traditional recipe

Bread was Facebook of the 1930's

November 30, 2015

Kakko, ruisleipä and pulla
- the breads of Metsämäki Farm in the 1930's

My grandmother's sister, Tyyne Metsämäki, recalled baking bread for the first time at the age of ten in the 1930's. She was born in Huittinen, a small agrarian village in Satakunta, the oldest historical province in Finland, located on the southwest coast of Finland. 'Kakko' (basic white sourdough bread) and 'ruisleipä' (rye bread) were typical breads of the region.

Rye bread was eaten at mealtimes. Kakko was part of breakfast or coffee break. Fresh buns were the delicacy of Sundays. Good housewives were always prepared for unexpected visitors too. They had rusks (twice-baked buns known as 'vieraskorppu') for the neighbors and strangers who stopped by the farm. 

Home-baked bread was the rule. Crispbread, which was a commercial bread, was a rarity. Tyyne was in her teens when she bite crispbread for the first time.

Sunday treat

If the work load at the farm allowed, the weekly baking day was Friday or Saturday. This meant fresh bread for Sunday. 

But, it all started in the middle of the week, when someone carried flour sacks from the cold granary to the warm kitchen. All flours were homegrown. Every two weeks one of the men took a horse and drove to the Korkiakoski Mill, which grinded the grains of the farm to bread flours and animal feed.  

In the evening women took out a large, poorly scraped wooden baking bowl and mixed some flour and water in it. The dried dough from the previous baking day on the sides of the bowl worked as a sourdough starter, when the bowl was covered with a cloth and let stand in a warm place. The starter dough was ready in two days. If the weather was cold, as it often was, it was difficult to start the process. It was time to put some commercial yeast into the starter dough. If it was late, the grocery was closed. Fortunately, the local shop owner let bakers come to his home and led them through his kitchen to the grocery and sold them the much-needed yeast.

Couple of days later, early in the morning, 2 – 3 women started to bake by pouring two buckets of water (20 liters) into the baking bowl. Then, no measures, just the rule of thumb when they were measuring flour and salt. Sometimes they added some anise seeds into the dough, but spices were valuable rarities because they were something they had to buy. Honey, syrup or other sweeteners were never used.

The dough was huge, but one vigorous baker tackled the task all by herself. It wasn't customary to take turns.

Tyyne always shaped some pieces of the dough into loaves "because they tasted better, or so we all thought", but most of the dough were shaped into round, more or less flat breads with holes in the middle to facilitate storage on long poles hanging near the ceiling. This was understandable because they baked four bread boards in a day and one board took 30 breads, total 120 breads per day. An inconvenient place to store the breads? Not really, some breads were always stored in the plaited root basket in the red kitchen cabinet, where they were easily available.

Baking oven baked 30 breads in one go 

The wood-fired brick oven was heated with two chambers of wood. If the oven was "lazily heated" they threw bunch of birch leaf fodders into the chamber, after which the kitchen smelled great.  

When the coals were swept out and the chamber was cleaned with a birch twig broom, it was time to bake the first test breads. An experienced baker was usually capable of estimating the heat of the oven and the first batch of breads went into the oven right after the test breads. If the oven was too hot, it was swept with a wet broom before the breads on the first board were loaded into the oven. 

In the Autumn fish dealers were driving around countryside from one farm to the next selling salted Baltic herring in barrels. It was a valued delicacy, which explains the fact that almost every baking day the last bread they took out of the oven was the Baltic herring bread. In the falling heat of the bread oven they cooked rosolli casseroles, potato casseroles with Baltic herring, Karelian hot pots and pearl barley porridges. Two weeks before Christmas men slaughtered a pig during the baking day and women made sausages stuffed with pork and pearl barley.

There were no such thing as food waste 

There were lots of workers on the farm, the regular maids and farmhands as well as occasional hired workers in harvesting and other labour-intensive agricultural production phases. It was quite common that there were 20, often more, eaters around the table.

Bread was an integral part of every meal and 120 breads were quickly dwindling away.It was common to put butter and fried pork on the bread. "Lettuce was for sheep". Cucumbers and tomatoes were not eaten until the 1950's, when they started to grow these vegetables on the farm. Fresh cheese was placed on the plate, not on the bread. 

There were no such thing as food waste. If there sometimes were a bread or two left on the next baking day, they were treats for horses and cows. 

Bread and hospitality  

Freshly baked bread was an essential part of hospitality. Workers often got a warm bread for their families. Two neighbors got three breads each and "father always took a bread for the shoemaker, who lived at a distance from us". If somebody unexpectedly dropped in on the baking day, they got a bread too. 

Not a day went by without guests and visitors when harvesting and other autumn tasks were done. The weeks before Christmas were particularly buzy, because it was important to spin all the linen before the New Year. But, they went to see neighbors and received guests all the time anyway. Guests were welcome delays. It was time to put a coffeepot on the stove, serve kakko and rusks and talk through the latest news from the village.

Nobody was left without freshly baked bread. Old and sick people who lived alone and others who were unable to bake got bread from their neighbors. If someone didn't want to depend on neighbors, Iita Paunu, a well-know village banquet caterer, came over to their house to bake bread for them.

Bread was the Facebook of the 1930's, a social networking service, which brought family, friends, acquaintances and strangers together and provided them with a possibility to communicate and tell the latest news. 

Chain of bakers

When I'm baking I have this lovely feeling of being part of the long chain of bakers in my family. I started to bake with my granny at the age of five and now I'm baking with my 6-year-old son, who loves to bake.  


Quick Pea Bread

November 25, 2015

Baking bread doesn't get any easier than this! 

1 bread, 6 pcs.

3 dl (300 g) lukewarm water

25 g fresh yeast
0,5 tsp salt
1 dl (0,5 cup US) peas
1 dl (0,5 cup US) pumpkin seeds
1 dl (0,5 cup US) pea flour
4 dl (250 g) wheat flour
On top:
pumpkin seeds
(sea salt)

Stir the yeast, salt, peas, pumpkin seeds and pea flour into the lukewarm water. Mix in the wheat flour. Line a 20 x 30 cm baking tray with parchment paper and pour the mixture into a tray. 

Cover and leave to rise at room temperature for 20–30 minutes. 

Put small lumps of butter and some extra pumpkin seeds (and sea salt) on top. Preheat the oven to 225°C. Bake for 15–20 minutes.

Cover and let cool on a wire rack.


Christmas Bread

November 18, 2015

This festive rye bread combines all the best parts of Christmas, almonds, dates and dark chocolate. How could you resist it? 

What's more, you can bake this bread with sourdough starter or with yeast. 

Home-brewed beer are part of our Christmas as well as Easter and I never throw away any leftover mash. Instead, I recycle it into my breads. Mash gives a lovely, deep flavour to all kinds of breads. No wonder I have added some mash into this dough too.

2 breads

First day (morning) with sourdough 

1 dl (100 g) sourdough starter
1 dl (100 g) lukewarm water 
2 dl (110 g) dark wheat flour (yeast bread wheat flour) 

Mix together lukewarm water and flour. Cover with a tea towel and leave to sit at room temperature (22–24° Celsius) until the next day.

First day (morning) with fresh yeast

2 dl (200 g) lukewarm water 
2 dl (110 g) dark wheat flour (yeast bread wheat flour) 

Mix together lukewarm water and flour. Cover with a tea towel and leave to sit at room temperature (22–24° Celsius) until the next day.

Second day

3 dl (300 g) lukewarm water
2 tsp salt
1,75 dl (0,75 cup US) mash
1,5 dl (210 g) Scandinavian dark syrup (or light molasses)
(25 g fresh yeast) 
5 dl (325 g) wheat flour
1 dl (0,4 cup US) dates, raisin-size pieces
1,5 dl whole almonds with skins75 g chunky bits of dark chocolate 
about 7 dl (400 g) rye flour 

Decoration: whole almonds with skins 

Blend lukewarm water, salt, mash, syrup (and fresh yeast) with the starter dough. Usually you don't have to use commercial yeast if you are baking with the sourdough starter, but if your starter seems to be a bit lazy, you can add 10 g yeast into the dough. It doesn't spoil the bread. 

Add the wheat flour and whip vigorously couple of minutes. Mix in dates, almonds, chocolate and gradually more rye flour and knead until the dough feels smooth, but still a little sticky. This time the dough is ready even if it's still sticking to the sides of your mixing bowl. 

Cover and leave to rise at room temperature for 8 hours or until the dough has almost doubled in size. (The dough is ready for baking, if it slowly springs back, when you gently push a finger against the dough.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Shape the pieces into two long loaves and put them on a parchment paper. Attach the almonds on the top of the breads by slightly pushing them down.

Cover and leave to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

Put a baking tray into the oven and preheat it to 275°C. Using the parchment paper slide the breads into the hot baking tray and put them into the oven. Reduce the temperature to 200°C and bake for 50–60 minutes. 

Cover and let cool on a wire rack. Wrap the breads into tea tovels and wait until the next day to cut them.


Crunchy Seed Rolls

November 11, 2015

It's nice to bake with children. My boy has been a keen baker from the age of two. We started in the traditional way by baking Christmas cookies - and of course, eating the raw dough. Now, at the age of six, he likes to bake rolls. So, he is the baker of the week on the blog. He baked and named these rolls, which are full of seeds, because he loves the way they crunch in his mouth. 

16 pcs.

1 dl (100 g) spelt grains
3 dl (300 g) water
50 g fresh yeast
1 tbsp honey
1,5 tsp salt
5 dl (500 g) lukewarm water
0,5 dl (45 g) cooking oil
3 dl (1,5 cup, US) salad seed mix*
about 13 dl (700 g) dark wheat flour (yeast bread wheat flour)

*There is a wide range of salad seed mixes available in supermarkets and groceries, but most of them contain sunflower and pumpkin seeds as well as pine nuts. There might be some nuts or dried berries in the blend too. In any case, the bigger bits the better, is a good rule for this recipe. 

Boil up 3 dl water and 1 dl spelt grains. Set aside to cool. Pour out the water.
   You can do this beforehand because hot water and a child is never a good combination.  

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast, salt and honey in lukewarm water. Stir in spelt grains, cooking oil and salad seed mix. Gradually mix in the flour and knead the dough until it's smooth and elastic. 
   The child can easily knead the dough if you use a mixer together. In addition, all electrical kitchen appliances are super interesting! The future baker is equally inspired if he/she is allowed to decide what happens. Let the child touch the dough couple of times and tell you when it's ready. The child usually hits it right if you lightly steer the conversation.

Cover with a tea towel and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead about 3–5 minutes. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a rope. Cut each rope into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Line two baking trays with parchment papers, place the rolls on them, cover and leave to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

   A plastic dough scraper makes it easier for the child to handle the dough and it's also safer than a knife, when the child starts cutting out the pieces.

Preheat the oven to 225°C. With a plastic dough scraper, make a cross into each roll. Bake for 15 minutes. 
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.


Burning Love

November 05, 2015

Spelt Loaf by Scandinavian Bread

This spelt bread brings me to tears. I just love it - truly, madly deeply! And hey, I'm a Finn, we don't use this kind of words lightly. I really mean every single word. The taste is incredible. 

1 large loaf

5 dl (500 g) cold water
25 g fresh yeast
1,5 tsp salt
1 dl (50 g) oat bran
1 dl (35 g) rolled spelt flakes
about 1 L (500 g) spelt flour

Stir the yeast and salt into the cold water. Mix in the oat bran and spelt flakes. Gradually add more spelt flour as you knead, but be careful to not add too much. Use the minimum amount of flour and leave the dough as wet as possible. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and bouncy, this takes about 10 minutes.

Cover and leave to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it gently. Shape the dough into a large loaf. Put the bread on a parchment paper. Sprinkle some flour on top. 

Cover and leave to rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

Put a baking tray into the oven and preheat it to 275°C. Using the parchment paper slide the bread into the hot baking tray and put the bread into the oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 200°C and bake for a further 20 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack.