My mom says that I learned to bake before I learned to walk, which does not surprise me. There’s never been shortage of fresh bread, coffee cake, cookies and other delicious bakeries at our house. Still today, my mom bakes on average once a week. And to me, the smell of fresh bakeries is the smell of home.
Whenever I visit my parents, I hope that mom would have time to bake some goodies for us. This time she did and we had a fun day baking together.
In Finland we have this special flatbread called “Rieska”, which is especially popular in the north. It is made of barley flour but you can also find variations that use wheat, oat and potatoes. Another icon of Finnish cuisine is Karelian Pastry, a thin rye crust filled with thick and creamy rice porridge. Sounds like a sweet pastry but it’s actually a savory dish that is often enjoyed with a mixture of butter and boiled eggs.
This time we wanted to try out if we could come up with gluten free versions of Rieska and Karelian pastries that would taste as good as the original ones made of barley and rye. Not an easy task for sure.
To tackle this challenge, we had gathered a variety of gluten free flours, including buckwheat, oat, chia seed and teff flour, as well as roasted flax seeds that we ground into flour. We also used psyllium husk as a binding agent to give structure for the dough. I’ve found out that a combination of psyllium husk, chia seed flour and ground flax seeds works really well in gluten free baking, giving elasticity to dough, and helping it rise and maintain its shape when baked.
Gluten Free Karelian Pastries (crust)
1 cup (2,5 dl) water
4 parts teff flour
3 parts oat flour
2 parts buckwheat flour
1 part flax seed flour
1 part chia seed flour
1 tsp psyllium husk
1 tsp salt
Gluten Free Flatbread “Rieska”
4 cups (1 l) water
6 parts oat flour
1 part buckwheat flour
1 part teff flour
1 part flax seed flour
2 potatoes (size of a fist) (boiled and pureed using a potato ricer or a strainer)
1 tbsp psyllium husk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp salt
Both of the doughs are very easy to make, since all you need to do is to mix the ingredients. The dough for the Karelian pastries needs to be firm enough for you to roll thin sheets from it. Use plenty of flour when rolling the sheets, so that the dough doesn’t stick on the table. Each sweet should be about the size of a hand. Place a spoonful of lightly salted rice porridge on each sheet, fold the edges of the dough over the filling and pinch the edges to make the wrinkles. The rieska dough again, should be just barely firm enough for you to handle it. If you make the rieska dough too firm, your flatbreads will turn out hard as a rock. Remember to punch holes with a fork to the rieska before baking, so that it will stay flat and you won’t end up with pita bread instead.
To achieve the real taste of artisan homemade bread, both the Rieska and the Karelian pastries must be baked in a wood-fired masonry oven.
To achieve the real taste of artisan homemade bread, both the Rieska and the Karelian pastries must be baked in a wood-fired masonry oven. The Rieska actually requires you to bake it directly on the surface of the oven, just like you would do when baking pizza. Oh, and the oven needs to be really hot, like 700°F (375°C).
When making the Karelian pastries, the crust is very thin and the porridge is already cooked, so you only need to bake the pastries for a few minutes and they are done. The same goes with the Rieska. Depending how thin or thick you make the bread, you only need to bake it for 4-8 minutes.