For the love of good bread
Arctic Swan Bakery in Pennsylvania serves up traditional Finnish sourdough rye
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
Last summer, I took a baking class (by Zoom!) to learn how to make sourdough bread at home. Though my first loaf totally flopped, I was totally hooked. I began sharing loaves and jars of starter with friends and neighbors. With the wonderful variety of different grains available, I plan to expand my sourdough bread repertoire this year.
I was truly excited when I learned about Arctic Swan Bakery, which specializes in traditional Finnish sourdough loaves made with 100% rye.
Based in Easton, Pa., Arctic Swan Bakery bakes aito ruisleipä (authentic sourdough rye bread), pulla, and other sweet treats to ship to customers all over the United States.
I spoke by phone with Mimi Adams, the owner and baker of Arctic Swan Bakery, to learn about her love of good bread.
The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Christy Olsen Field: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into baking?
Mimi Adams: My name is Mirja Adams, but everybody knows me by Mimi. I was born in Finland and moved here temporarily in my mid-20s to improve my English. Well, I never left! I met the love of my life—and the rest is history.
A couple of decades later, I found myself sitting in an empty kitchen, when the last of my four kids started school full-time. I was asking myself, “What now?” To fill my empty space in life, I turned to baking, as it has been my very beloved hobby all my life. Now it was time to do what I always wanted to do: I wanted to learn how to make authentic Finnish sourdough rye bread, aito ruisleipä.
I simply started from scratch, reading and comparing recipes, interviewing experts, and starting my own fermented dough.
Fast forward six months, my friends started ordering my bread, and the word started to spread. I took feedback from people and tweaked my recipe. Before I knew it, I was baking in my kitchen till the wee hours of the night to fill the oncoming orders. We officially opened for business in July 2017.
We ship our items by UPS to customers all over the United States. My largest clientele is Texas and California, and Michigan and Florida, too.
COF: What makes Finnish sourdough rye bread unique?
MA: Sourdough rye bread is a pantry staple in every Finnish household. It’s used for breakfast, lunch and snacks, either plainly toasted with butter, topped with cheese and cucumber, smoked salmon or a variety of cold cuts or salads.
Sourdough rye bread is very simple and healthy food, and is made from a live culture. There is nothing artificial in it. It is high in fiber, which fills you up and keeps you satisfied longer. It has no dairy, no added sugars, no yeast, and no wheat. It is low in gluten and has a low glycemic index, meaning that your blood sugar doesn’t spike and then crash down as fast, which can make you feel sluggish and hungry again. It is also vegan and baked with mostly organic flour. You can learn more about the health benefits of rye in this article from Daily Finland [in English]: www.dailyfinland.fi/health/16716/Research-clarifies-health-benefits-of-oat-rye-brans
I have several customers who didn’t eat bread for years due to food allergies or sensitivities, but they tried my sourdough rye and they don’t get a stomachache from it. They can enjoy bread again with sourdough rye.
COF: Where did you get the inspiration for the name Arctic Swan?
MA: I wanted the name to reflect the origin of my inspiration: home, my roots, Finland, Scandinavia. The swan is the national bird of Finland. I was looking for words that were beautiful, elegant, clean, and fresh, just as an image of my bakery.
COF: Do you offer other items beyond Finnish sourdough rye bread?
MA: The sourdough rye takes about 95% of our time. Recently we added pulla, a sweet braided coffee bread with cardamom and toppled with pearl sugar. We occasionally offer other things, but our bakery is very limited in time and space.
COF: Do you have a brick-and-mortar bakery location?
MA: Right now we are mail-order only, but we will be opening a bakery in Riegelsville, Pa., about 20 minutes south of Easton. It’s a small village on the Delaware River, right on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We purchased a building there to open a bakery café, with a small Scandinavian shop as part of it. Riegelsville is an area with biking, hiking, and hiking, a nice destination for a day trip or weekend.
When we open, we will be able to expand our menu and have more Nordic items. Many plans had been delayed in these strange times, but we are moving forward.
Follow Arctic Swan Bakery on social media for the updates and the latest offerings:
To place an order, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Their new website is launching at the end of January, so be sure to visit www.arcticswanbakery.com.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 29, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.