Citizens – Finnish rye bread, aka ruisleipä is one of the truly amazing REAL breads you’ll ever taste!
As noted in a superlative (excerpted) article on finland.fi:
First cultivated in Finland over 2,000 years ago, rye grain’s adaptability to various soil types, coupled with its ability to ripen over the short northern summer, has long seen it a staple of the local cuisine.
“Finnish rye bread is a story of a poor country, as there were so few ingredients that were always available,” Mäkelä explains. “Water, leaven, salt and rye flour – that’s still the basic recipe. Sometimes you can also add yeast.”
Whether it’s the round limppu (loaf) originating from the eastern parts of the country, or the west’s flat disc with a hole in the middle, known as reikäleipä, Finnish full-flavoured rye bread is noticeably lighter than varieties from Germany and the Baltic Region. It is also considerably less sweet than Swedish rye bread, and is commonly enjoyed as a sandwich, dipped in soup or simply by itself, topped with a layer of butter.
Whichever way you look at it, and whatever shape it comes in, the bond that Finns share with rye bread cannot be overstated.
“If people come from a different part of Finland and move to Helsinki, they often long for the kind of bread they have eaten in their childhood,” Mäkelä explains. “Also, if you ask almost any Finn going abroad to meet expats, there are two things they would take with them: rye bread and Fazer blue-label chocolate.”
This coveted bread is even on sale at Helsinki Airport to meet demand. Here travellers can pick up a last-minute gift for their friends and family, or ensure they have enough in stock when spending time outside of the country.
With research continuing to uncover new health benefits, and the number of varieties on offer growing steadily, it’s safe to say that store shelves around the country will be well stocked with the national bread for many years to come.
“We Finns use rye bread to sustain ourselves and our bodies, but it is also part of our cultural identities,” Mäkelä observes. “We are keeping it in our hearts, but on the other hand we are also keeping it on our tables.”
“It’s a living tradition.”
The special leaven, sourdough, used when preparing Finnish rye bread is known as leivän juuri in Finnish, or ‘the root of the bread’.
“Many households still have their own leaven, which they inherited from previous generations,” explains VTT’s Kaisa Poutanen. “Where I live in Kuopio, a lady has leaven which is over 50 years old that she got from her mother-in-law. She is still baking with it, every week.”
The trick to preserving leaven is to ensure that some of the bread mix is left over when baking, which can then either be dried or frozen. Next time around all that needs doing is add a little water and the bacteria start to live again. And the cycle continues, ensuring flavoursome bread time and time again.
Ruisleipä relies very much on unique Finnish yeasts to achieve its character – I give you a way to add this to your own breads in perpetuity! The true key to making this authentically is you MUST use genuine Finnish sourdough starter or it just won’t work out or taste right – you can buy it here.
Ruisleipä is a gorgeously dense bread, a genuine 100% rye bread and I couldn’t be happier to enable you to have a taste of Finland in your own kitchens, Citizens! This Sour Rye Bread recipe makes 2-3 loaves and is adapted from the classic Finnish ‘Kotiruoka’ cookbook. Try enjoying ruisleipä with any excellent Finnish meal, perhaps Finnish split pea soup with ham!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
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