Cuisine Fiend

joululimppu - finnish christmas bread



What a lovely bread this is! Unlike any other loaf. Goes beautifully with a little smoked salmon on Christmas morning.

To call it ‘rye bread’ is a little misleading – there isn’t really much rye flour in it. Enough though to make the dough feel flat, muddy-ish and not very smooth or stretchy. The unusual taste comes rather from the other ingredients: buttermilk, treacle and the caraway and fennel seeds. It’s sweet, but not pudding-sweet, perfectly suited for meat or fish sandwiches. The addition of rye though (and the glycerine, or so the author of the recipe claims) makes it last well, slice thinly and taste utterly delicious.

Finnish Christmas buttermilk bread

I’ve had a bit of a problem with the recipe – Bakery Bits where it comes from are totally excellent suppliers of all things bread and baking. But the amounts of flour are definitely not quite right: I almost gave up and binned the dough! And I don’t usually give up! It was soooo sticky, unmanageable and runny that I had to add handfuls and handfuls of flour to be able to finally shape it and plonk it into the proving basket, praying it would actually come out of it and not stick for ever. It did, and I’ve upped the flour quantities below, but you might still have to curse and swear and roll the gloop around the copiously floured surface scraping it off and trying to stop it sticking to everything in sight.

joululimppu - finnish christmas bread

Servings: 1 large loafTime: about 2 hours


  • 4g osmotolerant (SAF) yeast or 15g fresh
  • 60g water at 28 degrees
  • 10g sugar
  • ½  tbsp fennel seeds
  • ½  tbsp caraway seeds
  • 250g buttermilk
  • 15g glycerine
  • 50g black treacle
  • 30g mixed candied peel
  • 5g sea salt
  • 30g softened butter
  • 130g rye flour
  • 300g strong white flour


1. Dissolve the yeast in the water, stir in the sugar. Leave for 10 minutes. Toast the caraway and fennel seeds lightly for 2 minutes and then set to one side. In a small pan warm the buttermilk, glycerine, and treacle to 33C. Stir the warmed buttermilk mix into the yeast, add the peel, spices, salt and butter.

2. Stir in the rye flour stir well then add the strong white flour, stir well. Leave for 10 minutes.

3. Turn out onto a lightly floured table, knead for 5 minutes then shape into a ball – or use a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment for the kneading. Roll the dough thoroughly in wholemeal flour and place seam side down into a 1kg round banneton or a bowl lined with a cloth and floured generously. Put in a plastic bag inflated a bit so it doesn’t touch the dough (just blow into it and tie the end!) and leave for about 40 minutes. Halfway through that time start preheating a cast iron casserole dish or Dutch oven in the middle of the oven at 220C/425F/gas 7.

4. The dough should rise just about up to the rim of the proving basket. When ready, just plonk the dough from the proving basket into the dish as swiftly as you can, slash a cross on top with a very sharp knife, put the lid on and into the oven. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes, and for another 20 minutes with the lid off.

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