Wake and Bake: Rieska (Finnish Rye Bread)

Carrie Vasios

I was drawn to Rieska because of the folklore that accompanies it; people say that it's the oldest bread in Finland, that every village has its own recipe. I like to imagine burley Vikings getting into sword fights over bread baking. "It's supposed thin, like a cracker." "No it's supposed to be hearty, like an oat bread." "Battle to the death!" "Garrrr!"

Ahem. But I keep making Rieska because it's delicious. Imagine if a scone and a rye bread had a baby. (You there?) Yup, that's what this bread is like. It has no leavening agent other than baking powder and you cut butter into dry ingredients as you would when making a scone. Yet the texture is somehow more airy than a regular quick bread, though still satisfyingly hearty. Rye flour is key to the taste, imparting a nuttiness that I personally highlight by leaving out any sugar and adding a fair bit of salt.

This bread is so easy to put together that there is no need to leave leftovers out to dry for months as some say is tradition. Instead, I'll make a small loaf (attached recipe is sized accordingly) and eat some with dinner. In the morning, I'll cut the leftovers into thin slices which I toast until golden. I love salty-sweet dishes, so a big drizzle of honey goes on top. But if you want to eat it plain, or with butter and jam, I won't fight you.