Finnish Rice Tarts (Karelian Pastries)

This is a very different kind of pie, one that’s neither sweet nor savory, that has an almost bread-like crust and a soft, melting centre. It reminds me of food you’d give children, foods that are sort mellow and comforting. The mild taste of these pastries means that you can top them with anything you like; my Estonian friend Evelin came to London last weekend, and she said that her family would eat their Karelian pastries with cheese or jam. You can also eat them with egg butter (the Nordic version of egg salad) which is just what it sounds like: hard-boiled eggs mixed with a bit of butter. I’m a big lover of egg salad, so I’ll have to try that.

This recipe was also a chance to try out one of my friend Hanna’s recipes. She has kindly posted all sorts of Finnish favourites on Facebook, but I’ll have to entice her to start a blog of her own. I’ve written about some of my childhood favourites–banana bread, apple pie, simple white bread–here already, so it’s great to test out someone else’s.

Karelian Pastries, adapted from a recipe by Hanna Aarniluoma. (I’ve changed a few of the measurements here, as using decilitres confuses me.)

Pastry:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Filling:

  • 1 cup short-grained rice (I used arborio)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 litre whole milk (I didn’t have this much milk on hand, so I used Kara coconut milk)
  • 1-2 tsp salt

Make the rice pudding filling the night before: Cook the rice in the water until it’s almost tender and the water is absorbed, then add the milk and salt. Cook until the rice breaks down, which will probably take around two hours. The next day, mix a beaten egg into the pudding mix.

Now preheat your oven to 400 degrees Farenheit and make the pastry: Mix the water, salt and flours so that the dough is thick and not too sticky. You may need more flour (I certainly did). Add the oil, mix again, and divide the dough into 20 pieces. Shake flour onto your surface and roll out the pieces very thinly. Add a spoonful of rice pudding onto each piece and crinkle the sides of the pastry up and over the pudding. Lay the pastries onto a baking sheet dusted with more flour and bake for ten minutes or until the pastries are slightly golden-coloured. While they’re cooking, boil 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup butter and brush some of the mix over the hot cooked pastries. You can eat these with egg butter, jam or cheese.



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