I just finished my pies. Wait, let’s try that one again. I just Finnish-ed my pies. HI-OHHHH! Up top! No? Come on, dude.
Fine, let’s talk about the pies. First of all, I got a request for more Finnish recipes. I’d been heavy on the Czech side of the family recipes around Christmas, but let’s not forget about Finland here. After all, I am a citizen. So this is for my aunt Virva in Belgium.
This recipe was adapted from my mom’s grandmother’s old Karelian cookbook. Culture lesson time! Karelia (Karjala in Finnish) is a region of Finland bordering Russia. It changed hands many times and was bitterly fought over. They have a distinctive cuisine within Finnish food, and these pies are one of their more famous exports.
My great-grandmother was apparently a Karelian Pie making machine. The only ones I had before these were made by my grandmother, and I’m pretty sure she was no slouch either when it came to Karelian pie-making. I don’t know if such things are genetic or if they are learned, but if it’s the former I think it skipped me. If they are learned, I have a lot of Karelian pie making in my future before I can hope for the same status. But I am totally on board for that. These are really unique and they satisfy a very specific craving. The rye crust is thin and crunchy, the rice filling is creamy, and the egg butter (OH the egg butter!!!!) is salty and eggy and it all comes together into a very hearty tasting package. These would go great with a nice crunchy arugula salad and a cup of carrot parsnip soup or something equally delicious.
A little bit about the recipe. If you can, you should weigh your flour. If not, be sure to fluff up your flour before you scoop it out. When rolling the dough into circles, make sure you have a LOT of rye flour on hand. You will need it. ALL OF IT.
Smaller is better for the pies…easier to handle, easier to eat a million of. We made a mega-pie and then ended up cutting rest of the ovals in half and making smaller ones. They were cuter. Also, don’t forget to bathe the hot pies in milk and butter. This is a crucial step, and it might seem strange to you but you are not the boss here so do as the Finns tell you.
If I were you I’d make extra egg butter so I could put it on…I don’t know…everything? But I am a woman obsessed…with eggs, specifically. And butter, come to think of it. So maybe you won’t be as generous. For me, the egg butter is the best part of this recipe.
Now listen…I dug through old cookbooks in a language I can’t understand to bring you this traditional recipe, I’m giving you feedback about it, politely (or not) urging you to make it. And you’re sitting there all yeah yeah, what the F are these weird pies, I am not going to ever even think about making them. Let me play it straight for you: I will be pissed at you if you don’t make these pies. I mean, come on. Let me guess your baking repertoire. You make lasagna, right? Omelets are a specialty of yours, no? You can rock a fajita and probably a mean stir-fry, am I right? But can you make a Karelian pie?? What I’m trying to say, delicately, is you’re boring and you should branch out and embrace other cultures.
Alright, break. Report back with your Karelian pie making adventure, including details like “I burned my little fingers whilst bathing the pies in milky butter” or “you were right you always are these are amazing no punctuation necessarry.” Photographic evidence might also be required. Alright, good talk, see you out there.
Karelian Pies (karjalanpiirakat)
Adapted from old Karelian cookbook
For Pie Dough:
1/2 cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (100 g) rye flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
For rice filling:
1 cup water
3 cups milk
1 cup arborio rice
salt & butter to taste
3/4 cup milk
3 tbsp butter
For egg butter:
4 tbsp salted butter
white pepper to taste
Make rice filling: Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add arborio rice and stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer another 30 minutes. When all the milk has been absorbed and the rice is creamy, add 2 tbsp(ish) salted butter. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Remove from heat and let stand.
Make pie dough: Preheat oven to 525 degrees F (or, as high as your oven goes). In a large bowl, mix together 1/2 cup water and 1/2 tsp salt and stir until salt is dissolved. Slowly add rye flour, stirring with a wooden spoon. Once rye flour has been incorporated, add all-purpose flour slowly until dough is workable but still slightly sticky (you might not need to add all the all-purpose flour).
Flour a working surface with rye flour. Roll the dough into a log, about a foot long. Slice the log into 16 equal discs. Roll each disc out (making sure to keep surface well floured) into a 6-inch circle (or oval). The circles should be very very thin, almost translucent. Stack them one on top of the other with rye flour sprinkled in between.
Working with one circle at a time, spread about 2-3 tbsp rice filling evenly onto the dough discs. The rice should be piled no more than 1 cm high and there should be a 2 cm border of dough around the filling. Working from the center of either side of the oval (or anywhere for a circle), fold the border over the rice border and pinch to secure. Continue to the end of the oval, then pinch the other side, folding the ends up and pressing them down to seal.
Melt a few tbsp of butter in about 3/4 cup of milk (in the microwave is fine). Place the pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the filling just starts to brown and the edges are brown and crisp. Using a pastry brush (or dipping the pies if your cup is wide enough), generously baste the hot pies immediately in the milk-butter mixture, making sure to soak all sides. Place the pies on a parchment-lined plate and cover with a kitchen towel.
Make the egg butter: Bring several cups of water to a boil and place 6 eggs in the boiling water. Let boil 10 minutes, then drain and cool the eggs under cold water. Peel and cut the eggs (as you would for egg salad). Add 4 tbsp very soft salted butter and mix until the egg mixture is almost pastey. Add more butter if necessary. Sprinkle with white pepper to taste.