[Photograph: Carrie Vasios]

For a long time, it seemed like Finland was stuck being known as that place near Sweden with the reindeer and the saunas and maybe the home of Santa Claus. Nobody said anything much about their cuisine and, when they did, it was usually negative. Luckily the Noma/Scandinavian locavore craze has begun to shed its light on even the most eastern of the Northern countries, and I think it's about time we stole some ideas.

My favorite part of Finnish cuisine is definitely the whole grain breads and, in particular, anything made with rye. I love the nuttiness of rye, the slightly sour notes, and the feeling like I'm really eating something of the earth. I'm not sure if it's a result of the Scandinavicraze, but rye flour is becoming more common in grocery stores, and I've been keeping it in my pantry to use during baking.

My favorite experiment thus far is definitely these Rye Raisin Muffins. The crumb has a moist, soft texture, punctuated by the occasional chew of a raisin. They're nutty with notes of toasted oats and the caramel backdrop of molasses. Now it would be a shame not to point out that rye flour is pretty healthy, containing good levels of fiber and iron among other nutrients. Whole wheat flour and blackstrap molasses increase the nutritional benefits of this recipe and as far as muffins go, these are a pretty healthy way to start your day. They're also versatile: if you increase the salt and omit the light sugar topping, they become more savory than sweet. In this incarnation, I like them with a plate of eggs or a big bowl of (karjalanpaisti) stew.

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Rye Raisin Muffins »

About the author: Carrie Vasios is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios

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