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Karelian pasty has Traditional Specialty Guaranteed status

Photo Credit: STAFF PHOTOS: BARB RANDALL - Paivi Kilpi-Cramer demonstrates how to make traditional Karjalanpiirakkat, or Karelian Rice Pasties.

No. 6 in my series of weekly food finds is a delicious treat from Finland — Karjalanpiirakkat, also known as Karelian Rice Pasties. They must be made with at least half dark rye flour and a filling made of rice, barley or potato.

Finnish immigrant Paivi Kilpi-Cramer demonstrated how to make this Finnish traditional food at the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation’s Cook and Eat class recently. She explained in her delightful accent that these beautifully shaped pasties originally were made in her native region of Karelia, an area located between Finland and Russia. Her mother baked them regularly while she was growing up, and they were a common treat at the coffee table when guests dropped by, when there was a celebration in the family or for holidays.

“There were always Karelian pasties in the freezer just in case someone popped in unexpected,” she said. Since she moved to the United States in 1996 she has been making them for friends and family, and usually makes 50 or more at a time.

They are appropriate for breakfast, lunch and dinner and are often used as bases for appetizers. Traditionally, they are topped with an egg-butter spread, but you could top them with smoked salmon, cheese or reindeer sausage.

As with most traditional foods, these are made of simple ingredients. The method of preparation is simple, also, though it does take time to prepare a batch. But it can’t be that bad if Paivi usually makes 50 at a time. I helped roll out the dough and crimped the dough around the filling — they are fun to make.

The crimping of the dough around the filling makes for a very pretty presentation. You could use this technique to make any number of fancy looking appetizers: mushroom tartlets using pie dough; caramelized onions and olives in pizza dough. Even fruit tarts could be made using the crimping technique.

Following is Paivi’s recipe for Karjalanpiirakkat. It is written as she speaks and I didn’t want to lose that quality. It’s part of our shared Scandinavian heritage.

Notice the pasties in varying degrees on completion on the work surface. The one at the far right is crimped and ready to go in the oven. Next to it is one with the dough just folded over the rice filling. The pasties closest to Paivi have been spread with the filling and await folding and crimping. There is a stack of dough rounds next to the rolling pin.

She served them warm, topped with a mixture of minced hardboiled eggs mashed with butter. Don’t be fooled by the blandness of the ingredients. These are the perfect unique bread and will pair well with cheeses, fruits, fish, meat — experiment and share pictures of your creations on our Facebook page.

Bon Appetite — Eat something wonderful!

HyvÍÍ ruokahalua — Syödä jotain ihanaa!

The dough is folded up over the rice filling and crimped to make this attractive pasty. Randall plans on using the crimping technique with other doughs, too, to make attractive sweet and savory tarts.

Karjalanpiirakkat - Karelian Rice Pasties

Makes 16-20 depending on size


1 cup water

2/3 cup white rice

3 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 egg beaten*

Rinse the rice before cooking. Boil the water in a saucepan and add rice. After it starts boiling, turn the temperature to medium and add milk. Cook the mixture, stirring often to prevent milk from scorching the bottom of pan. Lower temperature as needed; cook for 20-30 minutes. Add salt when the filling is almost ready. The filling will be ready when the rice is soft and all the milk is absorbed. Cool the filling down. It is best if made a day ahead.

*If you are making the filling the same day, add the egg to the filling after it has cooled down. Beat the egg and mix it thoroughly into the rice filling. The egg will help prevent the milk from boiling over in the oven when baking the pasties.


2/3 cup water

2 teaspoons oil or butter, optional

1 teaspoon salt, optional

1 1/4 cup dark rye flour plus 2-3 cups for kneading the dough and rolling out crusts

1/2 cup whole wheat or white flour

Mix water, oil if using, salt and whole wheat flour in a mixing bowl by hand. Add dark rye flour, a third at a time, and mix the dough well. Knead the dough in the bowl for a couple of minutes, making sure it is well mixed and it gets viscosity. Form the dough into a ball and then flatten it a bit with hands. Sprinkle plenty of rye flour on the rolling surface and place the dough on it and roll it with the rolling pin so that it is about 1/8 inch thick. Make sure to check all the time the dough does not stick on the surface and if needed add more rye flour underneath.

Make rounds with a round cookie cutter. Set the rounds aside and reroll rest of the dough now after kneading it back to a ball or do that after you have done first set of your pasties. To keep the remaining dough moist keep it under plastic film or in a plastic bag as it dries fast.

Take one round of dough and place it on floured surface and start rolling it thinner with a rolling pin.

Place the rolled dough in a pile and finish rolling all of them. The dough sticks to the rolling surface and rolling pin very easily, so make sure to have enough rye flour on the surface as well as on the dough when rolling. When you have all your rounds rolled, use a knife or a brush to clean the area clean of the rye flour where you are going to fill the rounds.

If the rounds have lots of flour stuck into the bottom use gently an egg brush to remove the excess. Fill a few crusts at a time so they don’t dry out. Spoon about 1/3 cup of the filling in the middle of the round and gently spread it with a spoon. Leave the edges free.

Next, start folding the crust edges from the sides on the rice filling. Then using both first fingers start pushing the edge in folds. Start at the middle of the sides and go first up; then turn the pie around to do the other end.

When your pasties are done use spatula to place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Pies can be quite close together as they won’t expand. They will rather shrink a bit in the oven. Bake in 480-500 F for about 20 minutes, so they have a little brown color on the rice. In Finland, they are baked in 300 C, and that is 570 F. Less time is needed with higher temperature.

While your pasties are in the oven heat 1-1 1/2 cups of milk in a saucepan and add some butter (1-2 tablespoons depending on how much butter you like.)When your pasties are baked take them out of the oven and either dip them all the way into the hot milk or dip only the top in — your choice.

Making these pasties can be challenging. There are several factors you will learn only by making them, such as how thick the filling should be, how much salt to use, how much flour to use when making the dough and rolling them, how to fold the edges, how big to make the pasties. They can be made as small hors d’oeuvres or bigger sandwich size ones or anything in between.

Recipe courtesy of Paivi Kilpi-Cramer

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter @barbrandallfood.

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