Karelian Piroques are a popular Finnish pasty, originating in the east of Finland, Karelia. Every visitor to a Finnish house will be served these tasty savoury pastries. Home made ones are the best, variance occurs. Hanna’s grandmother taught her how to make them, the authentic Karelian way, and of course everybody’s granny makes the best ones! Otherwise known as Helsinki granny, she was a Karelian native who moved to Helsinki after the war when a large part of Karelia was given to Russian as part of a peace treaty in 1945.
What makes a real Karelian piroque authentic is that the rye based pastry is rolled really thin. The filling is added, the pastry folded and pinched to make pleats and then cooked in a really hot oven. The pastry cooks hard, but upon removal from the oven, melted butter is brushed on top of each piroque. The melted butter soaks into the pastry, leaving it soft and tasty. Karelian piroques are best served warm and an ample dollop of egg butter on top.
The traditional fillings were either barley porridge or mashed turnip. These days the most common filling is rice, like rice pudding but savoury. Potato is also commonly used. My favourite is turnip, but other fillings could be used such as beetroot or pumpkin. There is plenty of chances to experiment, sweet potato and butternut squash are two alternatives and there is no reason why one could not add spices to the mix.
Hanna decided it was time to pass on her familial recipe and technique to me, to share the tradition of Karelia with her Irish man. The real skill is mastering the pulikka, the rolling pin used for Karelian piroques. After a couple of odd shaped attempts were produced, i started to get the hang of it, and after the batch was completed Hanna reckoned Helsinki granny would be proud of my effort, that there was a happy granny looking down from the heavens.
Karelian Piroques – Recipe
- 200ml water
- 1tsp. salt
- 450ml rye flour (It has to be rye. You can get in health stores)
- 100ml white spelt flour (or wheat)
1) potato mash
2) turnip mash
3) Rice porridge
For the potato mash:
- 10 potatoes
- 1tbsp. butter
For the turnip mash:
- 1kg turnip
- 1tbsp. honey or syrup (mixture of golden syrup and black treacle 2:1)
- pinch of ground ginger
- salt and pepper
For the rice porridge:
- 300ml rice (short grain like for rice pudding or follow instruction on package for amount of rice to milk)
- 1, 5 l milk (or soy milk)
For brushing: quite a bit of melted butter
Fillings – Method
- Make first the porridge or the mashes. For the porridge: boil the rice in milk until soft and thick (porridge). Add salt. Let cool.
- For the potato mash: peel the potatoes and cook in salty water until very soft. Take care that they don’t become watery. Mash and mix with butter, add salt to taste. Let cool.
- For the turnip mash: peel the turnip and cut into small cubes. Cook in salty water until very soft. Try to cook all the water away, not to pour it away. Mash and add the honey/syrup, ginger, salt and pepper. Let cool.
Method for the pastry:
- Mix flours, water and salt with hands until you get flexible pastry.
- Make a ball and roll it into a fat sausage. Then cut into 25-30 pieces.
- Cover with some flour to stop trying.
- Put the oven to heat as hot as you can. Ideal would be 300°C, but most of the modern ovens heat only upto 250°C.
- Take then the pastry pieces one by one, clean excess flour off, roll between your hands to a ball and flatten against table. These are called kakkara.
- Cover each formed kakkara with some flour to stop them drying.
- Take kakkaras one by one. Brush of the excess flour and roll with rolling pin on a floured table to very thin circles. The thinner the better.
- Finnish rolling pin for these type of pastry is pulikka, a piece of wood which gets thinner towards both ends. While rolling the kakkara should turn under the rolling pin in circle. This might need a bit of practice… In fact most of the Finns don’t know how to do this, so roll whatever way you want as long as the kakkaras get thin.
- Lay rolled kakkara aside and cover with flour. Lay next kakkara when rolled on the top of the first one and cover with flour as well. Continue like this until you have all the kakkaras rolled, and a pile on flat round pastries.
Filling – Method
- Take the one on the top of the pile. Brush carefully off all the excess flour from both sides. Lay on the table and put filling in the middle along the whole diameter of the pastry circle.
- With your fingers pinch the pastry up on both sides of the filling to form pleats. The pastry should be now oval in shape and in the middle a filling stripe should be visible. Put on a buttered oven tray.
- When all pastries are prepared put them in the oven and bake for 12- 15min at highest setting.
- Remove from oven and brush with melted butter while they are still hot.
- Wrap into baking / greaseproof paper to soften for 10min.
Eat when still warm. If you eat them later they are better to be heated up. Traditionally they are eaten with butter or eggbutter.
- 3 eggs
- 50g butter
Boil the eggs hard and mash roughly with fork. Add the butter and salt to taste and mix well.