With everyone staying at home practicing social distancing people have re-discovered the joys of baking. Bread seems to be high on the list of yummy things that people want to make at home. Nothing speaks comfort like the aroma of freshly baked bread! The sold-out yeast and flour supplies shows how many people have embraced baking as a way to increase the “hygge” in their life.
My grandmother, Helen, came to Canada from Finland in the early 1920s. Besides being impeccably dressed at all times, she was also a fantastic cook and amazing baker. Finnish hospitality is legendary, with an almost national law that you cannot leave a Finnish home without being offered coffee and something to eat. This tradition continued with my grandma and we were raised the same way. My grandma baked many specialties, but pulla is a national favourite. Pulla is a braided cardamom sweet bread usually decorated with almonds and sugar. While I have recipes for many of my grandma’s specialties, pulla is the one that my friends and family request most often. Serve pulla sliced and spread with butter along with a cup of coffee or tea for an authentic Finnish treat.
You’ll notice that the recipe calls for butter. If you are not a fan of butter, feel free to substitute margarine but in the words of my grandma when one of her friends tried and failed to recreate her fantastic baked goods, “Oh, she must have used margarine.” Be warned.
Grandma Helen’s Pulla Recipe
½ cup water
1 ½ cups milk
3 eggs (plus one more for glazing)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter (1/4 lb)
1 tbsp yeast (I use instant yeast)
½ – 1 tsp freshly ground cardamom
1 cup raisins
8 – 9 cups all-purpose flour
Crushed lump sugar or decorating sugar (about ½ to 1 cup)
Sliced almonds (about ½ to 1 cup)
Dissolve yeast in 1 tbsp water for 10 minutes. Scald milk (heat until bubbles appear at edges of pan but do no simmer or boil). Add butter to milk and stir to melt. Add sugar and 2 cups of flour and mix. Add eggs and cardamom. Mix. Add yeast mixture and stir to mix. Add raisins. Continue adding flour in one cup additions, kneading until the dough leaves your fingers and is smooth. Put dough in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in size (about one hour). Punch down and then knead dough until smooth. Divide dough in half, then each half into 3. Roll each piece into a rope, then braid three together, tucking under the ends. You should have two large loaves. I often divide the dough in four and create four smaller loaves. Cover and let rise until almost doubled in size. Brush tops with reserved beaten egg, then sprinkle on sliced almonds and lump sugar. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes until just browned.
I find that making my grandma’s recipe takes the better part of half a day, so when I am busy I use my bread machine on the dough cycle. This is the recipe that I use, which creates two reasonably sized loaves. It’s not exactly the same but it’s pretty close!
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp butter
3 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp freshly ground cardamom
2 tsp instant yeast (or bread machine yeast)
½ cup raisins
Measure all ingredients except raisins into the baking pan of the bread maker in order suggested by manufacturer. Insert pan into bread machine and choose “Dough Cycle”. Add raisins at the “add ingredient” signal.
Once dough is completed in the bread machine, knead slightly with some additional flour and then divide in half. Divide each half into three pieces, roll into ropes and make a braid, tucking ends under. Let rise for about an hour until doubled in bulk and then decorate tops.
Glaze tops with a beaten egg, then sprinkle on sliced almonds and coarse decorator sugar (approximately ½ cup of each).
Bake in 350F oven for approximately 30-40 minutes until light brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.
I don’t generally have this problem, but what to do with leftover pulla? Pulla tastes great toasted the next day with extra butter (yum!). You can also use it to make French toast or bread pudding.
Onnellinen paistaminen (happy baking)!
In these unprecedented times, taking comfort in your home with simple pleasures like good food and the company of your housemates takes on even greater importance. Hygge (“hoo-ga”) is a Danish term that means a sense of togetherness and comfort. When so many things are unknown across the world, take the time to enjoy your home and the company of those with whom you are sharing your days. To help you with your state of “relaxed thoughtfulness”, why not try making some Black Forest Biscotti, from Embla’s test kitchen. Enjoy with your favourite hot beverage! (served on Vintage Danish and teak stainless serving tray, NV062, $15.00)
Black Forest Biscotti
1/4 cup light olive oil
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa, sifted to remove lumps
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup dried cherries or cherry infused dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 300F (150C).
Mix olive oil and sugar until incorporated, then add eggs, vanilla and almond extract and mix until incorporated. Add flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder and mix until a soft dough. Stir in almonds, chocolate chips and dried fruit.
Line baking tray with parchment paper. Divide dough into two parts and pat each into a flattened rectangle approximately 12×2 inches on the parchment paper. Dough will be sticky so wet hands with cool water to handle more easily.
Bake at 300F(150C) for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 275F(135C). Let cool for 10 minutes, then use a sharp knife to slice into logs ¾ inch thick. Lay on sides on parchment covered baking tray. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes at 275F(135C), or until dry. Cool.
If you are feeling extra-fancy, you can accessorize with melted chocolate, dripped or dipped.
Your chance to stock up on hygge home essentials and unique holiday gifts is coming soon! Embla’s unique collection of handcrafted jewellery, bags and soap along with Nordic vintage treasures will be available at two holiday markets.
Back by popular demand, Embla will offer a collection of handmade soap featuring olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter and essential oils. The Natura collection is focused on the natural beauty of the Nordic countries. Fjall (“mountain”) features the spicy scent of star anise, Fjord (“sea”) comes with a charcoal swirl, Kaiku (“birch”) contains woodsy essential oils and Blommor (“flowers”) features natural rose accented with black pepper and cardamom. We don’t sell soap in the online store so come out in person to find your favourite one!
Join Embla at the Norwegian Christmas Market at the Scandinavian Centre, 6540 Thomas St. Burnaby on Sunday, November 3rd from noon to 4:00 pm. Free admission. Have some open faced sandwiches and the ever-popular waffles, then start your holiday shopping with a selection of unique gifts from a variety of vendors. Embla will have a selection of Nordic vintage decor items including Norwegian pewter and unique holiday glass votives and candles.
Embla will be at both days of the Knights Christmas Market at St Thomas More Collegiate, 7450 12th Ave, Burnaby on Saturday, November 23rd 11:00 am to 4:00 pm and Sunday, November 24th from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Free admission. Featuring a wide selection of over 100 vendors, bistro, baked goods, 50/50 and raffles draws, this is one of the largest markets in Greater Vancouver. This year’s market has a focus on vintage, upcycled and handmade items so come along to see Embla’s Nordic vintage and handmade gifts and goods.