The Finnishing Touch

Last week, my husband was catching up on Facebook, and remarked upon a photograph a friend posted, of a magnificent-looking loaf of festival bread. He asked what the bread was, and was told that it was Pulla, a traditional Finnish holiday bread, sweet, rich, and infused with cardamom. As bread-heads, we knew right away that we had to try it!

We looked up recipes, and after reading a variety of both recipes and comments, we came up with something that was wonderfully delicious. It is richer and sweeter than challah, and very dairy (be warned!), similar in some ways to Stollen, but with cardamom instead of the citrus and preserved fruits. We served it as bread, with a meal, but it would be lovely too as an accompaniment for tea, thinly sliced and toasted, with butter and jam.

Pulla

Pulla 

(2 medium-sized loaves)

  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup warm water (110C)
  • ½ package dry yeast / ½ TBSP
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 eggs, beated
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 4 ½ cups all-purpose or bread flour
    • 1 beaten egg (for eggwash. topping)
    • 1 TBSP white sugar (for topping)
    • Sliced almonds, optional (for topping)

1. Scald the milk in a saucepan and let it cool a bit, until lukewarm.

2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, and add the milk, sugar, salt, eggs, and butter, and part of the flour, stirring to make a smooth dough. Gradually add more flour, until the dough is only slightly sticky, and knead for several minutes until the dough has the texture of an earlobe and can be stretched into a thin, translucent membrane. At this point, knead in the raisins, if using.

3. Form the dough into a ball and oil the surface lightly. Set aside in a warm place to rise, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down, and let rise another hour or so, until doubled again.

4. Divide the dough into two equal parts, and divide each part into equal thirds. Roll out the sections of dough into long, thick ropes, and form each set of three ropes into a braided loaf. You will now have two loaves. Place the loaves on a parchment-covered baking sheet, and let rise once again, until doubled in size.

5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Brush each loaf with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with sugar and, if desired, sliced almonds. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes, turning the pan half-way through, to ensure even baking.

Pulla dough, braided and waiting to rise

Pulla dough, braided and waiting to rise

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