Finnish Pulla Recipe – my mom’s recipe for a traditional Finnish bread scented with fragrant cardamom! Perfect for special mornings, gatherings, holidays or afternoon tea.  Cozy and delicious! 
 
A traditional recipe for Pulla- a slightly sweet, Finnish Cardamon Bread that tastes and smells heavenly. Perfect for mornings or afternoon tea. | www.feastingathome.com. #pulla #pullarecipe #coffeebread #morningbread #finnishbread #finnishrecipes

I love you. It will end. Leave something of sweetness and substance in the mouth of the world.

Anna Bell Kaufman
Today is a very special day for me…it is what would be my mother’s 85th birthday.   I thought I would share something special that she loved to bake which is very dear to my heart. It is called Pulla!
Pulla is a buttery Finnish sweet bread, scented with cardamom, perfect for special mornings, gatherings or afternoon tea. It is traditionally topped with Pearl Sugar as you see here.
 
 
A traditional recipe for Pulla- a Finnish Style Cardamon Bread that tastes and smells heavenly. Perfect for mornings or afternoon tea. | www.feastingathome.com
 
My Finnish mother used to make this on special occasions like birthdays and holidays or when guests would stay with us. I will never forget how the house would smell when she would open the oven door and take the freshly baked Pulla out.
 
It smelled… happy.
 
A traditional recipe for Pulla- a Finnish Style Cardamon Bread that tastes and smells heavenly. Perfect for mornings or afternoon tea. | www.feastingathome.com
 
Several weeks ago, I stumbled over her old Pulla recipe, written partly in Finnish. To see her handwriting again, brought back so many memories.

She came from Finland, a beautiful country, both modern and old. The countryside is filled with tall, white-trunked birch trees, red houses, saunas, and many many lakes. Three-quarters of the country is still covered by forest, and there over 100,000 lakes.

In summer, the sun barely sets. The days are long and sparkly and bright, the air effervescent and light. It feels charged with something magical.

In contrast, winters are extreme – long, dark and very cold.  My Egyptian father only lasted one winter there before pleading with my mom to move to warmer like California. She would always say, to live there you must be strong.

The Finnish have a word for this,  it is called “sisu”.

There is no exact translation, but my understanding is… it is a strength and perseverance that comes from the deepest part of ourselves.  My mom had this.

Lea Hallonen (Rizk) Feasting at Home Blog, Finnish Pulla Recipe
Here she is, happy as a clam, sitting on her sister’s steps in her hometown of Souenjoki, where they are known for growing strawberries,  during our last visit there together.
 
I think of that last trip we took together often.  I drove her around the whole country, visiting her family and friends for almost a month when she was 82.  Truthfully, there were times she drove me crazy – she was a total backseat driver, I nicknamed her Miss Daisy.

But what I wouldn’t give to be in that car again listening to her crackly voice. I can’t express enough how taking that time to be with her was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I thought I did it for her, but in fact, I see now how all along, it was a gift for me.

A little story about her:  Lea Halonen was born in 1927,  and grew up on a little farm in Sounjenjoki. During the war with Russia, Russia took over part of their country. Her family, like most families there, took in the many refugees, even though food and resources were extremely scarce.
 
She remembers those years as being very lean and feeling very hungry most of the time, eating mainly potatoes in winter. After high school, she left for Sweden, where she got her nursing degree.
 
In her 30’s, still unmarried,  she left for Nigeria (Africa) on a boat, to be stationed at a small Seventh Day Adventist hospital where she became a midwife. It was a tumultuous time there in Nigeria. After being there for 5 years, she took a little vacation to Egypt with her friend Sarah. It was there that she met my dad, and where Sarah met Abraham. They were assigned by the church to be guides. Something clicked in those 3 days, as they took them around to visit the pyramids and the Nile.
 
She went back to Nigeria to work – and they continued to keep in touch writing letters for two years before my dad proposed to her. She left Nigeria to marry my father in Cairo. But Egypt, back then, was not as accepting of her nursing skills- women were supposed to “stay home”.
 
She lasted a year before she convinced my dad to move to the more progressive country of Finland. My dad had never imagined a winter like that, had never experienced ice or snow- it was shocking! The cold and language were huge barriers. He was a minister by trade, so it made things difficult.
 
So they decided to move somewhere warm, where they could both speak English. They landed in Los Angeles, where I was born. My mom was 40 at that time.
 
Cardamon Pods
 
The star ingredient in Pulla is cardamom seeds. In this recipe, you can use the seeds, or if pressed for time, ground Cardamom is a great substitute. It is a very ancient spice originating in Southern India where it still grows wild. It is most commonly used in savory Indian dishes and curries.
 
Over a thousand years ago traders carried cardamom along the spice routes from India and eventually made its way through Constantinople brought by the Vikings to Scandinavia where it became very popular among the Finnish and Swedish in baking bread and pastries.
 
It has a very warm pungent aroma, a little like eucalyptus. There are several kinds of cardamom pods , two I am familiar with, the green cardamom pods and dark brown pods. My mom always used the green cardamom pods because she said they had better flavor. I never tested this theory, but I’ll take her word for it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
During one of her lasts visits to Spokane, she was too tired to make pulla but insisted on making it anyways….so I became her hands. She was stubborn about certain things….adamant!
 
No cutting corners. “No” to using the ground cardamom I had in my cupboard and “no” to using my stand mixer with the nifty dough hook, and “absolutely not” to using my efficient coffee bean grinder to grind the tough cardamom seeds.
 
This would be done her way, totally old school. But in the end, worth it.
 
 
 
What seemed like a mountain of cardamom pods needed to be cracked and the tiny seeds extracted. This took a substantial amount of time and patience.
 
I found it’s easier to slice the pods in half lengthwise with the tip of a sharp knife. After slicing about 40-50 of them, scrape the tiny dark seeds out. It takes a lot of pods to make 1 Tablespoon. You could do this ahead. Or use ground cardamom, I won’t tell or judge.
 
 
Then, after I thought all the hard work was done, there was more. Grinding the cardamom seeds with a mortar and pestle.
 
This seems easy, but I assure you it is not. They are the toughest little seeds and it takes serious muscle power to grind them down. And she of course wanted them crushed down to the consistency of fine sand, making sure to carefully examine my work. It was no easy task.
 
At the time, I never imagined that someday I would miss the way she would order me around the kitchen. But I do.
 
 
My mom loved Pulla so much she named one of her cats Pulla.  Actually, her full name is Rusina Pulla. She’s a light-colored calico with dark spots all over her. Rusina means raisins. Raisin Pulla. It was strangely fitting!

Anyways, so after all the work with the cardamom seeds, the rest is easy.  And like I said, feel free to use ground cardamom.

You’ll make a soft dough and let it rise until doubled. If using active dry yeast, this may take 2 hours. Fast-acting yeast will cut that time in half so I usually opt for that.

 
Oil the dough, and cover. Place in a warm spot ( 85F) to rise. I like to turn my oven to low and place the dough on top of the stove.
 

Once the pulla has just about doubled, shape into rolls or 2 loaves or make two traditional Finnish braided loaves like this.

My mom would often add sliced almonds and raisins and roll up the dough into small sweet rolls. Those were good too. To make the braided loaf, divide the dough in half, then into 3 balls each, and make long “ropes” out of them. Braid them and tuck the ends under. Let rise for another 1 – 1/2 hour.

Brush with an egg wash, or milk and sprinkle pearl sugar over the top.

You can also bake the braided roll in a loaf pan for easier slicing, tucking the ends under.

how to make Finnish Pulla Bread
 
Bake the Pulla at 375 F until cooked through and golden ( Internal temp of 200F).
 
A traditional recipe for Pulla- a slightly sweet, Finnish Cardamon Bread that tastes and smells heavenly. Perfect for mornings or afternoon tea. | www.feastingathome.com. #pulla #pullarecipe #coffeebread #morningbread #finnishbread #finnishrecipes
 
This can range anywhere from 30-50 minutes, depending on size.
 
If baking in a loaf pan, bake at 350F for roughly 40 mins, and you may need to cover with foil, to prevent over-browning lightly.
 
Slice, toast, and butter.
 
A traditional recipe for Pulla- a Finnish Style Cardamon Bread that tastes and smells heavenly. Perfect for mornings or afternoon tea. | www.feastingathome.com
This is really delicious in the morning with your coffee…and the leftovers make excellent french toast!
 
You can also make Pulla into rolls!
A traditional recipe for Pulla- a slightly sweet, Finnish Cardamon Bread that tastes and smells heavenly. Perfect for mornings or afternoon tea. | www.feastingathome.com. #pulla #pullarecipe #coffeebread #morningbread #finnishbread #finnishrecipes
 
 
However you choose to make Pulla, you will love its flavor.
The nice part is you can wrap it up tightly and freeze for when you need something cozy and warm.
 
A traditional recipe for Pulla- a slightly sweet, Finnish Cardamon Bread that tastes and smells heavenly. Perfect for mornings or afternoon tea. | www.feastingathome.com. #pulla #pullarecipe #coffeebread #morningbread #finnishbread #finnishrecipes
 
This poem below found its way to me shortly after my mother passed away… and it reminded me of the pulla I had in the freezer, the last batch we made together.   I found it profoundly beautiful…and I especially love the last paragraph.
 
Every time I make Pulla now, I feel her in the kitchen with me. We make it together- even still. 
Love and cheers.
 
 
Cold Solace 
by ANNA BELLE KAUFMAN
 
When my mother died,
one of her honey cakes remained in the freezer.
I couldn’t bear to see it vanish,
so it waited, pardoned,
in its ice cave behind the metal trays
for two more years.
 
On my forty-first birthday
I chipped it out,
a rectangular resurrection,
hefted the dead weight in my palm.
 
Before it thawed,
I sawed, with serrated knife,
the thinnest of slices —
Jewish Eucharist.
 
The amber squares
with their translucent panes of walnuts
tasted — even toasted — of freezer,
of frost,
a raisined delicacy delivered up
from a deli in the underworld.
 
I yearned to recall life, not death —
the still body in her pink nightgown on the bed,
how I lay in the shallow cradle of the scattered sheets
after they took it away,
inhaling her scent one last time.
 
I close my eyes, savor a wafer of
sacred cake on my tongue and
try to taste my mother, to discern
the message she baked in these loaves
when she was too ill to eat them:
 
I love you.
It will end.
Leave something of sweetness
and substance
in the mouth of the world.
 

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Pulla (Traditional Finnish Cardamom Bread)


Description

A traditional recipe for Pulla – a buttery Finnish Cardamom Bread that tastes and smells heavenly. Think of this as Finnish Coffee bread- perfect for mornings or afternoon tea. This makes 2 extra-large braided loaves, feel free to halve the recipe. Allow 3 hours rising time (30 mins hands-on time)


Ingredients

Units Scale

***Makes 2 loaves -feel free to halve.

  • 1420 cardamon pods (or sub 23 teaspoons ground cardamon)
  • 2 cups whole milk, soy milk or half and half
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 67 cups all-purpose flour, more for the counter
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)
  • coarse sugar for sprinkling

optional additions: raisins, sliced almonds,  coarse sugar (pearl sugar). Feel free to sub other dried fruit and other nuts! You can sub turbinado sugar instead of pearl sugar.


Instructions

  1. If using whole cardamom pods, crack open the pods and lightly toast the seeds in a dry skillet for 45-60 seconds, stirring over medium heat until fragrant. Grind down to the consistency of sand with a mortar and pestle. You could do this step ahead, or use ground cardamom.
  2. Heat milk to lukewarm,  not over 110F.   Add a pinch of sugar and stir in yeast and let stand for 7 minutes. Check that yeast is dissolved and frothy indicating it is active.
  3. In a stand mixer or large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Add the frothy milk and yeast, cardamom, and salt and beat until smooth.
  4. Mix in 2 cups of flour cup by cup, mixing until smooth and no lumps.
  5. Add the softened butter and mix well – the dough will get beautifully glossy. Continue adding the flour, a 1/2 cup at a time, mixing to incorporate, adding flour until stiff enough to knead, yet still soft about 6 cups. Knead using a dough hook or by hand, adding a little more flour as needed until the dough pulls away from the edges, and is satiny, about 5 minutes.  (The key here is to use as little flour as possible.) Alternatively, kneed by hand on a well-floured surface, for  6- 7 minutes,  adding a little flour at a time, dough will be slightly tacky but not sticky.  At this point, if you wish, you could knead in some raisins and almonds. Shape into a ball.
  6. Place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat the top,  cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm area (80F)  until it doubles in size. (I like to turn my oven on at the very start at the lowest setting, then turn it off, letting the dough rise inside, or place it on top of the stove.)*** Having a warm spot for it to rise is imperative here.
  7. TIP: You can also place this in the fridgeovernight- and shape and bake in the morning. 
  8. After it has doubled,  divide it in half. This will make two extra-large loaves. (Or make rolls see notes)
  9. To make 2 braided loaves, divide each half into 3 pieces.  Roll each piece into long ropes about  1 1/2- 2 inches thick. Braid the 3 ropes and tuck under the ends. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or in lightly greased, or parchment-lined loaf pan-see notes).
  10. Beat the egg with a tablespoon water. Brush the loaves with the egg wash.  Sprinkle with pearl sugar over the top and sliced almonds if you like.
  11. Let rise again until doubled. Place in a preheated 375-degree oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until skewer or toothpick pulls out clear (or internal temp is 200F) and the top is nicely golden.
  12. Pull it out of the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Slice and slather with butter.

Notes

Instant yeast will cut the rising time in half.

Store the pulla, covered tightly on the counter. Or freeze (sealing well)  for later.

This makes two large braided loaves. Or use loaf pan loaves. You could easily halve this recipe!

To make rolls: visit this Cardamom roll post

I often divide the dough in two, make one braided loaf, and make rolls out of the remaining dough.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 300
  • Sugar: 15.7 g
  • Sodium: 134.6 mg
  • Fat: 8.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 49.6 g
  • Fiber: 1.5 g
  • Protein: 6.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 47.4 mg

Keywords: pulla, pulla bread, cardamom bread, Finnish bread, pulla recipe, traditional pulla recipe, Finnish cardamom bread, sweet bread,

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Comments

  1. I had to check your aiti’s recipe to see how you’ve made your equivalents. The one thing I’ve had the least luck with is going from cake yeast to dry yeast. I also found it interesting that you braid your pulla in three. It is one item I was taught to always braid in four. Thank you for the easy to use measurements.

    1. Thanks Rowena! This is how my mom did it, but four sounds fun, I’ll have to try that!

  2. Hi Sylvia,

    I would like to make this the night before, when you mention the dough can be placed into the fridge overnight, is that after the first rise? Could I shape the dough on my baking sheet, then cover and keep in the fridge, letting it rise in the morning before putting it in the oven?

  3. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!
    I made it tonight, having never made it before and it turned out perfectly! I did lower the temp to 350F because I was using my convection toaster oven and it was browning quite quickly. I appreciated the inclusion of the internal temperature, it was a great way to check the bake.

    I grew up with some friends who had this around their homes and the taste brought me right back to my own childhood memories. This will be made again, most definitely.

    Thank you!

  4. I have been making pulla for 70 years. I use less eggs, more butter and milk and flour. Lots of butter makes them delicious. Correction; her mother must have been from Suonenjoki. Glad you like make Finnish pulla. My grandchildren love it.

  5. Hi the recipe was easy and the loaves look beautiful on the top but the bottoms burned and I had the rack in the middle of the oven and it was set at 375. I only had it in there for 15 minutes when it started smoking. The inside is done already at this time also. Any ideas what I did wrong? I double checked that I added all of the ingredients and in the right quantities.

    1. Hummm… that is strange! Can you double check your oven is correct? Do you have an oven thermometer? Did you have your convection on?

  6. I haven’t made this yet but your story and especially the poem at the end was so touching, I got tears. My mother died when I was only 38…I am now 71. And when I bake or cook the thing she taught me I talk to her and thank her for giving me those skills. Once I got teary walking down the baking aisle and something made me think of her. Still miss her. I’m sorry for your loss.

    1. Thanks for sharing Nanci. I love that you talk to her when you cook her recipes, and I like to believe, that she feels it. I still get teary too, and its been 13 years. I think we will always miss them, no matter how much time has passed. But cooking their recipes makes us feel closer to them, and reminds us of the times we had together- it’s a sweet ritual.

  7. I am touched by your story. Thank you for sharing your blessings, your ‘sweetness and substance’. Merry Christmas to you!

  8. My mother was Finnish as well. She passed in July of this year, so this is my first Christmas without her. I have my pulla rising right now. Already the smell is taking me back to Christmases of my childhood. Thank you for this great recipe.

    1. Hi Katie, I’m glad it is transporting you back- it does the same for me. A very comforting thing. And I’m very sorry bout your mom, all the “firsts” are hard. She is in your heart and in that heart space, she is always with you.

  9. I am just weeping while reading this. Sylvia, you don’t stop feeding my heart and body. Thank you.
    It’s my daughter’s 7th birthday today. We will make this Pulla together, as Mom and daughter and I will make this our tradition together, in honour of all the moms.
    Thank you for your knowing and your sharing and your beautiful heart.

  10. Thank you for your heartwarming story. My mother is also gone and I wish she were still here. We were never close but when you get old age you need your mom. It is easier to understand why she couldn’t get too close. The bread sounds wonderful but I don’t bake bread. I always kill the yeast. Hope you have a Merry Christmas and a great New Year.

    1. I’m sorry you are missing your mom Peggy, I feel you, holidays can be especially hard. 💛

  11. I loved reading this and can’t wait to try the recipe. While I’m not of Finnish heritage, I find it easy to connect with your feelings of loss and of reconnecting through special recipes. For me, part of the meaning of life is to cherish our memories and pass them on to our children.

  12. My parents were also from Finland and my mom always made pulla at Christmas time and I still do to this day. My mom was from Savonjoki and it’s absolutely beautiful there. I have been there three times in my life. My mom’s first name was Lea as well. This article brought back a lot of memories. Thank you.

  13. Sylvia- My mother was Finnish and made Cardamom Bread every Christmas. Finding your website and recipe made me feel close to her! My daughter and I continue the tradition of making it together every Christmas and give it as gifts to family and friends. Thank you for sharing your experiences with making Cardamom Bread with your mother. Isn’t it just the best?

    1. Thanks so much- and for your email too! I am so happy you found this and yes, it is the BEST. Happy memeories.

  14. Was looking for a pulla recipe like my Muumu’s, and this looks like what I remember. She and Grandpa both came over at the turn of the 20th century. Just like yours, my Mom was born in 1927, and I miss dearly. Mom had stories of teaching her Aiti to help get her citizenship. Aiti had been here 35 years, but wouldn’t take the citizenship test until the government would let her vote. Typical stubborn Finlander.

    1. My mom did the same thing. She waited to become a citizen until she could vote- which wasnt til she was around 70 I think. 🙂

  15. Hello, Could I do the Pulla using sourdough starter (with or without instant yeast)? In this case, would I make a separate levain, or just integrate the starter with the other ingredient? Thank you!

    1. Hi Marianne- I think you read my mind! I was just wondering the same thing. I haven’t tried this yet- so can’t be specific. But our sourdough buns are similar in texture- so you might read through that first to get an idea?

  16. Your pulla recipe and memories of your Finnish mother brought back my own Finnish mother who came to live ( and bake) with us at age 80-85. Her people were from Kurikka, Finland.
    The poem at the end had me in tears.
    I am now 86 and ready to make some pulla for Christmas. Found your article when checking out types of cardamom. Evidently none of the white pods like years ago. Thank you and Kiitos.

    1. Thanks so much Jo- glad you found the recipe and hope you enjoy the pulla. Such a sweet tradition.

  17. Good day….what size loaf pans (8 1/2 x 4 1/2 or 9 x 5? )and how many loaf pan sized loaves would this recipe make? Thank you in advance!

  18. Thank you for posting this recipe. My Mom and Dad are both Finnish. My Mom made this Pulla several times during the Christmas and Easter Holy Days. We have not been able to find her recipe. I watched her oh so many times as she made Pulla. I am sure this is, if not, very close to her recipe. My Mom died 3 years ago at the age of 99. I miss her terribly. Hopefully making this will bring her closer to my heart even as she is in heaven. I love you Mama.
    Blessed Christmas to all.

    1. Wow Janel! She lived such a long time. And I am sorry for your loss. I understand how that heartache feels… and hope the recipe brings a little comfort. Thanks for sharing. 💛

  19. It was my Pop who was Finnish, and the recipe I follow came to me from an older (than my Pop) Finnish woman … miss them both!

  20. I was delighted to find this delicious , recipe. I am finnish so this was my first time baking pulla, and I am so excited that it was easy to follow!….

  21. Excellent recipe- thank you so much for sharing! I will most definitely purchase the coarse sugar for next time!

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