Home » Bread » Rieska – a barley flatbread from Lapland

Rieska – a barley flatbread from Lapland

by Saara

Yes, it might be a bit difficult to pronounce [‘ries. ka] but it is a very easy bread to make. It’s one kind of Nordic flatbread solely made with barley flour. Rieska is a Northern bread to its core. Think about Aurora Borealis, winter wilderness, and warming up indoors with a bowl of soup in one hand and a piece of rieska in the other.

This does not mean it’s only baked in winter, though! And no no no, rieska is not a Finnish equivalent for pita bread but something very unique, rustic and original. It’s that kind of bread that you would enjoy with a meal of game, or cold-smoked fish or other strong flavors.

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Get to know my Heirloom Recipe

I’ve grown up with this bread and I’m accustomed to the strong taste of barley. The recipe is given by my mother whose pastry peel you can spot in the photo above.

Etymology of the word rieska tells that it used to be a categorical synonym to bread in general. Nowadays rieska means only this kind of flatbread specifically but it is baked differently across the country. If you google rieska, you’ll find regional variations.

In the Nordics, rieska is also known from Swedish Lapland where it is called tunnbröd. Tunnbröd is a soft version and includes also wheat. But this recipe here is the Northernmost Lapland version and includes only barley.

Now, rieska is very flexible in terms of size and thickness. It can be baked crispy or soft. I like to bake my rieska quite thin and crispy whereas both of my grandmothers baked the loaves twice the size of my loaves. That was one chunky bite of bread for a kid back then! I wish you have fun with the decorating and enjoy the nutty taste of barley!

Lapin rieska | Barley flatbread from Lapland

You need a baking stone | Oven 250-275°C or 480-525°F | Bake each loaf 10-12 minutes

Pastry roll in bread decorating

RIESKA | Barley Flatbread from Lapland

Yes, it might be a bit difficult to pronounce [‘ries. ka] but it is a very easy bread to make. It’s one kind of Nordic flatbread solely made with barley flour.… Bread #rieska #flatbread #barley #nordic #finnish Finnish Print This
Makes/Serves: 4-6 loaves Cooking/Prepping:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat

INGREDIENTS

  • 3,75 dl / 1,59 cups of water (room temperature)
  • 0,5 tsp sea salt
  • 7 g fresh yeast or 0,5 tsp baking powder
  • 5-7 dl / 2,11-2,96 cups of barley flour

METHOD

1. Dissolve the fresh yeast into a small amount of water. Add the rest of the water and salt. Add flour one decilitre/cup at a time. Mix all the ingredients together without kneading either by hand or in a machine. The dough should be moist rather than dry. The amount of flour needed depends on the milling and the freshness of the flour. Do not add too much flour or otherwise, the bread will become too dense.

2. Divide the dough into equal pieces and shape them to the thickness of your choice. Each rieska is baked individually on a stone. This gives you a chance to explore different levels of thickness and thinness if you wish. My rieskas here were about 0.5-0.7 cm thin before baking because I prefer them rather rustic.

3. Shaping is done on a lightly floured surface and has a process as follows. Form a piece of dough into a ball and then press it flat against the surface. Knead the flat circle a bit wider by pressing it with your dominant hand while supporting the edge to hold the shape with your other hand. Make sure that the dough is not stuck onto the working surface (detach it from the table couple of times during the process to make sure).

4. Use a rolling pin back & forth between each opposing compass points. Take a small amount of flour to your hand and with a clock-wise lightly pressing motion massage it to the surface. Roll the pin couple of times more if the thinness is not there where you want it to be. The surface should be smooth before decorating the bread. Use whatever you fancy decorating the bread as long as you can hold it on a 45-degree angle. Or if you have a decorated rolling pin, spin it!

5. Prick the rieska all over with a fork right before each piece goes to the oven. Bake each rieska separately on a stone for 10-12 minutes (250°C). Do follow the heating directions of your baking stone & adjust accordingly. The baking time depends on the thickness but the edges of the bread should get a bit of color. You can ensure that the rieska is ready by listening to it (knock the bottom and if it sounds hollow it's done). Return the bread to the oven if you think it needs a bit more time.

6. When warm, stack the rieska loaves in an upright position against e.g. kitchen backsplash and later wrap them in a tea towel. You can store rieska also in the freezer and reheat quickly in the oven.

Finnish rieska

How to decorate Rieska?

You see in this post how I’ve been decorating with the bread loaves with a pastry wheel. I think this trick is invented every week somewhere in the world so I might just tell the story how it has entered into my kitchen routines.

My mother and aunts learned how to bake rieska from their mothers, who learned from their mothers and so on and so on. I’ve seen many stages of how the loaves have been decorated.

At some point in my childhood, my mother started to use this pastry wheel technique and it has stuck with me ever since. I see photos floating around which show that some bakers do not decorate rieska at all. Very simple and humble option.

My grandmothers used to bake these in their big country homes in wood-fired ovens. It has been a dream of mine to build an outdoor wood-fired oven in the garden. Baking bread is hot stuff and during summer it’s quite impossible. But with an outdoor oven, there would be so many more possibilities. Do you have tips for that?

Barley is not wheat and rieska is not everyday breakfast bread. To me it’s a culinary companion for stronger flavors and main dishes. Although I have to admit, it’s irresistible when warm from the oven, topped with plain butter and washed away with glass of cold milk. Yum!

Did you enjoy this rustic bread? Please share in the comments below or tag me along on Instagram 🙂

My vintage cookin on instagram

Love, Saara

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4 comments

Voss 2020-01-03 - 8:03 PM

This looks beautiful! My husband is Upper Michigan (Yooper) Finnish. He has a lot of things from childhood he requests I make. We make the rye crisp bread. But never barley. He said his grandpa used to drink barley water. This will do well in our Aga. Thanks. And I like the pastry wheel decoration. Gonna try that!

Reply
Saara 2020-01-04 - 12:12 PM

Haha I can relate! We all have those nostalgic food memories 🙂 Wonderful to hear that you’re making him those treats & I’m happy this recipe can be part of that. Let me know how it goes with Aga. I’ve only baked these on a baking stone in an electric oven. Another modified rieska recipe I use to make when cooking outdoors with bonfire.

Reply
Karen Burns 2018-10-03 - 9:44 PM

Beautiful breads. Looking forward to giving these a try! Now that it is Fall, I’m anxious to try some new breads.

Reply
saara 2018-10-03 - 10:09 PM

Thanks so much Karen! I was feeling that too and that’s why I started this 10 recipes tour – rethinking different flavours for every week! Let me know if you try rieska, it’s quite special and goes wonderfully with game & smoked fish. 🙂

Reply

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