Finnish Pulla Bread

Are you a fan of challah or brioche?  A fan of Scandinavian foods?  A fan of anything involving bread?  If you said yes to at least one of these, you’ve just got to give pulla a try.  Tender texture, slightly sweet, spiced with cardamom, and flat-out gorgeous.  I amazed myself with how lovely this bread turned out.

This recipe comes from Baking With Julia, a book generated by the PBS series of the same name.  It’s not one of Julia’s recipes, but rather one from a guest chef, Beatrice, Ojakangas.  Pulla is really no more difficult than making any bread.  Gather what you need and prepare to amaze yourself!

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (abou 110F)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (about 7 pods if you choose to grind them yourself)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
  • 4 1/2-5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Just before baking:

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 TBSP milk for glaze
  • Sliced or slivered almonds, if desired
  • large-granuled sugar

Place milk in a small saucepan over medium heat and scald it–heat until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan.  Watch the pot carefully–milk can go from scalded to boiled-over to burned very quickly!  Remove from heat and cool to 105-115F.

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast into warm water.  Whisk to combine and set aside for 5 minutes for yeast to dissolve completely and become creamy.

Whisk in milk, sugar, cardamom, salt and eggs.

Stir in 2 cups flour to make a smooth batter.

Stir in butter.

Add additional flour, 1/2 cup at a time until you have a stiff, but not dry dough.  You might not need the entire 5 cups.  I used a stand mixer, adding flour until the dough pulled away from the sides.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Remove dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.  I left mine in the bowl of the mixer and let the dough hook knead it for 8 minutes, adding wee bits of flour when the dough started climbing over the top of the hook, or when the dough was sticking to the bottom.  I hand-kneaded for the last two minutes until I had a satiny dough ball.

Place the dough ball in a greased bowl, turning once so the top is buttered.  Cover with the same piece of plastic wrap used while the dough rested, and let rise at room temperature until doubled.  45 minutes-1 hour.  This time of year, my house is too chilly for a good rise, so I ended up setting the bowl on top of my dryer while I did laundry.  Worked like a charm!

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Turn the dough onto a cool, lightly oiled, working surface.  (The recipe suggests rubbing an ice-filled metal pan over your surface to cool it if your kitchen is very hot.  My counter felt cool to the touch, so I went right to the next step.)  Knead just until the dough deflates and the air has been worked out.  Divide dough into two equal portions to create two braided loaves. (Pulla is traditionally formed into a wreath.  Do not divide in two if you want a wreath.)

Divide each half into three equal portions. (Same for the wreath, you’ll divide the original amount of dough into three.)

Using your hands, roll each portion into a rope, about 18 inches long,  (36 inches long for the wreath.)

Lay three pieces side-by-side and braid from the center down, pinching the ends.  (For the wreath, start at one end and braid all the way to the bottom.)

Turn the braid so the loose ends face you and braid the other half, pinching the ends.  (For the wreath, form the braid into a circle, pinching the ends together.  You can also cut about 1 inch of dough from each end of the braid prior to joining it into a circle.  Use the cut-off dough to fashion a bow to cover the place where the ends join.)

Place the loaves or wreath on the prepared pan, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until puffy, but not doubled.  About 45 minutes.  I set my pan on top of the stove.  The heating oven made it warm enough to rise nicely.

Whisk egg and milk together for the egg wash glaze.

Brush egg wash over every exposed surface of the bread, including sides and ends.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake on a rack in the middle of your oven, 20-25 minutes, until golden.  Do not over-bake.  Mine were perfect in 20 minutes.  The aroma created by these loaves is heavenly!

Aren’t they pretty?  No more difficult than any bread really, but so much more special.  Uber-yummy all on its own, or with butter, or jam or melty brie, or…….!  Perfect for the holidays or anytime you want a bakery-quality bread from your own kitchen!  Perfect to take to the holiday party you’re invited to, lovely as a gift with a jar of jam.

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Filed under comfort food, food gifts, Holiday foods, Potluck, side dish

5 responses to “Finnish Pulla Bread

  1. Fabulous post. Will be making this soon for the group, TWD:Baking with Julia.


  2. Pingback: Finnish Pulla [BWJ] | Provecho Peru

  3. Pingback: Sonia’s Christmas Tree Breads | Somethin' Yummy

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