Bread: A Firm Favorite
To the Finns, rye and bread made of rye are the same as spinach to Popeye. Rye crispbread is an essential part of Finnish army life and of the family diet even today.
Soft, round, flat loaves with a hole in the middle, which in the old days were stored on horizontal poles under the ceiling in farmhouses, are made from rye by a fermentation process.
The thin rye crispbread often known as Finn Crisp has a slightly sour taste, the result of lactic fermentation, and is a popular export item. Finns gorged on whole grain bread long before health foods became the fad. Barley, wholemeal and oat breads, rolls, flat breads and cracked wheat breads all have their local variations. The range of different types of bread just seems to grow, with new shapes and seasonings being developed all the time. Home baking is popular and bread machines are in constant use.
The specialities of southwestern Finland and the archipelago are the soursweet loaf and malt bread. Island-baked bread is dark in color and its northern counterpart may also have blood as an ingredient.
Internationalization has naturally increased the consumption of wheat bread, such as baguettes, but Finns continue to believe that rye and wholegrain bread is what 'keeps a man healthy, wealthy and wise'. Old Finnish traditions, handicrafts, the rural heritage and making things by hand are all in vogue today. The rise of the bread culture is one proof of this trend. The introduction of bread machines into homes may also have speeded up the process.
Freshly baked bread with butter, cheese, ham or luncheon meat is an everyday Finnish delicacy. Today, sandwich making is easy, as the shops sell rye bread ready sliced or rye rolls ready halved.
A cup of coffee is usually accompanied by pulla, a sweet bun made of wheat flour. It's a snack popular in cafes and service stations, and is often served when Finns meet socially.
'Pulla' dough is also used to make cinnamon rolls, tea rings or fruit pies filled with whatever fruit is in season: rhubarb in the spring, strawberries and bilberries in the summer, lingonberries and apples in the autumn. In winter, the filling may be quark.
A festive coffee table has a wide range of sweet and savory pastries, for according to Finnish tradition a good hostess must offer at least seven different sorts: a sandwich loaf or canapes, pies, a ring, cakes, biscuits and a multi-layered sponge cake, either homemade or bought.
Finnish bakeries have long traditions going back via St. Petersburg to the old Austrian and Swiss master bakers.