My Finnish Grandmother's Good Bread (Mummu's Hyvä Leipä)
Finnish Hyvä Leipä translates simply to GOOD BREAD
And that is exactly what it is!
The dough will be kind of sticky when you turn it out onto a
floured board to knead.
Bake the bread in round pie pans. Be sure to oil to pans
before you put the dough inside.
Notes from making bread with Mummu January 1998
Testing the recipe for my daughter Katherine's Cookbook in April 2017
Finally typing the recipe into the cookbook in August 2019
My Finnish grandparents who I called Mumm and Ukki
My grandfather was a First Congregational minister so my grandmother was always cooking for her family and for the church members.
Ukki and Mummu at Billy and Melissa's wedding June 1993
This is both the story of a family recipe as well as the story of the evolution of recipe writing. I wrote the story about my Finnish Grandparents in a post in June of 2009 and the link it here. I will not retell the story again, but I will of course mention what a profound impact both my grandmother's had on my cooking.
My Finnish grandmother may have used a recipe at some point in her life, but most of her cooking was done from her heart. She could cook as effortlessly as if she was conducting and symphony. She was always smiling and happy in the kitchen. She was naturally a gifted cook. Cooking from the heart is certainly the best way to cook but often the hardest to follow when it comes to recording the actual recipe.
For me, I was able to watch her cook, write down a few notes that perhaps only made sense to me and then recreate them. I realized that my cryptic notes didn't explain key techniques such as adding the flour little by little. I had been baking bread with my mother all of my childhood, so I knew this technique like the back of my hand. It wasn't until I gave the recipe to a friend and hers turned out like a lump of lead that I realized that perhaps more detail was needed if I was ever going to share the recipe.
I first wrote the recipe in January of 1998 when my Mummu went in my Mom's bakery to make large batches of the bread for some event. (Most likely a Finlandia Foundation meeting.) My grandmother was almost 90 at the time and still baked bread at least twice a week and still made breakfast, lunch and dinner. She made the most delicious ham, meatballs, roast beef and the best mashed potatoes in the world. She also made the best French Toast and after watching me one time said "You need much more butter than that." Basically French toast should be called "Bread fried in butter" but once I started following her directions of putting a pat of butter under each piece of bread, I too was making it as delicious as she did.
In 2017, when Katherine was 17 she asked me to make her a cookbook for her 18th birthday. I started putting together her favorite recipes and family favorites. I realized as I began to type the recipe for Mummu's bread that it needed quite a bit of editing. I could easily make it myself from my recipe and notes but I realized it was time to measure and test what I was doing so I could pass it on to Katherine.
The bread is a rustic country bread made with rye flour and oatmeal. My uncle ray found a similar naturally fermented levin that reminded him of his mother's bread and we often buy that when we don't have time to bake. It has a hard crust and soft inside. I crave it. It makes the best turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving. I also love it just simply served with butter and accompanying a bowl of soup. Mummu made wonderful pea soup and delicious salmon chowder.
MUMMU'S GOOD BREAD
MAKES TWO LOAVES
For the sponge:
1/2 cup flour
1 cup lukewarm water
1 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
After the sponge sits for 15 minutes add:
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 cup rye flour
Then gradually add 1 cup at a time:
3-4 cups unbleached flour
until a stiff dough forms
Additional flour will be used for kneading on the board
oil for pie pans
egg wash before baking (1 beaten egg with 1/4 cup whole milk)
In a large bowl or stand mixer make the sponge by mixing together the first four ingredients. Let it sit for 15 minutes for yeast to bubble.
After 15 minutes has passed add the water, salt, beaten egg, 1 cup of flour, 1 1/2 cups of oatmeal and 1 cup of rye flour and mix.
If using a stand mixer, this is when you would change to the bread hook and add one cup of flour being sure all flour is combined before the next addition.
If mixing by hand, then add flour cup by cup until the dough is too stiff to combine with a spoon. After that the remaining flour will be added by kneading it in to the dough.
Turn the wet dough onto a floured board and gradually knead in the remaining flour being careful to add it a little at a time.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl being sure the dough has oil on all sides. Cover with a wet towel and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size. About 45 minutes to an hour. (The time to rise will depend on how warm your kitchen is.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and oil two pie pans.
Punch down the risen dough and divide into two balls. Place the sticky balls of dough into each oiled pie pan. Generously flour your hands and pat the dough flat into the pans.
Cover with a damp cloth and let rise again until doubled by half, about 45 minutes.
Make an egg wash by combining one egg with 1/4 cup of milk. Brush the top of the loaves with the egg wash.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. The crust should be hard when you tap it. The bread will be soft inside but the crust will be firm.