After baking Nisu last weekend, I decided to try another type of Finnish bread. This time -- Reikä Leipä or rye bread. For me, baking bread seems like a very involved, complicated procedure. It is hard for me to imagine my great-grandmother, Amanda Maliniemi, baking bread and all kinds of other foods in a coal fired stove. I think one thing that has become clear to me from reading the old cookbooks, is that there was a great deal of cooking knowledge that people just "knew". I won't say that they knew this information instinctively, but I'm sure that it was passed down from mother to daughter, sister to sister, friend to friend. Now that our lives are so automated and mechanized, we've lost a lot of that cooking and food knowledge. But, the chains of wisdom still exist -- for example, my mother's friends L&T sent me a detailed letter with their steps for making nisu. Those tips made all the difference -- and I applied many of them to the Rye Bread experiment.
I'm sure that my great-grandmother would laugh to see me with my digital, instant-read thermometer, making sure that my water is the right temperature to activate the yeast while not killing it. And the microwave to melt the butter, the digitally regulated oven thermostat, and the digital timer on the stove. All the steps that came so naturally to her are completely foreign to me!
The first step was actually finding rye flour -- I could not find it at our local supermarket or at Trader Joe's. So, I took a trip to Whole Foods and found a bag of organic rye flour. When I got back home, I set to mixing up the dough. I decided to make half the recipe, in the event that my experiment went awry! The dough was much stickier than the Nisu dough. The next time I make Reikä Leipä I will add more flour -- probably a 50/50 mix of white flour and rye flour.
I will also grease the bowl before I put the dough out to rise. When I removed the dough from the bowl after the first rise, it stuck pretty uniformly to the interior of the bowl. I kneaded the dough again, formed two roundish loaves on a cookie sheet (two stacked together to make a more insulated bottom -- thanks T. for the insulated pan tip!) and let it rise a second time. Then in to bake.
A slice of rye bread, hot from the oven with butter -- Hyvä! I also enjoyed it later for dinner -- with smoked salmon, diced roasted beets, and chopped kosher dill pickle, mixed with about 1.5 teaspoon of sour cream.
The Revised Recipe: Reikä Leipä - Rye Bread
Makes two loaves.
1 package of dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
2 T sugar
1 T salt
2 T melted butter
2 c. rye flour
2 c. white flour
1 3/4 c. warm water (no warmer than 115 degrees F)
Measure out 1/4 cup of warm water -- try using an instant read thermometer to ensure that it is between 110 and 115 degrees Farenheit. Sprinkle the yeast in the water and stir gently to mix. Wait a few minutes to ensure that the yeast has been activated.
In a large bowl, add the sugar, salt, rye flour and white flour. Mix the dry ingredients together to blend. Add the yeast mixture, the 1 3/4 cup warm water, and the melted butter. Stir together to blend. If the dough is very sticky, continue adding flour (use a mixture of 50% white flour and 50% rye flour, if you add flour). When the dough is no longer sticky, turn out onto a floured board and knead.
Place the kneaded dough into a greased bowl, cover with a clean tea towel, and place in a warm place to rise. (Note: While I mix the dough, I heat the oven to 100 degrees Farenheit and then turn it off. I then let the dough rise in the warmed oven. Again - thanks T. for the baking tip!) The dough should rise to double in size -- this will take around 2 hours.
After the first rise, remove the dough from the bowl and knead a second time. Form into two round loaves (traditionally, the loaf has a hole in the middle - I am investigating how that was done - cookie cutter, perhaps?) and place on either an insulated baking sheet or on two cookie sheets stacked on top of one another. Put the baking sheet in a warm place to rise again -- about 1 hour.
Bake at 400 degrees Farenheit for approximately 35 minutes. When done, the bread will have a crispy crust and will sound hollow when tapped.
The Original Recipe: Finnish Rye Bread
source: Bicentennial Cookbook - Some Old, Some New. St. Paul Lutheran Church - Gloucester, MA
2 yeast cakes
4 T sugar
2 T salt
4 T butter or margarine
4 cups rye flour (2 medium and 2 coarse)
4 cups white flour
4 cups water
Knead and let rise double. Turn onto floured board and knead using enough flour to be the consistency of nisu. Form into four loaves. Can be baked on two cookie sheets - 2 to a sheet -- (11 x 17). Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until brown on top. This bread has the flavor and texture of "Reika Leipa". And the recipe was brought from Finland and contributed by Bertha Bulli of Stow.