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.
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
For the top:
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon sugar
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
… 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!