For a food that translates to “cheese bread,” one might expect a bit more bread in the recipe, or any at all for that matter. But for juustoleipä, the leipä (“bread”) refers more to the cheese’s shape and function than an actual glutinous base. At its core, juustoleipä is simply a baked (and often dried), rich cheese that’s made from goat, reindeer, or cow milk.
Often referred as juusto, or sometimes leipäjuusto, the Finnish cheese has a dense, almost feta-like texture that holds firm and, like bread, can act as a vehicle for toppings. Eaten like french toast with maple syrup, jam, or fresh fruit such as cloudberries, juusto makes for a sweet, gluten-free breakfast or dessert. Like feta, it also can be added to green or fruit salads, the cold curds often making a squeak between diners’ teeth (hence its nickname, “squeaky cheese”). Although juusto won’t melt into a puddle like the average cheese when baked, putting a thin round into the oven gives it a softer, more gooey texture, making it a warm wintertime snack that’s often served up in squares or pizza-style slices.
Today, the best cow-milk juusto is made using “beestings,” the high fat-content milk produced by a cow after she has given birth. After curdling the rich milk, cooks spread it into a pan and bake it in the oven, usually broiling it at the end to get the cheese’s characteristic brown bubbles on top. If the cheese is dried for storage (it can keep for up to a year), Finns will rebake it to soften the juusto or cut it into cubes and toss it into a hot cup of coffee to make kaffeost. After all, there’s nothing like hot cup of cheese and coffee to get you going on a crisp Scandinavian morning.