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.

The seeds were planted this past September  during aflight to New York.After takeoff, my seatmate and I began chatting about ourselves. I went on at some length – as I usually do – about rye bread and my book, The Rye Baker. “Do you lead rye bread tours?” she asked.

That was my “Aha!” moment. “No,” I replied, my brain suddenly exploding with possibilities, “but I think I’m gonna. What a great idea.” And so this tour was born.

In designing it, I thought about how best to share my passion for rye with other equally passionate bread bakers. To fully immerse ourselves in Europe’s rye culture, I wanted the tour to focus on Finland and Latvia. Both have rye cultures going back over 1,000 years, both have strong rye traditions and both revere rye bread as central to their national pride and national identity.

And yet, each represents a distinctive bread culture. The breads of western Finland, like the culture iteself, reflect the strong influences of the Swedes who settled there. The breads of eastern Finland feature the dense textures and floral, intensely sour flavor profiles of neighboring northern Russia. Latvian rye bakers, whom many Europeans regard as the world’s best, are known for their dark, dense loaves, complex sweet-sour flavor profiles and sophisticated centuries-old techniques for controlling rye’s quirky chemistry.

I wanted to introduce our community to both the past and present state of Baltic rye baking. I wanted to meet with national bakers’ associations and visit farms, mills and bakeries – especially bakeries, both traditional and modern. But I also wanted us to experience a broader understanding of the geographies and societies that produced those traditions. And so the tour includes some organized sightseeing. We’ll visit not only the historic centers of Helsinki and Riga, but also the countryside, where we can smell the air and the earth, wander fields of rye, climb the ramparts of medieval castles and, in some small way, get a taste of Baltic life before machines and engineered foods.

In refining our itinerary, I consulted with a couple of very knowledgeable friends: John Melngailis, the Latvian-born founder of Black Rooster Food, LLC, premier source of domestically baked Latvian rye breads, and Jarkko Laine, Helsinki resident and editor/publisher of Bread Magazine.

To put it all together, I wanted to work with someone local, someone with strong relationships throughout the region. For that, I chose Lauku Celotājs (“Country Traveler”), a Riga-based association of over 330 businesses and organizations in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and southern Finland. The quality of the package they’ve assembled speaks for itself.

Finally, I wanted this tour to benefit not just those of us who will meet in Helsinki, but also our community as a whole. To do that, I approached the Bread Baker’s Guild of America (BBGA) and asked them to sponsor this undertaking, which they agreed to do. Because I believe it’s important to support our craft and our community, each participant’s tour cost includes a tax-deductible $400 contribution to BBGA. In appreciation, the Guild will award a complimentary one-year membership and listing as a “Baker’s Bunch” level contributor.

It’s going to be an amazing experience; the adventure starts here. Join us!


15 Comments

  • Linda teders

    January 6, 2018

    What a great idea! Living in the Netherlands myself, but will follow this with great interest!

    Kind regards
    Linda

    Reply
  • John Amriding

    January 6, 2018

    Keep me informed, Stanley.

    Best,
    John A.

    Reply
    • Stanley Ginsberg

      January 6, 2018

      The tour site hass all the info. Fill out the contact form if you’d like to talk more about it.

      Reply
  • Paul McCool

    January 8, 2018

    I hope you are still doing this, or something similar, in another two or three years when I’ve retired, Stan. One, it’s a part of the world that I’ve not visited, yet. Two, there’s so much to see. Three, it’s about rye bread!

    Paul

    Reply
  • Carol Hartlage

    January 13, 2018

    I am very interested in your tour. I am not a professional baker. I am a at-home bread baker. (Baking today.) Last year, I read your Rye Baker as a text book, underlined, very intimidated by info and recipes but have had fair success. When I travel I bring home local flour. (My husband calls me a cheap date.) I have been to Norway several times and Sweden, Denmark. Could not eat enough bread. Have wanted to see Finland. Tour details look like opportunity to see/ experience a lot along w/ rye heritage/ bakeries.

    Reply
  • Karin Anderson

    January 17, 2018

    Great idea, and what an interesting trip!
    Unfortunately, I would have to win the lottery (or get the benefits of the big tax cut – whatever comes first) to participate.
    Maybe next time 🙂
    Karin

    Reply
  • Tiina Herranen

    January 22, 2018

    Welcome!
    I recommend our local mill http://www.jalonmylly.fi from where I always buy my flours.

    Reply
    • Gretchen

      September 11, 2018

      Hi Tiina and Stanley. Is there a mill in Helsinki that you can recommend I visit? I’ll be in Helsinki Sep 13, 17, 18 – I would love to see a mill that is open to talking to visitors. I’m sure they are quite busy so I wouldnt spend much time there, but also why I wouldn’t want to travel too far from Helsinki. Please let me know if you have any ideas – thank you!

      Reply
      • Stanley Ginsberg

        September 11, 2018

        hi Gretchen,

        I know of two mills in Porvoo, which is about 50km east of Helsinki — about 45 minutes by car and an hour or so by bus. The first is Strömsberg Mylly and the other is VeckoskiAndersböle Vetekvarn. I don’t know whether either one hosts visits, but it might be worthwhile to contact them while you’re in Helsinki. We’re going to be there a week after you … enjoy your visit!

        Reply
  • Cathleen O'Neil

    January 27, 2018

    I, too, am a home baker. I went to Finland in the summer of 2016 and fell hard for the rye bread. I have been baking the Helsinki Buttermilk Rye from The Rye Baker often now, and the Everyday Sourdough Rye from Trine Hannemann’s Scandinavian Baking. I have found recipes online for saaristolslaisleipa (Finnish Archipelago bread) and malasleipa (malt bread) that I have tried, though they fail to capture the flavor I experienced in Finland. Perhaps on this trip I can find that flavor again. How do I sign up?

    Reply
  • Inese Grava-Gubins

    September 12, 2018

    HI – I will be with you in spirit, if not in person…I spent about a month in LV this summer, and visited some of the same places you will also visit. We had a wonderful meal at Marciems as well. We ate soooo many different rye breads…it was so amazing to go into a grocery store and see twice as much rye bread available, as white sponge bread….. I still love Lacu rye bread – the scent is heavenly. I wish that scent could be bottled! If you can add it on, stop at the Liepkalnu bakery, which is on the banks of the huge Daugava River – the biggest and most famous river in LV. The bakery is right by the roadside, and is becoming a tourist stop, as they sell all kinds of wonderful breads that are baked right there, and there is also a cheese shop onsite.

    Reply
    • Stanley Ginsberg

      September 12, 2018

      Your post only whets my appetite! I’d love to take the group to Liepkalni maiznica; unfortunately, Valmiera is out of our way during a very full day of travel and sightseeing, so a visit’s not likely this time around. However, we are going to Lielezer maiznica, which is in the same general area, just a bit closer to Riga.

      And yes, I’m definitely looking forward to the food!

      Reply
      • Inese Grava-Gubins

        September 12, 2018

        Liepkalnu maiznica is not in Valmiera – it is on the river road that you can take down to the Marciems area. I think it is located in the area called Plavinas. However, as long as you get to visit a lot of wonderful bakeries, it will be amazing. I sent you another message with more foodie details on your blog – it makes me hungry to just think about all the places you will be visiting. A few words to keep in mind – liepa means linden (as in the tree), ezers means lake, and kalns means mountain (ok, in LV, that would be a big hill!) Lot of kalni and lejas (hills and valleys). Lots of lakes, esp in Latgale. Birch trees everywhere, which may be a lovely yellow by then. The storks will all likely be gone by the time you go, but you may see their nests up on posts. That is a very good sign, indicating a clean environment. The air smells very nice too!

        Reply

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