My mother 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, feels charged with something magical.
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.
Here she is, happy as a clam, sitting on her sister’s steps in her home town of Sounjenjoki, Finland during our last visit there together. I think of that 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 back seat driver, so much so, 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.
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.
Punch it down and make rolls or small 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 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 coarse sugar over the top.
You can also bake the braided roll in a loaf pan for easier slicing.
A traditional recipe for Pulla – a Finnish Cardamom Bread that tastes and smells heavenly. Think of this like 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)
- 1/2 cup lukewarm tap water ( 105–115 F)
- 2 packages active dry yeast – 4 1/2 teaspoons ( or sub fast acting yeast)
- 1 cup milk, room temp
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 3 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- approx. 7+ cups all-purpose flour, more for the counter
- 1/3 cup soft butter or melted butter, let cool
- 1 tablespoon crushed Cardamom Seeds or 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cardamom
- 1 egg (for egg wash)
- optional additions: raisins, sliced almonds, coarse sugar (pearl sugar). Feel free to sub other dried fruit and other nuts! You can sub turbinato sugar instead of pearl sugar.
- If using whole cardamon pods prepare the cardamom. Give yourself a good 30 minutes for this part.Slice 40-50 pods lengthwise with the tip of a sharp knife. Scrape out seeds. Grind down to the consistency of sand with a mortar and pestle. You could do this step ahead.
- Heat milk, just to a simmer, let cool. (set aside)
- Place lukewarm water (105-115 F) in the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl. Add a pinch of sugar and stir in yeast and let stand for 7 minutes. Stir again to make sure yeast is dissolved and frothy.
- With a wooden spoon or paddle attachement stir in the milk, sugar, eggs, cardamom, salt. Beet until smooth. Mix in 3 cups of flour cup by cup, mixing until smooth and no lumps. Add the softened butter and mix well – the dough will get beautifully glossy. Continue adding the flour, a cup at a time, mixing to incorporate. It will be a soft and tacky. Using dough hook, kneed, adding a little more flour until the dough pulls way from the edges, 5 minutes. Alternatively, kneed by hand on a well floured surface, for 6- 7 minutes, adding alittle flour at a time, until it is no longer sticky, but not too firm. At this point, if you wish, you could kneed in raisins and almonds. Shape into a ball.
- Place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat the top, cover with damp towel and let rise in a warm area for 1 ½-2 hours, or until it almost dough doubles in size. (I like to turn my oven on at the very start at lowest setting, then turn it off, letting dough rise inside.)
- Punch down and divide in half. This will make two extra large loaves. (or make rolls see notes)
- To make the braided loaf, divide the dough into 3 pieces. Roll each peice into long ropes about 1 1/2- 2 inches thick. Braid the ropes and tuck under the ends. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or in a lightly greased, or parchement-lined loaf pan-see notes).
- Beat the egg with a tablespoon water. Brush the loaves with the egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse sugar over the top and almonds if you like.
- Let rise again at least 1/2-1 hour. Place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until skewer or tooth pick pulls out clear (or internal temp is 200F) and top is nicely golden. If baking in a loaf pan, allow a little extra time to cook through, and if top starts getting dark, cover lightly with foil.
- Pull it out of the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Slice and lather with butter.
Fast acting yeast will cut the rising time in half.
Store covered tightly on the counter. Or freeze ( sealing well) for for later.
This make two large braided loaves. Or use loaf pan loaves. You could easily halve this recipe!
To make rolls: On a floured surface, flatten out dough into a large recangle, about 3/4 inch thick. Spread with almond paste (totally optional) Sprinkle with raisins and sliced almonds. ( you can sub other dried fruit- craisins, currants and other nuts – pistachios, pecans, etc) From the longer edge, roll up into a roll. Cut into 1 -2 inch thick slices. Either place these on a parchment-lined sheet pan spread out- or in a greased baking dish with edges touching. Even a metal cake works great here! Brush with eggwash, sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden skewer comes out clean. Baking time will be shorter for individual rolls on a sheet pan ( check at 20 mins) and a little longer for the rolls (that are touching) in the baking dish.
I often make one braided loaf, and make rolls out of the remaing dough.
Keywords: pulla, pulla bread, cardamom bread, Finnish bread, pulla recipe, traditional pulla recipe, Finnish cardamom bread, sweet bread,