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November 2019

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
Percentage
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%