Halme Bakery’s Ring Rye/Ruisreikäleipä (Finland)

Rye %: 91%
Stages: Sponge, Final dough
Leaven: Rye sour culture, Instant yeast
Start to Finish: 17-21 hours
Hands-on Time: 30-40 minutes
Yield: Two 1¼ lb/575 gram loaves + two 2¾ oz/50g rolls

During this year’s Rye Tour to Finland and Latvia, our guide in Helsinki, sourdough baker and baking book author Eliisa Kuusela, arranged a visit – actually two (of which more in a bit) – to Leipomo Halme, a 120 year-old bakery in Espoo, about 30 minutes northwest of central Helsinki. Our first visit took place in the afternoon, so that we could watch them mix their sourdough sponge in a giant wooden tub, using a concrete mixer to blend the 171% hydration sponge. The final dough would be mixed in the same tub at 2:00am the following morning.

Our second visit began at 6:00am the following day. Bleary-eyed, we went down into the bowels of the bakery where dough dropped through the ceiling from the floor above directly into a divider that spat it out in uniform rectangles. There, shifts of young bakers shaped rye limppu (boules) and reikäleipä (hole breads), which went onto floured boards and into the proofer for an hour before continuing on into the oven. Following our tour, we repaired to the bakery’s ground-floor cafe for a proper breakfast of Halme rye breads, sweet rolls (pulla) and Finland’s ubiquitous — and delicious — cinnamon rolls (korvapuusti).

Third-generation owner Kai Halme was kind enough to share the formulas for his grandfather’s reikäleipä, which I baked at home using some of Maine Grains’ terrific whole rye flour.

The result was exceptional. The  hole bread’s chewy crust surrounded an open, tender crumb. The flavor was mild, showcasing the sweet nuttiness of the Maine rye, followed by a subdued, yet bright, sour finish. This is a bread that Finns eat with anything and everything, from smoked reindeer sausage to ham and cheese, from cured salmon and herring to butter and berry preserves. For me, this Finnish classic is sure to become one of my go-to breads.

Sponge (Day 1, Evening):

Ingredient Grams Ounces Baker’s
Whole rye flour 275 9.70 100.00%
Water 471 16.60 171.40%
Rye starter culture 11 0.35 3.86%

In the mixer bowl, mix the sponge ingredients by hand, cover and ferment at room temperature (70°F/21°C) 14-18 hours. The sponge will be very loose and will have more than doubled in volume.

Final Dough (Day 2, Morning):

Ingredient Grams Ounces
Sponge 757 26.70
Whole rye flour 402 14.20
Bread flour 68 2.40
Water 252 8.90
Salt, 1 Tbs. 14 0.50
Instant yeast, ½ tsp. 1 0.05

Add the final dough ingredients to the sponge and use the dough hook at low (KA2) speed, scraping down the bowl as needed, to mix until the dough is fully blended and evenly hydrated, 7-8 minutes.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at 85°F/30°C until doubled in volume, 1-1½ hours.

Using a wet scraper, transfer the dough, which will be soft and very sticky, onto a well-floured work surface. Divide it into two pieces, each weighing approximately 26 oz./740 g.

With well-floured hands, shape each piece into a boule and roll each piece into a circle approximately 14 inches/36cm in diameter and ¾ inch/2 cm thick. Place on a well-floured proofing board or parchment-lined sheet pan and proof at 85°F/30°C until cracks show on the surface, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 440°F/225°C with the baking surface in the middle and a steam pan on a lower shelf. Use a biscuit cutter or drinking glass to make a 3–inch/8 cm. hole in the center of each piece, then use a fork, chopstick or docking wheel to dock the surface of each loaf thoroughly and evenly to a depth of at least ¼”/0.6 cm.

Bake the breads with steam for 10 minutes, then remove the steam pan and continue baking until the loaves reach an internal temperature of at least 203°F/95°C, 30-35 minutes. Remove the breads from the oven and immediately brush with boiling water, if desired. Transfer to a rack and cool thoroughly before slicing.

Baker’s Percentages:

Ingredient g %
TOTAL FLOUR 745 100.00%
Whole rye flour 677 90.87%
Bread flour 68 9.13%
Water 723 97.06%
Salt 14 1.88%
Rye sour 11 1.42%
Instant yeast 1 0.13%
TOTAL FORMULA 1,493 300.50%
Flour prefermented 275 36.88%

Carrot-Potato Tarts/Sklandrauši (Latvia)

Rye %: 100%
Stages: Straight dough
Leaven: None
Start to Finish: 1 hour
Hands-on Time: 40 minutes
Yield: About 1½ dozen three-inch tarts

During my first full day in Riga, I had lunch with Ieva, who helped me plan the 2018 Baltic Rye Tour. We met at a traditional Latvian restaurant nestled by a cobblestoned street and surrounded by 18th century buildings in the Old City. As we discussed the itinerary, which centered on Riga and southeastern Latvia, she said, “You should really go to Kurzeme (Latvia’s western province). They make these wonderful rye tarts filled with carrots.” I sipped my beer and filed the thought away for further consideration. Keep Reading

Finnish Malt Bread/Mallas Leipää

Rye %: 51%
Stages: Scald, Final dough
Leaven: Instant yeast
Start to Finish: 4-4½ hours
Hands-on Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Three 1¾ lb/800 g loaves

One of the breads I discovered on Baltic Rye Tour 2018 was this simple and lovely Finnish malt bread. I first tasted it at the Wi-Box Bakery in Raseborg, on Finland’s southwestern coast, where Swedish influence is very strong. It was an immediate hit, not just with me, but with all 18 members of our jolly band of bread nerds. Keep Reading

Reflections: Baltic Rye Tour 2018

It’s been a couple of weeks since my return from The Rye Baker Baltic Rye Tour 2018 – enough time for the impressions and memories to mellow and integrate and for me to gain some perspective on a whirlwind of sights, sounds, tastes and human interactions. In all, we were 18; most of us dedicated bread nerds, both professionals and home bakers, united in our desire to experience rye on its home turf and hungry to expand our knowledge of the unruly grain. Keep Reading

Experience Baltic Rye at its Source

On September 25, 2018, I’ll be leading a group of up to 20 bakers and bread enthusiasts on a 12-day bakers’ tour of coastal Finland and Latvia. We’ll explore the cities and countryside, visit farms and mills, meet with national bakers’ associations. And, most important, we’ll learn from the bakers who produce some of the world’s finest rye breads. For details, visit the tour website. Keep Reading

Palanga Rye/Ruginė Duona iš Palangos (Lithuania)

Rye %: 90%
Stages: Sourdough sponge, Scald, Scald-sponge (Opara), Yeast sponge, Final dough
Leaven: Rye sour culture, Instant yeast
Start to Finish: 24-30 hours
Hands-on Time: 45-50 minutes
Yield: One 3¼ lb/1.46 kg loaf

My weakness for Baltic rye breads took over when I found this recipe in a Polish blog. Just to set the scene, Palanga is a coastal resort in western Lithuania, on the shores of the Baltic whose white sand beaches attract tourists from all over Europe, especially Poles and Germans. I suspect that this bread, which is lighter in both color and flavor that the other Baltic ryes I’ve encountered, is intended to appeal to the tastes of the town’s economically important summer visitors. Instead of the wholegrain rye flour that’s commonly used in Baltic breads, this one uses Type 1150, a much lighter blend that can be approximated by mixing 2/3 medium rye and 1/3 white rye. Keep Reading

Sourdough Danish Rye/Rugbrød på surdej (Denmark)

Rye %: 84%
Stages: Stage 1 sponge, Stage 2 sponge, Final dough
Leaven: Rye sour culture
Start to Finish: 26-30 hours
Hands-on Time: 35-45 minutes
Yield: Two 2¾ lb./1.25 kg loaves

The Danes are known for their rye breads, of which there are dozens of variations, all of which are called “Rugbrød.” Most are sweet and dense, loaded with seeds and coarse rye meal to provide both richness and a satisfyingly rustic coarse mouth feel.

This one is a different. Keep Reading

Guest Post: Why Am I Marketing Baltic Rye Bread?

by John Melngailis – Partner, Black Rooster Food, LLC

I first met John Melngailis at Bread Furst, James Beard winner Mark Furstenburg’s Washington DC bakery. Mark had been kind enough to arrange for me to appear at the bakery to publicize
The Rye Baker, and invited John, whose love of his native Latvian rye breads prompted him to found Black Rooster Food and start baking them commercially. Needless to say, John and I hit it off immediately, spending a good part of the morning talking about the marvels of Baltic rye. He was also kind enough to bring me a loaf of each of his breads — dense, sweet-sour rupjmaize, and a triangular loaf of his fruit-and-nut holiday bread, both of which were extraordinary. So when John sent me this essay on his relationship with the bread he loves, I simply had to share; it’s a fascinating read. Keep Reading