Finnish rye bread (ruisreikäleipä)

18 Oct

Finnish rye bread

Baking the ultimate loaf of bread is an ongoing quest – and something I am a long way from attaining. Mostly, I make sourdough loaves, with varying degrees of success, depending on how long I’ve neglected my starter for. When I opt for the (relatively) instant gratification of a yeasted loaf, this Finnish rye bread (or ruisreikäleipä) is one I often go for.

Traditionally, a hole was punched through the centre of the loaves before the final rise. The baked breads were threaded onto poles that stretched across the kitchen ceiling. There they would hang, air drying (and safe from mice) until needed.

In the pictures I’ve seen of ruisreikäleipä, they appear somewhat flatter than my loaves always seem to turn out. This probably isn’t a good thing – and also means the hole fills in a bit too.

This is a light rye bread, with a 1:4 ratio of rye to white flour. I prefer to make it with buttermilk, (or milk soured with lemon juice), but regular milk, flat beer or potato water all work too.


Finnish rye bread

 Finnish rye bread
(makes 2 loaves)

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 Tb butter
  • 1  tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 1  Tb dry yeast
  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups white flour
  1. Heat the buttermilk to lukewarm and stir in the butter and salt. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the warm water and sugar. Sprinkle in the yeast, and stir until just combined.  Let it stand until the yeast bubbles (about five minutes).
  3. Stir the yeast mixture into the buttermilk. Pour into a large bowl, and add the rye flour. Beat until smooth.
  4. Add the white flour, one cup at a time, stirring each time, until you have a stiff dough.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and form it into a ball. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rest for fifteen minutes.
  6. Knead the bread dough until smooth, adding only enough flour to keep it from sticking. Place it into a well buttered bowl, cover and leave it to rise somewhere warm until doubled in size (about two hours).
  7. Punch down the dough, and knead gently for a couple of minutes.
  8. Divide the dough in half,  form into two round loaves, and place on greased baking sheets. Press a hole into the centre of the loaves if desired.
  9. Cover the loaves, and leave them to rise until doubled in size again (about half an hour).
  10. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaves with water and puncture holes all over the surface with a fork.
  11. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  12. Brush the surface of the hot loaves with butter, and leave to cool on a rack.

Finnish rye bread

2 Responses to “Finnish rye bread (ruisreikäleipä)”

  1. Yana October 18, 2014 at 11:02 pm #

    Oh, you’ve just hit the spot. I LOVE rye bread, where I came from the Rye bread is a big deal and it comes in many many varieties. I’m actually preparing a post some time soon about it too. I really like your recipe and the way how your bread turned out. I also like the history behind the recipe (explaining a hole in the centre). Great post! Thank you 🙂

    • Andrea October 19, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      Thank you, Yana! I’m very pleased to have someone who knows her rye bread give my loaf the thumbs up. Look forward to seeing your post soon. 🙂

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