Karjalanpiirakat - Karelian pasties

Lately I've been emptying the cupboards of dry ingredients. We had a little Christmas porridge incidence (awful!!! more on that later...) and ever since I've had the most often used dry foods in closed containers and the rest on the balcony in plastic bags (it has been minus zero for many weeks...). Before I'm bringing any new ingredients to my cupboard I've decided to use the old ones away in order to eliminate new infestations, so now on my list to use are the barley grains.

A couple of weeks ago there was a scandal about the baking grandmas and I happened to come across  the Grandma's Design site. While browsing it, I noticed how the Finnish granmas never told any stories of the foods they baked as the Italians, Belgians etc. had a story behind the food they made. In my opinion this reflects well how Finnish people don't really appreciate food but see it only a source of nutrition or even detest it for its calories etc.

Ever since seeing this video from the site I've wanted to make the Karelian pasties. I would like to give them a story they deserve. But since my family is from western Finland, I don't have much of a story to tell as they originate from eastern Finland. They are traditional Finnish (or Karelian more specifically) rye-crust pasties filled with rice, barley or potato filling. Super yummy! (Except for the potato ones...) They are definitely a food to try if you want to try some Finnish foods, probably even on my top 10 Finnish foods to try. You can buy them from cafés, bakeries or even grocery stores: newly-baked, ready-made or frozen (bake-only) ones.

I don't think my mother ever made these home. Instead, they were bought from a bakery or shop. I remember eating them as a child warm with egg butter, the butter melting on top of them and running on my fingers. Back then they were served with ice-cold milk. Nowadays I don't drink milk, so I'd enjoy them with coffee or tea. They are usually eaten with "egg butter" (=eggs+butter). It's quite a job making them but if you're planning to make rice or barley porridge, cook some extra and then you can use it for these lovely pasties and skip the first step.

Karelian pasties (makes 16)

Start by cooking the porridge:

Rice/barley porridge
3 dl water
130 g (~1.5 dl) porridge rice (or risotto rice or Japanese rice)
     or 120 g (~1.5 dl) hulled barley grains (pearl barley/pot barley)
7 dl milk (semi-skimmed or full-fat)
0.5-1 tsp salt

Boil the water, add the rice and let cook until the water is absorbed to rice/barley. Add the milk. Stir the porridge constantly until it starts to boil (be careful: it sticks very easily to the bottom of the pan). Teflon-coated pan would be the best. I've noticed that the sticking happens mostly within the first few minutes after boiling starts. Once the situation is "stabilized" you don't have to stir all the time.

You can cook the porridge also using a double boiler: pour the porridge into it once it's boiling. It takes extra time but on the other hand you don't have to stir it so often.

Simmer for about 40 minutes stirring first quite often (if using barley, the cooking time will be about 1,5 hours) or until the liquid has absorbed to the rice/barley and the grains are soft. Add salt when the porridge is done. Leave to cool. The porridge has to be totally cooled down when filling the pasties. Otherwise the filling boils out of the crusts (been there, done that).

1 dl cold water
0.5 tsp salt
1.5 dl rye flour (+ more for working the dough)
1 dl (fine) wheat flour

For brushing/soaking
2 dl warm milk
2 Tbsp butter

Mix salt, water and rye flour. Add the wheat flour to make the dough quite hard (not sticky but still enough soft to roll it), so add more flour if needed. Flour your working surface with rye flour. Knead the dough a bit and roll it into a log and slice it into 16 equally sized pieces.

Cover the pieces with a cling film while you continue, because the dough dries up quite easily. Roll each piece into a ball and then pat it into a circle using rye flour to prevent it sticking to the surface. With a rolling pin roll into a VERY thin oval disc. The right equipment would be pulikka, a rolling pin, which gets smaller toward its ends (see the next picture)  but since I guess that would be very hard to obtain if you aren't living in Finland, so a normal rolling pin works as well. Pile them up dusting some rye flour between and keep the pile covered with a cling film.

Once you have rolled every piece into a thin crust you can start filling them. Brush off the extra flour and spread about 2 Tbsps your favored filling so that you leave a 2 cm border of dough around the filling (see below).

Fold the borders over the filling, starting from the center of either side and pinch the borders into "waves" using your thumb and index finger.

Bake on the middle rack in preheated oven in 275-300 C for 15-20 minutes until the filling has gotten some colour.

My crusts got a bit scorched...

While they are baking in the oven, heat up the milk and melt the butter in it. Straight after taking them from the oven, dip them in hot milk-butter mixture and pile on a plate. Cover with grease-proof paper and cloth to let them soften a bit. Enjoy with egg butter while still warm or warm them up on a toaster or microwave.

Egg butter

4 eggs, cooked appr. 8 min
4 Tbsp butter, in room-temperature

Put the eggs in cold water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add a teaspoon of salt for every liter of water (it helps to coagulate the whites if the shells break during the cooking). Let simmer for 8 minutes. Discard the hot water and put the eggs in cold water for 1 minute so that the shells become easier to remove. Remove the shells and dice the eggs finely. Mix with soft butter while still warm and add salt to season.

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