Finnish Ruis Bread Harnesses the Powers of Rye

Ruis bread, decked out in butter and cucumbers.
Ruis bread, decked out in butter and cucumbers.

While the idea of a freshly baked loaf of bread -- or really anything that emerges from a burning oven -- isn't overtly appealing in the middle of a heat wave, Finnish ruis bread provides an unlikely balm to the crippling temperatures.

Made by Nordic Breads in Long Island City, ruis bread gets its distinctive look and texture from rye flour -- ruis is Finnish for rye. Sold in flat rounds that look like the love child of a bagel and a pancake, it's incredibly dense and chewy: While the Nordic Breads website says that, according to Finnish folklore, "Ruis gives power to the wrists," it may give even more power to the jaw. That said, it's not unpleasantly tough, and it boasts a wonderfully tangy flavor.

Ruis bread is widely touted for its healthful properties (whole grains, antioxidants, etc.), but like the best health foods, it plays well with somewhat less salubrious partners, such as butter and Nutella -- and because the bread is so dense, it can support very liberal applications. Most important, it makes an excellent foundation for lots of cold foods, such as smoked salmon, sliced cucumbers, and farmer's cheese, which is why it's actually pleasant to consume in 101-degree weather. And if nothing else, the name will make you think of colder climes, which is perhaps the best kind of mirage this sort of weather can inspire.

Ruis bread is sold at the New Amsterdam Market and also through the Nordic Breads online store; the latter offers the added convenience of purchasing in air-conditioned surroundings.

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