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.
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.
Anyways, so after all the work with the cardamom, the rest is easy. Heat some half and half, pour in a large bowl and mix in some yeast. Let it stand for a bit and mix in sugar, salt, eggs, cardamom, flour, soft butter and make a dough, kneading it for about 7 minutes.
Return it to the bowl and cover it and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours.
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 course sugar over the top. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 40-50 minutes. Slice, toast and butter.
Pulla ( Traditional Finnish Cardamom Bread)
A traditional recipe for Pulla – a Finnish Cardamom Bread that tastes and smells heavenly. Perfect for mornings or afternoon tea. This makes 2 large loaves, feel free to halve.
- Prep Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 40 mins
- Total Time: 2 hours 40 mins
- Yield: 2 loaves 1x
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Finnish
- 1 Cup half and half
- ¾ Cup water
- 1 ½ Cup sugar
- ¾ Cup melted butter, let cool
- 3 eggs
- 4 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- approx. 7 cups flour
- 1 Tablespoon crushed Cardamom Seeds or 4 tsp ground cardamom
- 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 fine sand with a mortar and pestle. You could do this step ahead.
- Heat half and half and water to just lukewarm. Pour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, stir in yeast and let stand for 7 minutes. Mix again to make sure its dissolved. Mix in sugar, eggs, cardamom, butter, salt. Mix in 7 cups of flour cup by cup and combine till the dough pulls away from the edges. You may need to add more flour.
- Using dough hook, or by hand on a floured surface, kneed for 6- 7 minutes and make a large ball.
- Place in large bowl and cover and let rise in a warm area for 1 ½ hours, or until dough doubles in size.
- Punch down and divide into 6 balls ( this will make 2 braided loaves)
- To make the braided bread, roll each ball in to long ropes. Braid the loaves and tuck under the ends. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper ( or a lightly grease pan).
- You could also make small rolls, instead of one loaf– although baking time will shorten.
- Brush with an egg wash or half and half. Sprinkle course sugar over the top.
- Let rise again at least 1/2 hour. Place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes and nicely browned. Poke with a skewer or tooth pick. It’s done if the pick comes out clean.
- Pull it out of the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Slice and lather with butter.
This make two large loaves. You could easily halve this recipe!
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