I think bread is something, which is important in all the cultures and as important as it is, it is different as well. Estonian and Finnish people think very much alike here.
When we say ’bread’ we mean only ’rye bread’ or ’sour dough bread’. For white bread we have a totally different word. ’Bread’ in Estonian is ’leib’ and ’white bread’ is ’sai’. The making of original bread is nothing like making white bread. When white bread is made with yeast, bread is made with leaven (that is a word I found in the dictionary) and only with that. You can use yeast but it is not IT then.
Our children are taught to value bread and that it is the source of life. Without bread, there is no life. We have all those traditions concerning bread and bread making.
- If you accidentally dropped a piece of bread you had to pick it up and kiss it
- You never place a bread on the table with a cut end towards the door – hunger will come to the house
- When cutting a piece to a stranger you had to cut some to yourself first or you’d give bread away (hunger thing again)
- You cannot place a loaf of bread onto a table upside down – someone would die
- You never cut a warm bread
- Etc., etc., etc.
If you already have a leaven, it will take about two days from start to finish. First evening mix some flower with the leaven and water and let it stay overnight to get sour. Next day add the rest of the ingredients, prepare loaves and let them rise. It takes about 3-4 hours in a warm place. Always wear clean clothes, no swearing and think only happy thought. I could go on and on and on.
To make the very traditional bread takes a lot of kneading and it is really, really hard work. If you have ever kneaded regular dough made of wheat flour then imagine about three times harder work. And it is not so good to bake them in an electric or gas oven. You have to have a special bread oven. I do have one but if we heat it up I have to move outside. It is so big and makes the house so warm it is impossible to bear.
So I have made my life easier and make a kind of porridge like mixture, put it in moulds and bake it like I would bake a pound cake. A friend of mine taught me and my family is so happy with that. Warm bread with butter is extremely good. I can also add anything I like to the dough. I prefer nuts and seeds. So you can imagine how healthy this all is.
When I was in the States a funny thing happened. A friend of mine showed me an article in the newspaper where there was some news about a research, which took several millions of dollars and quite some time. The research concluded that Finnish people have much less digestive system cancer because they eat rye bread. To me it was so very funny because this fact is known to everyone living in Finland and Estonia because the importance of bread has been taught to us from the day we are born. I could really have a use for those millions...
But I did bake bread when I was there and though it took me week the outcome was delicious or so my relatives told me. Or they were just being nice after all this hard work.
(Photo: loaves of bread I made this winter. Don’t have any pictures of the ones I baked yesterday)