powder substitute by combining 1 part arrowroot : 1 part baking soda : 1 part cream of tartar. Store in a well sealed glass jar and use in equal amounts to baking powder.

**Unbuffered vitamin C crystals make a great acid substitute for lemon juice or vinegar in recipes. According to The Allergy Self Help Cookbook, use 1/4 t unbuffered vitamin C crystals for each tablespoon on lemon juice. Marjorie suggests using vitamin C crystals equal to half the amount of baking soda. Look for vitamin C crystals, in powder form, in the vitamin department of your local health foods store or on many vitamin retail sites online, like this one.