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)!