Loaf Sour Rye Bread Finland
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Sour Rye Bread
  -   Hapanleipa
2 loaf  
2-1/2 days  
Essential to Finnish cuisine, this bread is substantial, flavorful, chewy, and goes exceedingly well with butter. It is not, however, the easiest bread to make - rye flour is sticky and rather badly behaved. I cannot claim to have fully mastered it, but my loaves (probably halfway between eastern and western style) are quite edible. See Note-1 and Note-2 for details.

Yeast, active dry
Rye flour, dark (3)  
Bread Flour
IF this is your first batch, you will have to follow these instructions and times. If you have kept sour starter from a previous batch you can significantly cut the time for the first step.
  1. In a bowl mix 2 c Rye Flour into 4 c Water to make a thin slurry. If you have some Starter add it here. Sprinkle a little Rye Flour over it and leave the bowl uncovered in a warm place for at least 24 hours. If you used starter you can cover the bowl loosely and let it sit for 12 hours or so. Note: the "warm place" should not exceed 80°F / 27°C or you risk the wrong culture and bitter starter. See Note-5.
  2. The second day stir in 2 c more Rye Flour, cover very loosely and set aside for another 24 hours. Warning:   soon after mixing the slurry will bubble strongly and may overflow your bowl if you don't watch it. By the end of the second day the slurry should be quite sour, which is when you should scoop out a quarter cup or so for future starter (see Note-5).
  3. Knead in the Bread Flour and Salt. Then start kneading in the rest of the Rye Flour, but don't exceed the 7 cups called for. If you think the dough really needs more flour, add a bit more bread flour. Knead well for about 30 minutes. See Note-4 for the gory details.
  4. With wet hands shape the Dough into a ball, put it in a large bowl, cover very loosely and set in a warm place (80°F to 85°F - about 28°C) and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  5. Grease your baking sheet well and sprinkle it with pumpernickel meal or some other meal - or you'll need a hammer and chisel to get the finished bread off it.
  6. With wet hands divide the dough into two equal parts and form two round loaves on the baking sheet. Let rise until about doubled in volume.
  7. Preheat Oven to 425°F/220°C.
  8. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes (depending on thickness) at 425°F/220°C, Pull it when it is getting nicely browned on the top and sounds hollow when tapped.
  9. Set out on a cooling rack to cool, covered with a thick towel or foil so the crust softens.
  10. When completely cooled, loaves can be loosely bagged in plastic and will keep for a few days.
  1. Traditional Practice:   In eastern Finland this bread is made into fairly thick loaves and baked about twice a week. In western Finland it is traditionally made into thin loaves the shape of millstones (with a hole in the center). In the west it is baked twice a year and strung up on poles until hard, then stored in a special room. The eastern Finns think the millstone shape is quite appropriate for this hard dry bread. This bread is traditionally made up in a large stone bowl. The bowl is not washed and bits of dough dried to the sides act as starter for the next batch.
  2. Method   Bread with a high rye content must be made from a distinctly sour dough or it will not rise properly. Rye dough is very sticky and difficult to handle. When shaping balls and loaves your hands must be wet, even oiling them does no good.
  3. Rye Flour:   This must be dark rye flour, which you'll probably have to order from a mill (I get mine from Bobs Red Mill). Light rye flour is for central European breads that are mostly wheat flour.
  4. Kneading:   I use the bread hook in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, but this dough is so sticky it will never ride up the hook and clean the bowl as most doughs do. In fact, by the point where I think it has enough flour I have to strap the bowl down to the lift arms to keep it from being yanked off its pins and flung across the kitchen.
  5. Starter:   Sourdough "purists" sneer at the use of commercial yeast, insisting on wild yeast, claiming it produces a starter with more character. It also can take days longer and involves greater risk of a bad batch. Starter is a living colony of yeasts and bacteria. Kept in the fridge (leave the lid a bit loose) it needs to be fed every couple of weeks. Use it and replace as in the recipe above or throw some out and replace it with 50% flour, 50% water. A dark liquid called "hooch" may form on the top - just stir it back in.
  6. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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