Monday, April 27, 2009

Last of a Dying Bread

Riihiruisleipä (riihi rye bread) is something pretty special. You can't find it just anywhere. It used to be the norm for rye bread in Finland. Sadly, this is no longer the case. This isn't just any rye bread. The secret to the flavor in this bread lies in the riihi.

The riihi was traditionally a windowless log structure, with little ventilation and no chimney. Sheaves of grain would be hung on poles and a small,smoldering fire would be built. The fire would be tended carefully until the grain was dry. The heat and smoke helped to dry the grain evenly preventing spoilage and also eliminated potentially harmful pests. It also gave the grain a wonderful smokey flavor, a flavor that carried through to the bread that was baked from it.

A link to a page about riihi construction (in Finnish).

Luckily, a few small farmers still produce riihi rye and a few bakeries are wise enough to buy the flour produced from said flour. One such bakery is Mannisen Kotileipomo, located in Konnevesi. This is a beautiful rye bread. Dense, heavy, and chewy, with a smokey rye flavor that can't be beat. This bread doesn't even need butter to be enjoyed.

69% riihi rye flour, wheat flour, water, yeast and salt.
Baked in a brick oven.


  1. I wonder if that flour is available any where in the US? It makes me wonder if it was a common practice amongst other cultures to dry grain by fire? I assume so, before electricity there weren't a lot of options. Though I can't think of any other bread that has said quality imparted by the grain, admittedly I'm no expert. The bread I've made in wood fired ovens definitely has a smokiness to it, but probably not as intense as this. Now I have heard of smoked grains being used in beer, German Rauchbier for instance. I bet that a lot of things had a smokiness to them that we don't associate it with now. It's like we are missing out on a whole big piece of our culinary heritage.

  2. It seems to me that you are in the perfect position to be the guy that reintroduces this flour to North America.

  3. I shall do my very best. When and if I harvest my grain fields, I might try drying some of it this way and then grinding it in my mill. I'll let you know how it a few months.