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.
|Start to Finish:||4 hours|
|Hands-on Time:||20 minutes|
|Yield:||Two dozen 1¼ oz./35 g rusks|
Someone recently asked me if I had a good recipe for rye rusks and this one immediately came to mind. Rusks – that is, bread that’s purposely dried for long storage – are not common in the US: biscotti and zwieback perhaps come closest. In northern Europe especially, however, they’re far more common.
This recipe comes from the central Finnish region historically known as Tavastia (Hämä in Finnish), and was a bread traditionally baked and eaten at the talvennapa – a pagan feast that took place in mid-January to mark the end of the joulu (Christmas) observance and to welcome the sun, Pälvätär, back into the sky after the long, dark days of midwinter.
|Start to Finish:||3½ hours|
|Hands-on Time:||30 minutes|
|Yield:||Two 1½ lb/725 g loaves|
In terms of rye baking, it can be said that Finland is where East and West meet: The breads of eastern Finland are dense, dark and sour, much like the breads of their immediate neighbors, Russia and the Baltics. To the west, the breads have more in common with the sweet, fragrantly spiced mixed-grain breads of Sweden.
|Stages:||Scald, Final dough|
|Start to Finish:||4½-5 hours|
|Hands-on Time:||20-30 minutes|
|Yield:||Two 2¾ lb/785 g loaves|
Thinking about my third and final holiday bread for 2016, I decided that I wanted something halfway between the savory Christmas Crispbread and sweet Bavarian Ketzapiren I’d already posted. This Hazelnut-Fig Loaf immediately came to mind. Like many Finnish Christmas loaves, this one is based on a mixed wheat-rye dough, sweetened with syrup and enhanced with the sweet-bitter notes of roasted barley malt. What sets this one apart is its use of chopped figs and hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and coarse rye meal. All of these combine to produce a coarse, complex mouth feel that plays beautifully against an equally complex flavor profile of understated sweetness, nuttiness, coffee and subtle sour.
|Stages:||Sponge, Final dough|
|Leaven:||Rye sour culture, Yeast|
|Start to Finish:||12-14 hours|
|Hands-on Time:||25-30 minutes|
|Yield:||Two 2¼ lb./1.0 kg loaves|
Ruislimppu, which translates to “rye loaf,” is the traditional bread of eastern Finland, with a nutty-sour flavor profile that reflects the strong Russian influence on the region’s food culture. Unlike the sour ring ryes (hapanleipäa) of western Finland, which were baked only once or twice a year and stored over the winter on poles hung from the ceiling, the eastern Finns baked their rye bread regularly throughout the year.