Piimäleipä: Finnish buttermilk farmer’s bread

My husband is Finnish. I know, right? It’s awesome. He looks grumpy all the time but then when you talk to him you realize he’s the nicest dude ever.

Image credit: Karoline Hjorth, Ritta Ikonen via cubebreaker.com/finnish-folklore/
Having a Finnish spouse, I get to learn about crazy-sounding Finnish tales. This is from the photo series “Eyes as Big as Plates” about Finnish folklore. Image credit: Karoline Hjorth, Ritta Ikonen via cubebreaker.com/finnish-folklore/

Anyway!

Being the amazing son he is, he recently went to Finland to care for his mummy after a pretty involved surgery (she’s recovering just fine) which required someone to take care of her. While he was there, she told him about a recipe for piimäleipä, or buttermilk bread, that was apparently really popular in the 19th century. It’s filling, tasty, and fairly quick to make once the setting process is finished. And it’s lovely when fresh out of the oven.

Warm bread is a big deal. In case you didn’t know, Finnish winters are dark and full of terrors. Also cold.

So. Ungodly. Cold.

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There’s 3 ingredient to this recipe: full fat buttermilk (we could only find lowfat, but I think it’d taste better with full fat), oats, and about 1/4 tsp of salt. We mixed 1 liter of buttermilk to…some oats.

Wait, what?” I hear you say. Here’s the weird bit about the recipe itself, we needed to mix buttermilk and oats until the consistency was velli – a Finnish word for a liquidy mixture that isn’t liquid but not quite porridge. Hubs described it to me (after I said ‘how in the heck do I explain this?!’) as “thin liquid food”. Liquidy gruel, perhaps? Somewhere in between. I have no idea how my husband decided it was velli, but there you have it. It was basically runny porridge, but not TOO thick. I hope that extensive explanation helped.

Then, you let it sit until the mixture has bubbles in it. It took about a day and half for us, but it’ll vary depending on where you live. We left it at room temperature.

Then, there’s bubbles. Add the salt before the flour, then flour that bad boy until the dough stops sticking to the side of the bowl (which is what you’re usually looking for anyway when making bread). This dough is incredibly sticky so you’re going to be adding lots of flour at first, and then during kneading, just to keep it from sticking to your counter, your clothes, even the cat.

Knead until it’s tight and dense. Plop it on a tray and bake. I went for 180C (360F) since I didn’t want it to burn. Then I had to pull it out and cut the whole lump in half to let the insides bake evenly. So that’s something you should definitely test on your own; many people’s ovens are different.

And voila!

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I know you’re loving my fancy-dancy phone camera. I have a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and I bought specifically to take photos for posts like this. Zero shame!

This is a dense, thick bread that’s meant for holding you over until the next meal. You probably don’t need anything else other than a bit of jam or butter with this and it’ll make an incredibly satisfying, delicious meal. We shared the half for our breakfast and will have the other half tomorrow. I can’t wait!

Give this recipe a try and let me know how it went!