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Monday, January 24, 2011

Karelian rice pies with egg butter--Karjalanpiirakka

The kids had a day off from school Friday, so we made karjalanpiirakka.  They are pretty time-consuming, but so delicious!  I think you could end world hunger with these, they are very filling and perfect for a cold winter day.  My kids love these so much, but before they can eat them, they have to pronounce the name correctly.  They have become experts at this!

I first learned to make these at the middle school in Jalasjärvi, Finland when I was an exchange student.  My friend Laura and I went over to the middle school to take a home economics class, it was a great idea for exchange students.

These pies can be filled in different ways, but probably the most common filling is thick rice porridge, I used whole milk and made a big pot following this recipe from my previous blog, here.  I'll also copy the relevant part:

First, I put 2 1/2 cups of (sushi or pearl) rice in a pan and briefly washed it.  Then I added 2 cups of water and boiled it for 5 minutes.  Watch it carefully while boiling, this isn't much water, and it is really easy to burn it, like I did the first time!  At this point, add 7 1/2 cups of whole milk, and cook for 45 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly.  This dish takes a lot of patience!  It is very easy to let the milk caramelize in the bottom of the pan.  

Additionally, add about a teaspoon of salt to the filling.

Next, I made the rye dough for the shell.  In my stand mixer with a dough hook, I mixed 3 cups of rye flour and and 3 cups of white flour with 4 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of salt.  This can also be mixed by hand, it makes a very stiff dough, similar in texture to pasta dough.

After the dough was mixed well, it formed a ball like this.  I used my old rolling pin from Finland to roll out very thin round shapes, the shape of this rolling pin is perfect for rolling circles.  The "bread scraper" as we call it, here at the side, is also really handy when working with dough, we use it to cut the dough and also to move the finished pastries.  It is also handy to scrape the counter or bread board for cleanup.

First I divided the dough into similar-sized pieces, about 1 inch in diameter each.  These are a lot easier to roll out if you first roll each piece into a ball and pat it flat before using the rolling pin.

After rolling the piece into a very thin circular (slightly oval) shape, I put a couple of tablespoons of the rice filling in the middle, then crimped up the edges.  These are a lot of work, but fortunately my daughter decided to do most of the rolling and filling!

Preheat the oven to 450 Fahrenheit.  Move the pastries to a cookie sheet, I like to cook them on parchment for easy clean-up.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add to 1/2 cup hot milk to baste them with.  Baste the pastries again after they have baked about 10 minutes, then let them bake 5 more minutes.

Egg butter is the traditional topping for karjalanpiirakka.  The original recipe that I have uses 3 eggs and 1 cup of butter, but we use 6 eggs and 1/2 cup of butter, we just prefer it with less butter.  Boil the eggs so the middles are firm.  I boiled these 10 minutes (covered) and then let them sit covered in the hot water for another 5 minutes.  Then I peeled and smashed the eggs with a fork and smashed in the butter.  Salt to taste.

If the crusts are hard, you can wrap them in a clean towel while they are hot and the crusts will soften.  You can eat these hot or cold, but we like to warm the leftover ones.  They are terrific with the egg butter, or sometimes we just use them as the base for open-faced sandwiches.  They freeze really well, and are great to pull out if friends come over for coffee.  But I don't have any left to freeze from this really large took two days for us to eat them all.  Someday when the kids are older we may have leftovers!

Hope you enjoy these as much as we do!


  1. Thank you for this recipe. I had this many times in Michigan and want to learn how do this. I will try this soon. Enjoy reading your blog. I have many Finnish friends.

  2. So glad you are trying these recipes! It is a lot of work to make so many, but they taste so good and are wonderful to freeze and eat later. I make them rather large, but they are also good made smaller in more of an appetizer size. In Finland it is so convenient just to buy them premade at the store, the kids eat them every day when we are there!

  3. I've made Karelian pasties myself on several occasions, even though they're sold by every larger supermarket here as well. They're such a wonderful thing to eat :)

  4. I think the homemade ones are so much better. I like the rustic quality, but I've been planning to try making the crusts with my pasta maker just to see how they turn out. I hope to have a post on it soon.

  5. Just found your blog and I'm so happy! I spent 7 months in Finland as a child, and I still remember eating these. We lived over a bakery, and the smell of all the bread was wonderful. I tried making these years ago and they were awful. Maybe I'll get up the courage to try again since yours look so good.

  6. Hei, just one question: by 2 1/2 you mean 2 times half-cup or 2 and a half cups? Thanks in advance! (I am also an exchange st. in HKI and tomorrow we're making those Karelian pies with the roomies :))

  7. I recently made Karelian pies and have been learning about Finnish cuisine. Loved your blog post which I read in preparation for making these delicious treats!

  8. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this recipe! I loved Karjalanpiirakka when I lived in Finland and it's been 5 years since I've had one. It's time to put my hands on the dough and nom, nom, wait what? You get it :D

    Kiitos paljon!

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