All you need with it is butter.
Not a day without ruisleipä.
Rye gives you strong power to the wrists.
Eating and even baking your own rye bread is trendy. Even the Financial Times’s columnist Mrs Moneypenny worries how her sourdough starter will survive during her travels, as she obviously did not know that the Swedes already have a solution: a hotel where your sourdough starter is taken good care of.
Bakery owner and artisan bread baker Simo Kuusisto in New York has introduced the term ryevolution. The R-shaped red and yellow logo of the bread resembles the Superman logo. Friends of the bakery have asked for t-shirts already. If you do not want to merely declare your eating preferences with a fashion statement, you can attend a baking course as well.
BEST BREAD IN THE WORLD
Rye has been popular for a long time up North, because it survives the winter and cold weather. Sourdough rye bread (pain au levain, zuurdesembrood, schwarzbrot; ruisreikäleipä, reikäleipä, limppu,) is the thing – if anything – that appears to unite the Finns: almost everybody seems to like it. According to a recent study (2012), rye bread is the most popular snack in Finland ahead of the banana and the apple. About eighty percent of under twenty-five year olds eat rye bread regularly, but older people like it even more.
A wide variety of whole grain sourdough breads are available in Finland. Supermarkets, bakeries, gourmet shops, markets, even kiosks sell it. The Finnish fast food chain Hesburger has created a special (bio) ryebread hamburger, which is “a wonderful piece of fusion cuisine”, as one Internet commentator writes. Rye based snacks, like tacos, not to mention acidophilus and bifidus based yoghurt with rye and hazelnuts, abound on the market. Some have experimented with rye bread ice cream and other rye based desserts such as pannacotta or cheese cake.
There is also a Facebook fan page for ruisleipä that simply states: “the best bread you can find!” The page has 30 000 likes. For comparison: German Schwarbrot has only 17 fans; Estonian dark rye bread has 60 fans; and 8000 people like the baguette.
There are large fan groups for the most popular Finnish bread brands that are sold in a plastic bag in supermarkets: Reissumies (over 15 000 fans), Ruispalat (over 900 fans), or Oululaisen jälkiuunipalat (over 200 fans). The Nordic bakery’s (NY) Finnish Rye bread has over 4000 fans, with enthusiastic comments, many of them from people with Finnish ancestry (“Do you ship to Canada?”).
As far as näkkileipä (thick crisp bread) is concerned, rye flour based Vaasan koulunäkki cleans the table with over 30 000 fans. That is no wonder, as it is has been a part of free school meals since the 1960’s. Of course there are a couple of groups for crispy sour dough bread addicts. There you can share everything, even your stomach problems.
Stories and anecdotes about Finnish people’s longing for the bread abroad are widely known: the expats do not even mind if the product is past the sell by date. A Finnish friend of mine was visiting Finnish acquaintances in the US and brought some rye bread as a present. The guest heard a noise and woke up in the middle of the night. It turned out that her hosts were eating rye bread at the kitchen like maniacs. During the 1960’s my mother tried do cheer my American aunt by mailing her very thin slices of dark bread in an airmail envelope.
”Bring me some dark bread” is what many expats ask from their Finnish guests. Although many people have their favourite bakery and brand, when abroad Finns make do with what they can get. I buy frozen rye bread in the Finnish Seamen’s Church’s food shop. I also look for it in markets and corner shops. Some Polish shops sell pretty good rye bread, although the taste it’s just not quite spot on. German rye bread, if it contains malted ingredients, tends to be too sweet.
HOW TO MAKE IT – AND WHY EAT IT
The secret of rye bread is juuri, (root), the starter culture. One of the oldest starters that is still in active use in a private countryside household dates from 1706. A great starter dough is something to be passed down for generations. A proper sourdough starter takes several days to grow, but it can be frozen and stored for up to a year. There is a lot of advice on the Internet for making the starter culture, as there are baking recipes, too.
The Finnish website Rye and Health explains their sourdough method:
In this method the main ingredients, whole grain rye flour, water and starter culture are mixed and fermented for about 8-18 hours. During the fermentation period the lactic acid bacteria and the sourdough yeast grow, and due to the microbial activity and the enzymatic reactions of the microflora, flavour compounds are formed. The main components formed are lactic acid and acetic acid. After fermentation more flour, water, and other ingredients are mixed to the sourdough to make the dough. The dough is left to rise for a short period, after which the breads are shaped, left to rise again and baked.
There is extensive research on rye and rye bread. It is said to contain a high amount of antioxidants and four times more fiber than wheat bread. It is also said to be good for preventing diabetes and heart diseases. Because of sourness not so much salt is needed either.
But above all, sourdough rye bread is eaten because of its taste! Like another Finnish delicacy called salmiakki (salty liquorice with ammonium chloride), the taste divides people. If you like it, you are probably hooked for ever. Like the Finn Heikki Manner who’s sourdough collection contained over 50 starter cultures at it’s peak, the most distant one from Sudan.
Based on a talk at FoAM, Brussels (Biohchymickal Arts, September 2013)
Eva Bakkeslett, e.g. Poetry of Bread
A wee bit of cooking, Ruisleipä Frustration
Another Kasviksena Belgiassa –blog post (with links to recipes etc.)
An amateur video (ca 3 min.)