December 25, 2010

Finnish Bread - Puolivahva and Rieska

Christmas Greetings from the Winter Wonderland!

We finally made it to Finland after travelling in Japan for 2 weeks (you might have seen some of my posts from our travels). It was snowing and the temperatures were well below zero degrees Celsius when we touched down in Helsinki, but we had one more flight to catch, followed by an hour drive until we finally reached my home town.

My 94-year old granny is always one of the first people I visit when I get home. This time mum and I packed our baking gear and headed over to granny's to bake some traditional Finnish bread. Granny has fed her delicious bread to the whole family for as long as I can remember, but this time we wanted to give the baking a go ourselves. Under granny's strict supervision, of course.

I would love to give you the recipes for these breads, but unfortunately there are no exact measurements. "How much flour do I add?", I tried asking granny. "As much as it'll need", granny replied. "How much salt?" "Enough so that you can taste it", and so on. There are no exact measurements, no recipe.

We made two kinds of bread: "puolivahva" (meaning "half strong", as in not too flat nor too thick but something in between) and "rieska" (flat bread). Puolivahva is made out of rye and wheat flour, and rieska is made using barley flour only.

Rieska - Finnish Flat Bread

1 litre ice cold water
barley flour

Add enough barley flour to ice cold water to make a 'sloppy' dough (almost like thick porridge). Add salt. Bake into five flat breads and bake in hot oven (225°C) for a few minutes or until golden brown.


starter (from a previous dough)
3 litres hand hot water
rye flour
50 g fresh yeast
dark syrup
wheat flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the starter into the hot water. Add enough rye flour to make a sloppy mixture and leave the dough in a warm place overnight. The next day, dissolve the yeast into some warm water, add salt and syrup and then mix. Add enough rye and wheat flour to make a soft dough. Knead and let it double in size. Make into breads and prick. Leave to rise and prick again just before baking them in a hot oven.

"Puolivahva" on the left and "rieska" on the right, which is traditionally served with butter and gravlax.



  1. Merry Christmas Maria! The oven in the wall has got to be the cutest thing ever! Be safe and have a delicious holiday!

  2. Merry Christmas!

    I'd love to be in Finland for Xmas. That bread is marvelous.



  3. Maria, this is the perfect setting for a fairy tale Christmas! The lopsided log house, the pristine thick thick snow.... So still and quiet...then you go and bake bread in that hole in the wall oven... Fairy Tale. Merry Christmas, Maria and enjoy the rest of your holidays!

  4. It looks so wonderful ! Enjoy it and the people you meet! Hope you have an awsome trip :-)

  5. Your Granny's oven is the cutest thing I've ever seen! Is it a traditional Finnish design? Wishing you and your family a wonder Christmas and New Year!

  6. So glad you returned home safely! It looks like a winter wonderland! This bread looks delicious and your granny sounds adorable. merry Christmas!

  7. Merry Christmas, Maria! Love the traditional oven and am very impressed by how clean it is. Happy baking and happy family times ^^

  8. This is amazing Maria! You must have dad so much fun in the kitchen with your Grandma. Those first four pics are exceptional!

  9. Hi Maria-I came to your website through a comment posted on the blog A Wee Bit of Cooking- I'm from the very north of England, living in New Mexico in the USA for the past decade-plus. Love Scandinavian food, Scandinavian style, and enjoyed discovering your blog for the first time today (I had just baked a Nigella Lawson version of your orange almond cake, with clementines.What stopped me in my tracks was the last photo of your Finnish bread post. There, tucked in a corner next to a wooden trunk, is a pair of slippers belonging presumably to your granny. The very same slippers that I remember my own grandma wearing when I was growing up, red tartan with a fuzzy lining and red pom poms. It fair broke my heart!
    Nice to discover you, and I look forward to checking in with you again.

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  11. Oi! My parents have built such a similar oven. This post really makes me smile :) Rieska is one of my favorite you such a "home" feeling!

  12. Merry Christmas Maria! I hope that you are having a great time in Finland. It's amazing that your Grandmother has a bread oven in her home. I'd love to try baking in one sometime.

    I agree with John - the photos are fantastic. How do you manage t take your gloves off to snap a pic when it is -22 degrees outside!?!

  13. Love your winter pictures!! And flatbread is one of the best things I know, even though I have never tried to bake it myself.
    Happy New Year!


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