Hapanleipä – Finnish Sour Rye Bread

Hapanleipä - Finnish Sour Rye Bread

This is my bread of choice for the most god-awful stinky cheeses I can get my hands on. It’s probably not a traditional use for it but it works for me. This rough and crispy flatbread is perfect for slathering with the funkiest of room temperature washed rind cheeses. I haven’t tried the stinkiest cheese as determined by a computerized electronic nose, but I’m sure it will also pair well with this 100% rye bread.

So what’s the deal with the shape? Supposedly breads are baked in the western regions of Finland only a couple of times a year. Hundreds of these breads would be baked at the same time and hung on poles right under the ceilings. The acidity from the use of a wild yeast starter and its inherent dryness help preserve the breads until the next oven firing.

I painstakingly recreated such poles as I imagined it in the ceiling of a Finnish kitchen. Not included in the photo are four tomato cans used as rests for the wooden dowel.

recipe adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads
Yeastspotting at Wild Yeast Blog

Finnish Sour Rye Bread

makes two 12-inch wheels


  • There’s enough sourness with the formula as specified below. For a more sour hapanleipä, omit the instant yeast and increase the bulk fermentation time to 2-3 hours.

For the Soaker:

Ingredients                  Volume          Ounces          Grams
medium or dark rye flour          1 3/4 cups      8            227
salt                                1/2 tsp
water                               3/4 cup       6            170

Mix the soaker ingredients until evenly hydrated. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.

For the Rye Starter:

Ingredients                  Volume          Ounces          Grams
rye starter (75% hydration)                       2.5           71
medium or dark rye flour          1 2/3 cups      7.5          213
water, at room temperature          3/4 cup       6            170

Mix the rye starter ingredients until evenly hydrated. Knead the starter with wet hands for about 2 minutes. It will be very sticky.

Place the rye starter in a bowl and cover. Let rise at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours or until doubled in size.

Remove the rye starter from the bowl and knead lightly to degas. Return to the bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. Let the rye starter sit at room temperature for 2 hours before using in the final dough.

Final Dough Formula:

Ingredients                  Volume          Ounces          Grams
all of the soaker, chopped into small pieces
all of the rye starter, chopped into small pieces
medium or dark rye flour            7/8 cup       4            113
salt                                5/8 tsp
instant yeast                     2 1/4 tsp

Final Dough Instructions:

Mix             Mix all of the ingredients until evenly incorporated

Knead           3 to 4 minutes

Rest            5 minutes

Knead           1 minute

Bulk Ferment    45 minutes in a lightly oiled bowl, or until
                1 1/2 times its original size

Divide          2 pieces

Shape           rolled 1/4 thick with a cut out center and docked,
                as pictured (approximately 12 inches wide)

Shaped Hapanleipä - Finnish Sour Rye Bread
shaped hapanleipä with 2 bonus crackers

Final Proof     approximately 45 minutes at room temperature on
                2 sheet pans, covered

Preheat Oven    425ºF/218ºC

Bake            Immediately lower the heat to 350ºF/177ºC and bake for
                15 minutes. Rotate the loaves if necessary and bake
                for another 10 to 15 minutes, until reddish brown.

Cool            At least 1 hour
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23 Responses to “Hapanleipä – Finnish Sour Rye Bread”

  1. Zita says:

    I think the crackers will be greater with the cheese. no? ;)

    last blog post: Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

  2. Y says:

    Wow I love the look of this flatbread. Can imagine it would go great with gloriously smelly cheeses, but be just as satisfying on its own :)

    last blog post: Brief life of the oyster, and a lemon

  3. Susan/Wild Yeast says:

    This is really excellent! I can also imagine it with smoked fish.

    last blog post: Cake Concepts Clarified

  4. bee says:

    i wanted to make this recently, but ran out of rye. your pics are gorgeous.

  5. Robin says:

    Love how you painstakingly recreated the Finnish setting.

    How wonderfully food-geeky!

    last blog post: We’ve got fresh berries and you give us cabbage and kale!?

  6. Dragon says:

    Bread and cheese, there’s nothing better.

    last blog post: Fire & Rosemary Spiced Nuts

  7. Tom Aarons says:

    I’m deeply impressed by the range of breads you bake. It’s wonderful.

    last blog post: Cambodian Sandwich Series (7) – Deep Fried Tiny Fish

  8. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    You never cease to surprise me with the range of your baking. Or cooking, for that matter. I look forward to the next post, as always.

    last blog post: Blueberry, Genoa Salami and Apricot Panini

  9. YeastSpotting August 1, 2008 | Wild Yeast says:

    [...] Hapanleipä – Finnish Sour Rye ~ Apple Pie, Patis, and Pâté [...]

  10. Madam Chow says:

    Good heavens, these are impressive, and you are one committed baker!

    last blog post: Operation Baking GALS!

  11. Brooke says:

    I’m constantly looking for new recipes I can explore to understand my culinary heritage. This Finnish bread is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Now all I need to do is carve out some time to bake it!

    Thanks for the great recipe!

    last blog post: A dish with Alice Waters

  12. bhags says:

    I have never worked with rye flour…..this one seems such a nice creation

    last blog post: The Panmarino

  13. andreea says:

    as delicious as it can get – rye bread and stinky cheese. am so totally there with you :)

  14. zita – i’m with you there.

    y – it’s all about the cheese.. or not

    susan – sounds like a good idea. maybe some gravlax would be great, too.

    bee – thanks! time to visit bob’s red mill, huh?

    robin – food geeky sounds better than kitchen fanboy, i guess

    dragon – yup yup

    tom – thanks!

    js – always fun to make something new. and end up with something edible.

    madam – gotta have bread at all times. look who’s talking — you bake as often as I do :)

    brooke – hope you like it!

    bhags – it’s sticky and tough to handle but the results are always worth it.

    andreea – glad I’m not alone.

  15. jack bauer says:

    Hello. Nämä näkkileivät näyttävät oikein hyviltä:) Looks delicious.

  16. Rye Onion Walnut Rolls : Andrea Meyers says:

    [...] Apple Pie, Patis, and Pate – Hapanleipa, Finish Sour Rye Bread [...]

  17. aleksi says:

    to my finnish eyes this looks more swedish flatbread than suomalainen reikäleipä :)

    but i test this bread someday..

  18. Kristin says:

    My father was just telling me about a Swedish version of this bread. He remembers eating this as a child. He also told me my grandparents (Swedish immigrants who met & married in NYS) grew their own rye (in Rockland County, NY, right outside NYC!!) and made these, storing them on poles!!

    I love that you are doing this with sourdough too! I will try it for my family!

    Kristin in TN

  19. Larry says:

    Looks so deligious!

    The traditional way to make the bread is to sour the “root”dough (as we finns call it) from 2 to up to 5 days in room temperature, depending how sour you want it to be. It should not be as hard as the final bread dough, it should be more like light porridge. You just let it bubble and get more sour by adding every day some rye flour (and luke warm water if needed).

    When the starter is sour enough you start by adding rye flour until it doesn´t stick to your hands. Just before it is ready you add salt and finish the kneading. From this dough you can make big or small breads or flatbreads with a hole (in Finland the bread is usually about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick). Becouse the bread doesn´t contain any yeast, it will take time to rise, so you will need some patience (it can take even 5-7 hours). You can see when it´s risen enough, when the top of the bread has a web like pattern. Then you just bake it untill the bread “ecos” – take the bread out from the oven and knock the bottom (yes, I know, it may sound ackward), if it sounds like it is hollow, it´s ready. You´re ready!

    The bread needs to “mature” few days and the taste is best after few days.

  20. Zavier says:

    When’s another update coming up?

  21. phpscripts says:

    Last week I dropped by this site and as usual great content and ideas. Love the lay out and color scheme

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