Braided Cardamom Bread

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This recipe definitely required some practice, however, I am happy to say that I think I have mastered it. This cardamom bread is called Pulla in Finland and can also be made into other shapes or even rolls. Baking is not exactly my strong point, but for some odd reason, despite all the frustration and laughing at myself, I think it’s really fun! My first attempt at this bread was the first Finnish recipe that I ever tried and I did not realize the importance of making sure the yeast dissolves completely in the milk and I ended up with a fragrant brick instead. My biggest piece of advice is to pay close attention to the directions and give yourself ample time to relax and bake. I think it’s safe to say that this recipe shaped the journey to find my roots and I do believe it was meant to be.

A picture taken of my family right before they left for America after waiting a year from the Titanic.

Actually, quite an amazing fact, my great-great grandparents were set to leave Finland on the Titanic to America in 1912. They all had tickets to the first and last time the Titanic would ever set out to sea until grandma got very sick and they decided to wait until 1913. Unfortunately, we have no idea what they did with their tickets, it would be a pretty amazing find. Because destiny is an amazing thing, my ancestors were not on the Titanic when it sank due to a simple sickness and I would not be here today if their plans were not interrupted. In perspective; there is a plan for everyone despite all the hardships and you really never know what is going to happen or why it is happening.

Cardamom
Cardamom pods on left, ground cardamom on right.

Back to baking; I did make a few personal tweaks to the recipe. Traditionally, the bread only requires cardamom. Being such a fragrant beautiful spice, it pairs amazingly with cinnamon and clove. To really make a show-stopping flavor, I made a simple lemon glaze that gave the sweet bread a real pop. I actually made this bread for a Christmas gathering as a traditional dish. Instead of the two braided loaves, I made one large braided wreath. It was a huge hit and has very festive flavors.

Cardamom Christmas Wreath
My Cardamom Christmas bread wreath I made with lemon icing and Christmas sprinkles.

Pulla bread is not a fluffy bread, it is very sense and delicate. It is phenomenal with morning coffee or my husband’s favorite; French bread. Just whip some eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon, soak the slice of Pulla and cook in a pan. You can sprinkle it with powdered sugar, maple syrup or jam. Lingonberry preserve is popular in Finland and delicious with this French bread. It is closely compared to cranberry, however, I much prefer lingonberry over cranberries. It’s by far the best French toast I have ever made or eaten!

Cheers!


Pulla Recipe

2 Hours ǀ Makes 2 Loaves

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Ingredients

  • 8 Cups of White Bread Flour
  • 1½ Cup Melted and Cooled Butter
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 Packets of Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 3 Teaspoons of Crushed Cardamom Seeds (about 9 pods)
    OR
    1 Tablespoon ground Cardamom
  • 2 Cups of Lukewarm Whole Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Clove (optional)

Glaze

  • 1 Egg- Beaten

Brush over braided dough before baking to achieve a gorgeous brown color and shine.

Icing

  • ½ Lemon, Squeezed
  • 1½ Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Mix together ingredients until smooth and thick, drizzle over baked and cooled Pulla.


Directions

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  1. *Important* Dissolve the packets of yeast completely in the lukewarm milk. Allow to dissolve for about 3 minutes and whisk until an ivory color.
  2. In an electric mixer, add the yeast mixture, sugar, salt, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and eggs. Whisk until well blended.
  3. Slowly add 4 cups of flour while the electric mixer is running with a whisk attachment.
  4. Change the attachment to a bread hook attachment and mix in the butter.
  5. Very slowly add the remaining flour until there is a elastic, smooth dough forming and the ball of dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl. (You can add a little more flour is needed)
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    Knead dough either by hand or in an electric mixer for about 10 minutes.
  7. steps
    The dough should be in the shape of a ball. Put into a bowl and cover the top lightly with a little oil. Cover the bowl with a cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until the size has doubled. If you do not have a proving drawer, heat your oven to about 80°F or as low as possible, turn off and keep over door ajar, checking size of dough often.
  8. On a floured surface, divide the dough in half. Divide each half into 3 equal pieces. You should have 6 balls of dough in equal size all together.

  9. Take 3 of the balls of dough and roll each ball between your hands to make 3 long ropes of equal size (about 16 inches)
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    Pinch the ends of the 3 Ropes together and braid, tucking the ends under the loaf.
  11. Repeat Steps 9-10 with the remaining dough.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350° Cover loaves and allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
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    Place the loaves on a large nonstick baking pan (you may need 2, you do not want your loaves to touch) and brush the outsides with the beaten egg.
  14. Put the loaves in in the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. Be sure to check on the bread to prevent burning.
  15. Allow loaves to cool and drizzle icing over and allow to dry if desired.Enjoy with coffee or tea or make French toast!

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