Recipe: Cardamom Sweet Bread (Pulla)

Makes 1 giant loaf (or as many smaller shapes as you’d like)

Pulla is the ultimate Finnish bread dough. Feeling sad? Shape it into a teardrop. Feeling confused? Twist the heck out of it. Feeling like Pippi Longstocking? Braid it! Feeling creative? Shape it into men, women and children. Feeling pregnant? Just make little buns, baby!

There’s also plenty of choice in regard to flavorings. Pulla always tastes of glorious cardamom. After that? You can leave it plain or fill it. Sweeten life up with a bit of brown sugar, butter, and spices (that’s what we opted for in this recipe), or get things movin’ with some prune filling. You can even fill it after baking with a bit of jam and whipped cream. Usually this is assembled “hamburger style” with a bun sliced in half and whipped cream gilding the outer edges of a jam-burger.

What to expect: No matter how you handle it, pulla should not be anywhere as sweet as a cinnamon roll. The soft, rich dough is quite a bit more subtle than that. The dominant flavor will be cardamom, with a background zing of cinnamon and the barest drop of ground cloves. Sugar remains a delicate background flavor.

Note: For a slightly lighter (but less rich) dough, try replacing 1/4 cup of the milk with water.

Ingredients:

For the dough:

4 1/2 -5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp yeast
4 Tbsp softened butter
2 whole eggs
1 Tbsp ground cardamom
4 cardamom pods, shelled and seeds crushed lightly (about 1/4-1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup warm milk

For the filling:

4 Tbsp softened butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
pinch cloves

For the top:

1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon sugar

Method:

Good morning! Today we’re doing a happy pulla dance. In a few short hours you’re belly will thank you. Unless you eat the entire loaf in one sitting.

First, get a genuine 100% half Finnish friend to measure out your ingredients.

Have her add the flour… (start with 4 1/2 cups – add more later, as needed)

Then the sugar…

…and yeast… (you could proof the yeast in the warm milk if you’d like, but I’m a one bowl kind of gal)

Drop in the softened butter…

And crack in the eggs… Hi Ruby! Thanks for being my hand model.

Next, season with loads of cardamom and a bit of salt.

To get even more cardamom goodness in the dough, add cracked cardamom seeds. I would have been happy with double this amount, but Mr Picky might have staged a rebellion.

They look a little like peppercorns once cracked, but taste so much better. Finns like to bite into these little bursts of cardamom sunshine and, after experiencing it myself, I totally agree.

Splash on warm milk. It can’t be hot or you’ll kill the yeast. I simply heated mine on the stove for a minute then set aside until it felt warm not hot.

Mix with a dough hook for 10 minutes on medium speed. This dough cleans the sides of the bowl, but sticks to the bottom until kneaded for the full ten minutes. If after 10 minutes it still hasn’t cleaned the bottom of the bowl, add a bit more flour and mix it in. Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours.

While the yeast gets happy, let’s make the filling.

You’ll need a bunch of tasty spices. That’s fresh ground nutmeg on the right. Mmm. On the left? Cinnamon, cardamom, and just a hit of ground clove.

Add this to brown sugar and softened butter.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle, about 16″ x 12.”

Spread the filling in a strip down the center.

Using a pastry cutter, cut strips on each side (you need the same number of strips on each side). Try to keep the cuts about a 3/4 inch from the filling.

Cross the dough over

Keep going…

… and going… being sure to lift the sides of the dough up as you go. This will give the loaf “walls” to keep the filling from leaking out. If any of your cuts dips down too low, pinch the dough back together or your filling will ooze out.

Pinch the last strips and fold them under.

Do the same with the other end.

Let rise about 20 minutes, then preheat the oven to 350F.

Brush liberally with a beaten egg.

And sprinkle with a happy snowstorm of sugar.

Bake 25-30 minutes

NOTE: You could also bake this at 375F, but it darkens up quite a bit faster. Play around and see what works for you.

Let cool a few minutes before slicing or it will fall apart … which will, most certainly, make you fall apart.

Serve immediately with a cup of hot coffee and…

… lots of silly moustaches.

Happy pulla making, friends!

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Comments

  1. Wow that looks tasty! I can practically smell it. I want some now, but sadly I will have to wait until the weekend to give it a go. Great post, as usual :-)

  2. LOVE it!! Can’t wait to try it!

    I have to ask… what book is that with all the loaf shapes?? I’m always looking for fun things to do with my loaves!!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Hey KC, the book is called UUSI RUUTUKOKKI, and was loaned to me by Ruby. I can’t read a word of it (ha ha), but she translated some of the Finnish and we looked at the pictures… which were very pretty ;)

  3. Yum!! Looks delicious :) Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Wow, I am so impressed, it turned out so great. Did the book or internet help you make
    it so well? Nice that you got to eat so much of it with the two batches :). Should have smelt it from
    our neighborhood and come running over. Looking at the pic again and its just perfect. Did it taste as
    good as the first patch. I wanted to know if Keith liked it?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Your book got my brain working … I’ve made a herringbone braid before, and seemed like the best solution to contain the filling in a “loaf” – and by best, I simply mean prettiest ;) It was wonderful – the filling was delicate (I used half as much this time) and lovely. Keith loved it – he couldn’t stop eating it. Neither could Ava, actually.

  5. Collette Lemons says:

    That looks good. It’s going to be a cool weekend so I might have to give this a go.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yes, it’s a fun loaf of bread to make. I made it once without the cracked cardamom seeds and that was good too. They just add a little extra something. Enjoy :)

  6. Ahhh…this bread looks so pretty and so delicious!

  7. Hi Sasha:

    That looks and sounds delicious!

    Great series of pictures showing how to braid the loaf as well!

    Well done!

    Laura

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thank you Laura! It was a lot of fun to make. I’m so looking forward to when Ava is a little older and making these dishes with me :)

  8. beautiful!

  9. I WILL HAVE TO try this. It looks fantastic, and the braiding part looks fun ! I just have to find cardamom, which I’ve never used. I’ll let you know how it went !

  10. Your pictures are fabulous, especially on the braiding. Thank you so much.

  11. Kirsty says:

    Love this bread! It’s like a cinnamon roll, but without all the sugar :)
    One question though: as I was baking it, the dough broke apart and some of the filling leaked out. I made sure the ‘walls’ were high, like you said, but then that happened.
    Suggestions?
    :)

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Hmm, without seeing it I can’t be sure. My top guesses: the filling was spread too close to the cuts… but that doesn’t explain the dough breaking apart. It may have broken apart because it rose too much before baking… either because it was too warm or was sitting too long. Does any of this sound right, given how it looked?

      • Kirsty says:

        That would make sense. It got really warm here that day and I forgot about the bread as I was out gardening… oops! :D

        • Sasha Martin says:

          Aha! Bingo. :) I’d love to be gardening on a beautiful day. We’ve been stuck in the 40′s lately. Brr.

  12. I made this the other day. It is awesome. We had so much left overs I made french toast out of it, with whipped cream cheese on the top. Now i have to make it for my husbands office party next week!

  13. I LOVE Pulla, more than anything else. I could eat it all the time. I have made many different versions of it, but yours is next!! Thanks for posting.

  14. :) I laughed when I saw the mustaches! I am now inspired to try to make my own and take mustache pictures too!

  15. I’m only a quarter Finn, but I’m giving this a go right now. Sadly, my local store only has the pods of cardamom, so I had to do a lot of smashing. It’s in the oven now – hopefully it’ll work out!

  16. I do not have a dough hook. Is there a way I can knead the dough without one?

  17. Attempting this recipe…but it is taking FOREVER to rise. I always use fresh yeast, but normally add the dry yeast to a small amount of warm sugar water to activate it BEFORE adding it to the others ingredients. It has been 3 hours now (dough is in a warm room covered with a damp towel)…and it has only risen a little..going to give it another couple if hours. My Nisua dough usually rises in 1-2 hours.

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