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Finnish Black Bread (Hapanleipa)
A Heavy, Tangy, Sourdough Rye

3 packages active dry yeast
4 cups warm water, 105 F to 115 F
7 to 9 cups of dark rye flour
2 teaspoons salt (optional)
Additional flour for shaping

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add 2 cups rye
flour and beat to make a smooth mixture. Sprinkle the top of the
dough with 1 cup of rye flour. Cover tightly and let stand in a
warm place for 24 hours.

The second day, add 2 cups of the rye flour, stir, and let stand
24 hours more. Stir in the salt and the final amount of flour,
but do not exceed nine cups. Knead, by hand or in a heavy duty
mixer, for 30 minutes.

The dough should be very sticky. With damp hands and a dough
scraper, shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl again.
Sprinkle with just enough flour to make the top of the dough dry.
Let rise 1-1/2 hours in a warm place.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide into 2 parts.
Lightly grease 2 baking sheets and cover with a thick coating of
dark rye flour.

For a loaf with a hole in the middle, shape each half into a round
loaf about 8 inches in diameter. With a floured finger, press a
hole in the center of each loaf. Brush loaves generously with
water and sprinkle with a generous coating of rye flour. (The
reason for this shape use to be storage - the Finns would bake them
in massive quantities and store them by stacking them on poles or
hanging on ropes.) When cutting this shape - simply cut thin

For round loaves, shape each part into a ball. Roll the ball around
on a rye floured board into it resembles a huge chocolate drop with
a slightly pointed top. Place loaves on the baking sheets with
the point upwards. You may put both loaves on the same sheet if
it is large enough. Brush with water and sprinkle the tops with
more flour. The extra wetting and heavy sprinkling with flour
produces a very thick, hard crust that helps keep this loaf (if
uncut) for a long time.

Place shaped loaves in a warm place till they have flattened out,
spread apart, and the tops appear crackled.

Place a large pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat oven to
350 F. Fill the pan with boiling water.

Bake the loaves for 1 hour or until firm. Wrap bakes loaves in
towels or waxed paper to soften.

Do not try cutting this loaf until it's cool. As it is, the loaf
does take some effort to cut. If you don't have a chainsaw, :)
just patiently work away with a bread knife. Believe me, the taste
is worth it!

When you make this bread, you need to plan ahead. It takes 48
hours for the dough to sour. It slices best on the second day
after baking. Apparently you can keep this rye bread refrigerated
for several months, or freeze them. Historically the Finns baked
these loaves twice a year (spring and fall) so I would guess they
have great keeping qualities. All I can guarantee is that they
last quite nicely unrefrigerated for about a week--that's about
how long they last in my house!!


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