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Monday, October 17, 2011

Rye bread -- Ruispalat

There is a type of rye bread in grocery stores in Finland that I have never eaten home made.  According to Wikipedia:  

"Vaasan Ruispala, a brand of rye bread by Vaasan & Vaasan, is Finland's "most popular bread" according to the company. It is otherwise similar to reikäleipä, but is more consumer-oriented. It comes in single portion size, it mixes condensed rye bread taste with zero-day delivery, it borrows from the German rye bread tradition in keeping a more humid, greasier texture than is traditional in Finland, and it makes the best of the humidity preserving qualities of traditional rye bread by serving each piece of bread as a pre-cut pair of two halves, which protect each other but can still be easily separated."  

I've been looking for the recipe for a very long time, I've found a lot of posts online where expatriate Finns stuff their suitcases full of this bread and store it in the freezer.  The only recipe I've found is here.  The main problem is that the recipe calls for rye bran, which doesn't seem to be available in my area or online.  

Other problems with the recipe are the color and the shape.  To get the color right, I think it would be necessary to add a bread colorant, Beatrice Ojakangas talks about these in her bread baking books.  I haven't seen these in stores, but plan to order some and retest the recipe.  To shape the bread, I am looking for the right pan(s) but haven't found them yet.

Anyway, here is a post of what I've come up with so far, it is not exactly like ruispalat, but I think you will enjoy the results!

Stir together:

2 cups warm water (not too hot or the yeast will die!) (5 dl)
2 Tablespoons dark syrup (I used beet syrup from Ikea which is what is available in Finland...dark corn syrup is more common in the U.S.  Don't use pancake syrup!  You could substitute honey or molasses).

2 Tablespoons salt 
1 packet of active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

Then stir in:

1 2/3 cups rye flour (4 dl), I used dark rye flour from Hodgson Mill...I grew up near that mill in the Ozarks!  They don't actually make the flour there, but it is a beautiful place to visit, you can see photos of it and other area mills here.

2 cups bread flour (5 dl).  Since this recipe calls for so much whole grain flour, it is important to use flour that has a high gluten content here.  I actually tried whole wheat flour once--the bread was so hard that even the dogs couldn't eat it!

2/3 cup of wheat bran (1.5 dl)  In the Finnish recipe, it calls for rye bran, but I haven't found this.
1/4 cup of oil (0.5 dl)

The dough should be very sticky, a little thicker than cake batter.  

Pour the dough out onto a jelly roll pan which has been lined with parchment paper.  The parchment paper is VERY important, otherwise the bread won't release.  I used wet hands to pat the dough out smooth.  Sprinkle a little flour on top and cover with a towel.  Let it rise in a warm place for 40 minutes.  

Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (225 Celsius) for about half an hour.

After the bread cools for a bit, it can be cut into squares.  Split each square in half before eating, these pulled apart easily.

The top half of this bread was very much like ruispalat, but I think I need a heavier pan to bake it in because the bottom half was a bit bland and didn't have the right texture.  The wheat bran changed the taste a little, too.  I might try making this with oat bran next time to see what happens, and maybe I'll make it into three loaves in cast iron skillets.  A circular shape would be nice, then it could be cut into wedges to serve.  I'll continue experimenting and posting, check my Facebook page for more frequent updates.


  1. Do you think "cracked rye" would be somewhat more similar?

  2. I actually thought of that earlier, too. The pieces in cracked rye would be too big to make ruispalat--cracked rye has a 20 minute cooking time. If you ground it more, it would basically just be rye flour. Bread could be made out of it if you pre-cooked (or maybe soaked) it, but the water and gluten amounts would have to be adjusted. Cracked rye would be good for making a German Vollkornbrod, I'd like to try that sometime, too.

  3. I like your blog. Very interesting as I'm Finnish myself. I'll add your blog on my list of blogs. :)


  4. Thanks Paula! I've been enjoying your blog, too!

  5. Hi Elizabeth - I found your blog about 6 months ago and just adore it! I am an Australian with a Finnish heritage and fell in love with Finland when I discovered it last year.... Anyway I would love to know if you have perfected this bread yet? I have been looking for a proper Rye Bread recipe since I came back, but seems its so cheap to buy in Finland, and so difficult to make, there aren't any recipes out there... keep us up to date with your efforts! Erin

  6. Hi How are you doing? I've been wondering if you've stopped writing on your blog or just taking a break?

  7. umm. I think vaasan ruispalat is a sour rye bread, so to get it right you will probably want to use rye flour and sour it. Souring makes the chemistry of the rye flour change so that it is actually possible to make bread out of it. I would assume that ruispalat uses the same kind of rye bread dough as reikäleipä, but maybe with more oil and possibly other flours in addition to rye. So do some research on reikäleipä and the souring.

    1. 72% rye, mostly flour,some malt. wheat flour, water , syrup, orange peel(zest),yeast,potato ,salt (1.2%) ,wheat gluten. Then google for a sourdough recipes, or check the wikipedia article on it. The idea is to get a lactic fermentation going on (like sauerkraut) to lower the ph of the dough to suitable levels for some enzymes to do their job.

  8. I agree with Markus, you are missing the sour starter.

  9. Markus is right about the sourdough starter. I am also working on a recreation of this, the most amazing of breads. I have found a trick. If you sift the rye flower you will extract the rye bran. this can then apply to the outside of the loaf. The relocation of bran from inside the bread to the outside makes for a nice surface texture and allows the bread to rise a little more. Win win and no additional ingredients needed.

  10. Have a exchange student from Finland we are going to try making it today.

  11. I made with 50% bread flour, 50% whole rye flour (no bran), molasses and the 2 Tb salt (which was a bit too much - and I love salt). I let rise 40 mins, punched it down, and set it flat in the baking sheet. Sprinkled some caraway seeds on top, and covered with plastic wrap, let it rise again 30 mins, then baked at 450 for 30 mins. It came out much better than I expected. Given the "sour dough" comments above (which is true, by the way. Vaasan has a "mother yeast" that is 40+ years old!), nex time I am going to do an overnight rise (like the no-knead method), do a 2nd rise in the morning and bake. I was looking to BUY Ruispalat via Amazon, but no more! This bread is as good - if not better! :-)