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Savoring the Past: Yeastbread or "Hiivaleipä" baking on Sundays

Savoring the Past: Our Sunday baking must have bread

Yeastbread ready to eat

Baking Hiivaleipä, or Finnish yeastbread "hiivaleipä", was as much a part of our Sundays as the morning itself. It wasn't accompanied by fanfare or special occasions; it was simply what we did. The bread's taste, fresh from the oven, was a weekly comfort, and as the days passed, toasting slices to a perfect crispness was an equally anticipated treat.

A paper recipe for yeastbread
Yeastbread old paper recipe from the recipe box

Here's how we brought this staple to life:


- 2 cups (480 ml) milk

- 1/4 cup (50 g) fresh yeast

- 2 tablespoons syrup (like golden syrup or molasses)

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 1 3/4 cups (155 g) oat flakes

- 2 cups (240 g) rye flour

- 1 1/2 cups (180 g) whole wheat flour

- 1/4 cup (60 ml) oil (a neutral one like canola or vegetable)


1. Warm the milk to about 98.6°F (37°C), a temperature comfortable to the touch.

2. Crumble the yeast into the warm milk, stirring until it's completely dissolved.

3. Mix in the syrup and salt until both are well incorporated into the milk.

4. Add the oat flakes, followed by the rye flour, combining them with the liquid mixture.

5. Gradually mix in the whole wheat flour until a dough begins to form.

6. Drizzle in the oil and then knead the dough on a floured surface until it's smooth and elastic. This might take about 10 minutes.

7. Place the dough in a bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size—about 1 to 1.5 hours.

8. Preheat your oven to 390°F (200°C).

9. Punch down the risen dough and divide it into two equal parts. Shape each into a round loaf.

10. Place the loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let them rise again for about 30 minutes.

11. Bake the bread in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

12. Let the bread cool on a wire rack before slicing.

On Sundays, we'd slice the bread while it was still warm, enjoying the wholesome, slightly sweet, and hearty flavor that only home-baking achieves. The loaf's crust was satisfyingly crisp, giving way to a soft, dense interior.

We would enjoy it simply with butter, sometimes with cheese, alongside our evening tea.

As the week wore on, the remaining bread would firm up, changing its character but not diminishing in appeal. By Wednesday, the once soft slices were destined for the toaster, where they'd be transformed into something almost magical. The edges became delightfully crunchy, the aroma intensified, and the taste, especially when paired with a little butter or jam, was comfort food at its finest—so much so that we often looked forward to this mid-week treat just as much as the initial fresh loaves.

Fresh yeastbread
Yeastbread ready to eat

This was our ritual, plain and simple, a normal part of life that grounded us in our Nordic roots and brought a sense of continuity to our weeks. Fresh or toasted, the Hiivaleipä was a testament to the enduring pleasure of good bread, made at home with practiced hands.


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