Home » Savory » Homemade Karelian Pies with Rice Filling | Recipe

Homemade Karelian Pies with Rice Filling | Recipe

by Saara

Whether you have enjoyed these delicious hand pies before or not, save this recipe for homemade Karelian pies because these savory pasties are best fresh from the oven.

Yet commercial Karelian pies are a common everyday snack found in every cafe and grocery store across Finland, homemade Karelian pasties are festive food. Truly, each pie is handcrafted and a piece of art.

The first literary notes of Karelian pies are from 1686. However, traditionally rye crusted open pasties are to be found from both sides of the Karelia region across Finland and Russia. The fillings of rye crusted pies have evolved throughout the time when cultivation diversified. Moreover, the pies have both sweet and savory fillings.

In this post, we’ll bake specifically Karelian pies which name came to be when this savory pasty became popular beyond the Karelia region after the 1940s wars. Karelian pie should not be confused with “Rönttönen” from the Kainuu region.

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What makes the Karjalanpiirakka unique?

The characteristics of Karelian pies are well documented because these unique pasties hold Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) status in the EU. The Cornish pasties hold the same status, for example, they are to be baked with at least 12.5% beef and 25% vegetable content like in the traditional recipe. 

Characteristics and history are valued, the ingredients and process are well known. And this is a good thing because the rye crusted pasties come in different sizes, fillings, and traditions. The following details will give you a good idea of what you should aim for when baking Karelian pirogs.

Karelian pasties…

  • are small oval pasties with an open exposed filling in the middle
  • have a rather flat profile so you don’t need to exaggerate with the filling
  • originally these pies were filled with barley porridge, then potato, and finally with rice porridge when rice became available
  • the rye crust is rolled out thin and the pasty bakes crispy in a very HOT oven
  • the size of Karelian pies varies between 7cm – 20cm (2.8-7.9 inch)
  • the crinkled look is achieved by pressing the folded edges with fingers

Tips for baking Karelian Pies

My husband’s grandmothers are from the old Karelia and he has been pampered with these delicious pies all his life. I, on the other hand, survived long days at the University by snacking on the commercially produced Karelian pasties. They are good too, but the contrast is real.

Because I have had to learn to bake these pies with zero experience, I assure you can bake beautiful Karelian pies, too. My first pasties looked like copies of the store-bought pies and now I’m learning to make them like my husband’s auntie decorates them.

It’s fun to develop your own style of crinkling the edges, there’s no wrong way of doing it.

Keep these tips in mind

  • The starting point is making the rice filling. You can prepare it the evening before.
  • Making the rye crust is simple, just give rye a moment to settle before kneading all of the flour in.
  • Choose finely milled rye flour, it makes a beautifully smooth dough. E.g. King Arthur Classic Medium Organic Rye* and Doves Farm Organic White Rye Flour*
  • When making the dough discs, a French rolling pin e.g. this 20-inch pin by Fletchers’ Mill* is your best friend. Don’t have a French rolling pin? Use a dumpling rolling pin but be sure to roll the discs to even thickness.
  • The crust is rolled very thin, think about 2mm or 0.07 inches. This makes the crinkling a challenge if you have very long nails (check).
  • Karelian pies are baked crispy in a hot oven without parchment paper
warm homemade karelian pies with rice filling recipe

Homemade Karelian Pies | Recipe

The following recipe yields somewhat 24-26 Karelian pies. This is a nice even number of pies to bake along with 3-4 sets of trays depending on the size of your oven.

I use a mix of fine medium rye and dark rye. Some recipes also include oil and wheat, I don’t understand why you would want to add them and besides oil doesn’t belong to the authentic ingredient list.

You can make these pasties with any type of rye flour, really. However, the smoothness will be different and you must balance the amount of liquid as you make the dough. Don’t stress.

warm homemade karelian pies with rice filling recipe

Homemade Karelian Pies with Rice Filling

Print recipe
Makes/Serves: 24-26 pasties Prep Time: Cooking time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat

INGREDIENTS

RICE FILLING

  • 270g boiling water
  • 170g starchy, short-grain rice 
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 litre whole milk
  • 8-10g salt 

 

RYE PASTY DOUGH

  • 250g cold water
  • 250g finely milled white or medium rye
  • 110g dark rye
  • 8g salt 
  • Extra rye flour for shaping

 

DIPPING MIXTURE

  • 70g butter
  • 200ml milk

 

 

METHOD

RICE FILLING

  • You can prepare the filling the night before. In a heavy-bottomed kettle, bring water to boil and then add a little bit of butter. Wash the short-grain rice. Boil the rice in the kettle until all of the water has almost absorbed.
  • Add whole milk, gently stir and reduce to medium-low heat. 
  • Let the porridge bubble at low-medium heat under a lid. Keep an eye on the kettle and give the rice porridge a gentle stir every once in a while so that the rice doesn't stick to the bottom.
  • Cook until the rice is done and the porridge has a creamy consistency, 30-40 minutes. Add salt to taste and a tiny bit of butter.
  • When the rice porridge cools, it will get more firmness yet hold its easily spreadable consistency. Store in the fridge.

 

RYE PASTY DOUGH

Take the rice filling to room temperature once you start making the dough. If the filling feels too stiff, a quick fix is to add a small egg and mix until smooth.

  • In a heavy baking bowl, add salt into cold water. Once absorbed, start adding rye flour. Mix rye flour first with a spatula leaving 70grams of fine rye flour to wait. Wait up to 10 minutes.
  • Continue working on the rye dough with your hands adding the rest of the rye flour in. Knead the dough gently until you have a firm but smooth dough, it should not stick to your hands anymore. Shape the mass into a ball and cover the dough carefully with cling film.

 

SHAPING THE DOUGH 

Once you're ready to shape and fill the pies, preheat the oven to 275°C / 527°F (up to 300°C / 572°F). Keep the rye dough covered at all times when you're not working on it to avoid drying.

  • Place a plate of extra rye flour next to your baking desk so that you can lightly flour the desk surface as you shape.
  • Start working on the dough by shaping it into a log of 5 cm / 2 inches in diameter. Divide the log into 26 pieces. Or divide the log into 2 pieces, repeat and then divide the 4 sections into 6 pieces. You should now have 24 pieces of dough (as a reference, mine were 22-25g in weight). 
  • Shape each piece of dough into a smooth ball and then flatten. Use more rye flour if needed. Lightly flour each flat dough piece so that they don't stick to each other and finally cover them under a cling film / damp cloth. 
  • Start shaping the pies one at a time. With a French rolling pin, roll each flat piece of dough into a circular round shape of even thickness. Think about max. 2mm or 0.07 inches.
  • It's okay to make the rolled dough into a ball again and switch it to a new piece of flat dough if you made a mistake or two with the rolling.
  • Lightly flour the thin discs and stack them on top of each other. Keep them under a cover to avoid drying.

 

FILLING THE PIE

  • When you have enough discs to fill a first baking tray, warm up the dipping milk and start filling the pies. 
  • First, dust off any excess rye flour. Place rice filling in the middle of the pie, up to 2 tablespoons or so. Spread the filling towards the edges, a thin even layer of filling. Leave 1-2cm / 0.6-0.7 inches empty space around the filling so that you have enough dough to decorate the sides.
  • Turn the opposite sides of the pie into the middle leaving the filling open. Start crinkling from the middle: press with your fingers and push the dough towards the last wave. Continue until you reach the endpoint nearest to you and press the lower corner point. Turn the pie 180° and repeat. Again, crinkle from the middle, pushing and pressing with your fingers until you reach the second endpoint. Avoid pinching! Beware of nails!

 

OVEN BAKE

  • Once the first pie is filled, dust your baking tray with rye flour on the spots where you're placing the pies. One by one, fill the pies and transfer them into the baking tray. Once full, bake them in the oven for 10-15 minutes depending on your oven heat (mine baked for 12-13 minutes).
  • Continue to roll the discs as you wait for the first tray of pies to bake but keep an eye on them the last minutes to avoid burning. Fill the second batch of pies once you have finalized the first pasties with the dipping.

 

DIPPING MIXTURE

Karelian pies are dipped/brushed with a milk-butter mixture to soften the crust and this also gives the pasties indulgent glazing. 

  • Once out of the oven,  dip each pie in the warm milk-butter mixture. Set the hot pies on parchment paper to drip excess liquid before transferring them on a cooling tray which you keep covered with a kitchen towel. 
  • Alternatively, you can brush each pie with the mixture but dipping in the liquid is quicker.

 

HOW TO STORE

Karelian pies are kept in the fridge or stored in the freezer for later enjoyment.

NOTES

If you don't have a French rolling pin, use a dumpling pin but be sure to roll each dough disc evenly. After the bake, alternatively, you can dip the pastries in warm milk, or water to soften the crust. Once cooled, keep Karelian pies in the fridge or store the pasties in the freezer.

Did you make this recipe?
Tag me on Instagram @myvintagecooking

How to eat Karelian Pasties?

The classic combo is to enjoy Karelian Pies with egg butter. This is a very popular duo on smorgasbord servings and parties. When I bake the potato puree filled pasties, my favorite snack is to warm a pie with cheese.

When fresh and warm from the oven, I don’t need anything extra on top of the pie. The crispy rye crust, the milk-butter dip, and creamy rice filling are all I want to experience.

It’s a good idea to bake a good amount of pies when you decide to make them. It’s a win-win situation – you learn the process and technique while the extra pasties can sit in the freezer for later enjoyment. The 24-26 pies this recipe yields is a perfect starting point to learn baking Karelian pies.

I hope you enjoy this homemade Karelian pies recipe. Do tag me along on Instagram if you bake them, I would love to see. :)

Love, Saara

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