In winter when temperatures drop to bone chilling degrees, warmth can often be found in the kitchen. During the cold months, I find myself gravitating towards the warming the spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, curry, white pepper and cardamom, which generally get pushed to back of the cupboard during the summer months.
But it is cardamom that holds my heart, keeping it warm on the coldest of days, not only for its flavor, but through the memories it brings. It is one of the first spices I remember tasting as a child. Growing up with a Finnish mother and an Egyptian father, the holidays were filled with recipes from their homelands. Each Christmas, my mother would make a Finnish bread, called Pulla, a subtly sweet braided loaf, speckled with fresh ground cardamom seeds, soft and buttery and topped with course sugar. Sometimes she would add raisins and sliced almonds. When it came out of the oven, the whole house smelled happy -its aroma whispering of exotic faraway places. On Christmas morning, my Egyptian father would crush a few cardamon pods and add it to their brewing coffee, a wistful nod to his past. Cardamom, like the broken English they both spoke, became their common ground in the kitchen.
Make the dough and let it rise until it doubles in size. About 1 ½- 2 hours.
Punch it down and divide into four.
On a floured surface, roll it out into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Dough will measure roughly 12 inches by 18 inches.
Lather with very soft butter, sugar and cardamom, and roll it up.
You may be tempted to leave out the butter in this step because the dough will seem buttery enough, but don’t, you will be disappointed. I have tried this myself, and the rolls were dry.
With the seam side down, begin cutting triangles. The point of the triangle being about ¾ of an inch and the widest part being 2-3 inches.
Turn the triangles so that the narrowest point now faces up. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Let them cool. Store in zip lock bags until ready to serve. I like to warm them before serving.
- 1 cup milk or half and half, lukewarm
- ½ cup sugar
- 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds crushed or 1¼ tablespoons ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ Cup butter, very very soft
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 1 egg, for egg wash, whisked.
- Turbinado or rock sugar, for sprinkling over the rolls, or regular sugar
- In a small bowl combine the milk, ½ cup of sugar and the yeast and stir. Let it sit for about 10 minutes until the yeast dissolves and starts to bubble.
- In the bowl of your mixer add the eggs, very soft butter, cardamom, salt and with the whisk attachment, mix everything together. Add the yeast mixture and continue mixing until well combined. Change to the dough hook and add a cup of flour at a time and mix until you add all the flour. If the dough is too sticky add a bit more flour, but continue mixing until the dough separates from the bowl and forms a ball.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 1½ - 2 hours until it has doubled in size.
- In a small bowl combine the sugar and cardamom together for the filling. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Add a bit of flour on your work surface. Punch the dough gently and place it on your work surface. Cut the dough in 4 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, cover the other rolls so that they don't dry out. Roll each piece about as thin as you can, should be about 12 inches by 18 inches. Brush some soft butter onto it. Make sure it's nicely buttered. Sprinkle some of the cardamom sugar over the entire surface, as much as you want. Roll it into a tight log starting from one of the narrow ends. With the seam side down, line up the dough log in front of you and cut it on the diagonal, alternating up and down, so that the slices are fat 'v' shapes, with the point of the 'v' about ¾ wide and the base about 2 inches wide. Place on the prepared baking sheet turn so the narrow tip of the ‘v’ is facing up to the ceiling. Repeat with remaining dough pieces.
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
- Let the rolls rise again for about 30-40. Don’t skip this step. Brush the rolls with egg wash and then sprinkle with course sugar. Bake for about 18- 20 minutes and check to see if its cooked through, continue baking for a few more minutes if necessary. let cool and store in air tight bags to keep them soft. To serve, heat them in the oven for just a few minutes, serve with butter.
- To make a traditional Finnish braided loaf, visit
- “Pulla for Lea”.