Finland's classic dessert – baked leipäjuusto with cloudberries – will let you make a sweet treat with one of the country's elusive berries. 

What is it?

Among Finland’s 50-odd wild berry species, the cloudberry is the Holy Grail: known as ‘Lapland’s Gold’ because of its elusiveness. Baked with leipäjuusto cheese, which is sometimes also called juustoleipä or juusto, it is the nation’s unique (and downright yummy) dessert.

Origins

Foraging for berries is so enshrined into Finnish culture there are even laws about it. The cloudberry might be a sought-after superfood worldwide today, but monks at Nådendal Abbey in southwest Finland were extolling the health benefits as long ago as the Middle Ages. Lapland is the country’s proud cloudberry cradle, but the Southern Ostrobothnia and Kainuu regions vie with Laplanders over who invented leipäjuusto. Baking fruit and cheese together with cream, we assume, was first done somewhere in-between.

Woman picking cloudberries
Foraging for cloudberries is a part of Finnish culture © Johner Images / Getty Images

Ingredients

350g (12oz) leipäjuusto cheese (if unavailable, try Pasture Pride juusto cheese)
15−25 cloudberries, fresh OR 5 tbs cloudberry jam
Muscovado sugar, to taste
5 tbs double cream

How to cook

Step 1: Cut the leipäjuusto into 1−2cm (1⁄2in) squares and spread evenly across the bottom of
a lightly greased baking dish.
Step 2: Scatter a quarter of the fresh cloudberries OR spread 1–2 tbs of the cloudberry jam over the squares of leipäjuusto .
Step 3: Sprinkle a little muscovado sugar over the leipäjuusto and cloudberry mixture. This should not be too much, but just sufficient to counterbalance the tartness of the cloudberries.
Step 4: Pour over the double cream. The leipäjuusto and cloudberry mixture should be partially but not totally covered.
Step 5: Place the dish under the grill and cook under a medium heat until the sugar has caramelized and the top looks golden-brown.
Step 6: Serve with the remaining cloudberries.

shutterstockRF_702991915.jpg
Cloudberries grow wild in Finland ©Lukas Juocas/Shutterstock

Tasting notes

Leipäjuusto was always a foodstuff designed to endure. A fresh, mild cheese made from cow’s milk or, in the north, reindeer’s milk, its purpose was not to please palates but to fill boots and, when dried, lasted years: ideal for the poor in isolated Finnish communities. The tradition of baking leipäjuusto began because this softened the age-hardened cheese for ease of eating.

Now, the trademark golden-brown burnished outer blotches (as if from the hot hearthstones of old) and ‘squeak’ as your teeth clamp down are what Finns demand from their baked leipäjuusto. The taste shoots in from the cloudberries (tart, with a gooseberry- ish tang) and the double cream and muscovado sugar sauce. Lapland still has plenty of traditional Finnish restaurants serving the dessert. Here the cloudberries are freshest – probably hand-plucked from a forest near your table.

Other recipes in this series

Mexican tacos
French macarons
Greek avgolemono

Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Spicy Food.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter

Explore related stories

Vineyard and Alaverdi Cathedral with Caucasus Mountains in background.
Lonely Planet Traveller Magazine, Issue 46, Georgia, Grape Expectations

History

A first-time guide to Georgia

Jun 17, 2024 • 7 min read