Demystifying Finnish Flour *Updated*

I like to bake. People have been known to covet my pie and my pancakes have garnered acclaim on two continents. And then there’s my bread and my pizza dough. I mean, when it comes to baking, I know what I’m doing, right? I have conquered high-altitude baking. I unraveled the mysteries of British flour from strong to self-rising. And yet, after seven months, I’m just starting to figure out Finnish flour, and doing a lot more research on it than I was expecting! Oh yeah, and here I am four months later revising it again to include even more info!!

Part of it might just be the Finnish language. For all its rules and structure, there are still several ways to say just about everything. And each brand seems to do its naming conventions slightly differently. I’m trying hard not to think that they’ve done this intentionally to confound me! Here’s an example: Luomu means organic in Finnish. I try to buy organic whenever I can, so I look for this. Sometimes the word Luomu is just on the bag, but sometimes it’s incorporated into the name of the flour itself. So Luomuvehnäjauho (organic wheat flour) is the same as Vehnäjauho Luomu (wheat flour, organic). Seems simple in an of itself, except that if you’re shopping with children and trying to hang on to the subtleties of the different types of milk and yogurt too, it might be just a little bit too much to take in.

The first bit of advice I got on Finnish flour was from a fellow American expat here in Helsinki. She said, when all else fails, get the flour with the pulla on the bag. That would be Sunnuntai Erikoisvehnäjauho (Sunday Special Wheat Flour in English). I’m taking a guess that this is designated special because it’s the flour used for Finland’s amazing cinnamon buns (kanelipulla or korvapuusti depending on the whether you lay the dough spirals upright or on their side before baking and whether you include cardamom or not). Sunnuntai (Sunday) is the brand name, and the company has a fairly helpful Finnish flour primer on its web site. Myllyn Paras also provides a similar guide to its flour, but the English language translations leave off some key words that you’ll find below!

Branching out from the pulla flour presents some challenges. Here are some helpful words to know (besides jauho, which is the Finnish word for flour):

  • täysjyvä or kokojyvä or graham* – wholegrain
  • vehnä – wheat
  • kakku – cake (as in cake flour)
  • karkea or maalais – coarse/rustic (also sometimes seen as semi-coarse or puolikarkea)
  • ruis – rye
  • sihtiruisjauho or ruissithijauho- fine-milled rye flour
  • tuore – fresh (this can show up if you buy flour from co-ops or the market)
  • Sämpyläjauho, hiivaleipajauho – These two provide the name of what you bake with it right in the name of the flour–rolls and “yeast bread”

* Although everything I’ve read indicates that the word graham means, in fact, whole-wheat and not graham like graham crackers, I recently bought Pirkka’s Luomu Grahamjauho and it appears to be plain white flour like you’d use in pancakes, muffins, etc. So the mystery continues!

The Nordic Recipe Archive has a page on flour and also has a nice glossary of Finnish food terms that are both worth checking out if you’re struggling! It also conveniently points out that the reason I haven’t found anything resembling high-gluten bread flour here in Finland is because it’s too darn cold for the gluten to develop in the wheat crops here. Fascinating!

5 thoughts on “Demystifying Finnish Flour *Updated*

  1. I rarely bake. I say I am too busy but the real reason is that then I would eat it all. Althought I want the kids to have memories of us baking so sometimes we do that. But I do not have relationship with my flour 🙂

    I thought I would use Vehnäjauho for everything I would do, but when looking in the cupboard, I can see there are some Hiivaleipäjauho and Grahamjauho. Without any knowledge, just a gut feeling, I would say Grahamjauho is not fully wholegrain but a mixture of wholegrain and wheat – and the brands would do the mix on very different scales.

    Hope you will be able to demystify it all before it is time for you to leave Finland!

  2. It was the Nordic recipe archive that clued me in that the grahamjauho would be anything other than graham flour. It claims that grahamjauho translates to whole wheat flour, but I don’t think the stuff I bought was whole-wheat OR graham as we know it in the US. Weird, eh? The research continues!

  3. Strange about the Pirkka graham flour. The one I’ve bought here before was like graham as in graham crackers. I used it for making S’mores brownies. Hmmm.

  4. I never realized how complicated this all was! But it IS the reason I learned Swedish first. Everything is much easier to guess at tin Swedish. Hiivaleipä, by the way, is a particular kind of bread that has some other grains added in so it isn’t plain white or bleached. But I’m on my way to buy some Pirkka graham and see what it is because it sure should be ww!
    I’ve lived here a long time so you are very welcome to address questions to me anytime.

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