Pulla – Finnish Cardamom Bread

Katherine with a half-eaten loaf of Pulla that
didn’t rise all the way before we had to leave
Katherine is wearing my Finnish Grandmother’s
traditional National Costume.

Cardamom pods that hold black cardamom seeds.
Cardamom is the key ingredient in Pulla

One of the poster’s my girls made of Finland for
the Homeschool Cultural Fair

PULLA – FINNISH CARDAMOM BREAD

It’s English name is cardamom bread. It is similar to challah in that it has a lot of eggs, but it has more butter and the fabulous cardamom. If you are making the buns you twist them into crown shapes or a variety of shapes. If you are making the loaves you braid them.

Note: Observe carefully the order of combining the ingredients. The melted butter is added AFTER about half of the flour.

1 package active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

2 cups milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm

1 cup (or less) sugar

1 teaspoon salt

7-8 whole cardamom pods, seeded and crushed (about 1 teaspoon)

4 eggs, beaten

8-9 cups sifted white flour

1/2 cup melted butter

Glaze:

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds (use almonds if making bread, use raisins if making Santa Lucia buns)

1/2 cup crush lump sugar (the large square shaped sugar crystals)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs, and enough flour to make a batter (about two cups) Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add about 3 cups of the flour and beat well; the dough should be quite smooth and glossy in appearance. Add the melted butter and stir in well. Beat again until the dough looks glossy. Stir in the remaining flour until a stiff dough forms.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and cover with an inverted mixing bowl. Let the dough rest 15 minutes. Knead until smooth and satiny. Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, turn the dough to grease the top, cover lightly, and let rise in a warm place (about 85 degrees) until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour). Punch down and let rise again until almost doubled (about 30 minutes).

To make the braided loaves:

Turn out again onto a slightly floured board, divide into three parts, then divide each of these parts into 3. Shape each into a strip about 16 inches long by rolling the dough between the palms and the board. Braid the 3 strips together into a straight loaf, pinch the ends together and tuck under. Repeat for the second and third loaves. Lift the braids onto lightly greased baking sheets. Let rise for about 20 minutes (the braids should be puffy but not doubled in size.)

Glaze the loaves by brushing with the beaten egg, and if you wish, sprinkle with the crushed sugar and the almonds.

Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees) for 25 to 30 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE OR THE LOAVES WILL BE TOO DRY. Remove from the oven when a light golden-brown. Makes 3 braids. This is not a light a fluffy bread, but a moist rich coffee bread. In fact, it is WONDERFUL dipped in coffee!

Beatrice Ojakangas, The Finnish Cookbook