I look forward to baking Christmas breads every year. This beautiful cardamom spiced Finnish Pulla is officially one of my favorite Christmas breads.
I found this lovely recipe in Saveur Magazine
(April 2010, Issue #128). This bread reminds me of the Italian Easter bread (guti di Pasqua)
that my mother-in-law and her mother make. The unmistakable perfume of cardamom permeating in the kitchen while it bakes seems to be the only difference between these wonderful holiday breads.
Cardamom comes from India and other parts of southeast Asia. Cardamom first made its way to Scandinavia after some Vikings purchased it from Constantinople. It has a fruity flavor similar to citrus. Cardamom is primarily used in Finland and other Scandinavian countries in baking. It is also uses to flavor tea and savory dishes in other places around the world. In Sweden, the bread is known as vetebrod, while in Norway it is known as hvetebrod, both of which mean wheat bread.
Last week was Finnish Pulla week with Tuesdays with Dorie. You can see all the wonderful versions here. Another beautiful version on my friend Shulie’s blog is here.
The bread is usually glazed with an egg and some milk before being baked. It can be braided into a loaf or a wreath. The texture is very similar to a brioche, rich from the eggs, milk and butter. Some bakers sprinkle sliced almonds or raw sugar on top of the dough as well. I sprinkled some granulated sugar on top that I have leftover from Italy this summer. It adds a festive touch to this beautiful bread.
slightly adapted from Saveur
1 1⁄3 cups milk, heated to 115°
2⁄3 cup sugar
4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 1⁄4-oz. packages active dry yeast
3 eggs, lightly beaten
6 1⁄2 cups flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2″ cubes, at
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1 egg yolk
Crushed lump sugar, for garnish (optional)
Sliced almonds, for garnish (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together milk, sugar, 3 tsp. cardamom, and yeast; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. With dough hook attached, add eggs one at a time; mix to combine. Add flour and salt; mix until a dough forms. Knead dough on medium speed for 2 minutes. While kneading, slowly add butter a little at a time, mixing until incorporated before adding next batch, 3–4 minutes; continue kneading for 4 minutes more after last of butter is added. Transfer dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough; cover again with plastic wrap and let sit until fully risen, 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375°. Transfer dough to a work surface and divide into 2 equal pieces. Set 1 piece aside and divide other piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion between your palms and work surface to create a 16″ rope. Braid ropes together to form a loaf. *You can see photos on braiding into loaf on my stollen post
. Transfer loaf to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Repeat with second dough piece. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and let sit until slightly puffed up, about 20 minutes. Or you can make one large wreath like I did with all the dough.
Whisk together remaining cardamom, cream, and egg yolk in a small bowl; brush over loaves. Sprinkle with sugar and almonds (if using); bake, one loaf at a time *or bake the wreath, until golden brown, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Happy Baking! xo