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Reikäleipä – chewy Finnish sourdough bread.

December 26, 2010

I’m trying to get a couple of my favorite recipes out of the way while I have a break from coursework, and this stuff is literally impossible to find in the UK unless you happen to live near the Finnish Church in London and its amazing little food shop. This is a recipe I have made myself quite a few times now, well actually its a combination of several recipes from various Internet sources combined with my mums memory. I also have recipes for some other Finnish breads. Its very dense, very chewy bread that tastes very good with a little cheese or toasted with melted butter, but expect a lot of mastication when you bite into it. My recipe is especially dense as I avoid using any packet yeast, you could use it if you like, no ones judging, and it will make a lighter loaf with lots of bubbles, but I want this bread to be a little hard and chewy. In its original form it would be made only using rye flour, in huge batches, and then hung from the rafters in your little farmstead, going rock solid and keeping for very long periods of time!

Ingredients: Makes two small loaves (like the one above that I made a few months ago) Sourdough starter:

  • 1/2 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  1. Mix the two.
  2. Let stand uncovered in a glass or bowl until it begins to bubble and has a sour smell (2 – 6 days).

The Bread itself:

  • 1/2 cup sour bread starter
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 1/2 cups sifted white flour
  1. In a bowl, mix the sourdough starter with 2 cups warm water then slowly add in 1 cup rye flour. Cover with a damp cloth and let stand 20-40 hours, the longer you leave it the sourer the taste.
  2. When it has been left standing long enough, add the salt and mix in the rest of the flour. Then add the white flour beating thoroughly. When a dough has been formed let stand 20 minutes  then kneed on a floured surface till smooth.
  3. Place in a greased bowl and let rise several hours.
  4. Divide into two, roll into balls, then flatten into 1 ” thick circles. Make a circular hole in the center roughly 2 ” in diameter.
  5. Dust the top with flour, then prick all over the surface in a pattern of your choice (Decorative and helps it to bake evenly), I use a wooden skewer normally. Cover and let rise.
  6. Bake at Gas Mark 5 (190 C, 375 F) for 45 minutes until browned and hollow sounding when tapped against the table.
  7. If you think you will make this again at some point either keep a small jar of the starter in the fridge, replacing half of it every week or so with a 50 / 50 rye flour and water mix, or make a small ball at stage 4 and freeze this to give a boost to any starters you make in the future.


From → Breads, Finnish, Sourdough

  1. thank you for that gorgeous recipe! i just made it- even though it took several days 😉 and it tastes wonderful!!!
    now i will wait for my finnish friend anna to come to my house and tell me how she likes it 🙂
    thank you for posting this,

    • Very glad you like it!
      I make this every couple of weeks when I have the time, it freezes quite well too! Also, as a note, I cant really explain why, but after living for a certain amount of time in my fridge, the sour dough starter began to make much nicer and lighter loaves, I don’t know at all what caused the change but the flavour vastly improved.
      Let me know what your friend thinks!

  2. Melissa permalink

    I LOVED this bread when I was in Finland and I have been to a number of Scandinavian bakeries- none of them made it! So, here goes nothing!
    Question… when you initially made the starter- was it pasty and did it develop a crusty top within the first 24 hours? I’m worried maybe I put too much rye flour and wondering if I should start over now so I can still have a loaf or two around for Thanksgiving. Thanks for posting this!

    • Hi! Sorry about the the slightly late reply! Sadly my sour dough starter died last year when I was on holiday (got taken over by mould) and then I moved house to an area where the natural yeast just doesn’t seem so vigorous so I haven’t had much luck with starters recently. Mine would frequently form a crust when it was being stored in the fridge and I found that keeping it and storing it for a while before use seemed to create a better loaf than freshly caught yeast (maybe there was a higher concentration of it in the mix). The actual fresh mix itself (before it catches yeast) should be fairly thin and quite pasty looking, here’s a picture of my old one after a few months of living in the fridge.
      Hope that was of some help to you! and that things turned out well! It’s the sort of recipe that takes a little perseverance and a bit of luck too as you are relying on a wild element that you don’t have too much control over!

  3. Dude permalink

    Thanks for the recipe! I miss Finland a lot and I’m trying to reproduce things I ate there. Also, I think it is pretty cool to (try to) generate one’s own yeast. Anyway, my starter looks NOTHING like the “healthy” starter you show in the picture: it is extremely thick, dryish, and it developed a thin crust. I still used, we’ll see how it turns when I bake it tomorrow.

  4. So trying this! We too bought ours at the Finnish Church last Christmas and tried to make it last but completely failed at it, so good!

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