Finnish Pulla

FinnishPulla_bakedWreathFinnish Pulla is the second recipe for TWD in December.  As with Gingerbread Baby Cakes before it, Pulla is often associated with the winter holiday season.  Beatrice Ojakangas’ recipe further emphasizes a seasonal connection by suggesting the pulla be formed into a rounded wreath.  Thanks go to fellow baker Erin of The Daily Morsel for hosting this recipe.  As always, the full recipe can be found at her blog.  Links for each participating baker’s efforts can be found here.

Not your usual, flour, yeast, water, salt bread, Pulla is a slightly sweet bread similar to challah and brioche.  All three are enriched with butter and egg.  As with challah, a pulla is often shaped into a braid.  Unlike challah and brioche, pulla includes an additional flavoring in the form of ground cardamom.  Previously I’ve encountered cardamom mostly via Indian cuisine, including spiced chai and kheer, an Indian rice pudding.  After tasting pulla, I’d be inclined to add cardamom in a few other desserts, including the dough for cinnamon rolls, and possibly in the pumpkin bread we baked for TWD a few months ago.

FinnishPulla_doughTriptychAlthough containing many of the same ingredients as brioche, making the dough varies somewhat; apart from the shaping, I found making pulla easier.  After proofing the yeast, a few eggs, milk, and about half the flour are first mixed to a smooth batter.  Melted butter is added and mixed until again a smooth consistency is reached.  Enough flour is then added to yield a stiff though not too dry dough.  After a short rest, the dough is can be kneaded by hand for about ten minutes.  Since I started the dough in a stand mixer, I left most of the kneading to the machine as well, finishing with a few of minutes of hand kneading.

FinnishPulla_braidedCreating a braid long enough to bend into a wreath requires three very long (36″/3 ft/ 1 meter) strands of dough.  Initially, I did my kneading and shaping on a marble board, which was not nearly long enough.  After rolling the strands, I realized I would be in for trouble if I to braid on a short surface.  So I switched to the countertop and did the braiding there.  Moving the finished braid onto the cookie sheet was a bit more challenging.  An experienced Pulla baker must have a trick or two for ending up with perfectly round wreaths.

FinnishPulla_risingDoughTriptychAfter transferring the formed loaf, the wreath of dough is allowed to rise under a towel for close to an hour.  What began as a somewhat diminutive ring puffed up quite nicely.  While it kept its overall diameter, the rising dough grew up and out to form a decent width.  To encourage a shiny and golden crust, the dough receives an egg wash, and a sprinkling of Swedish pearl sugar.  One could also sprinkle a handful of sliced almonds over the top.

Once in the oven, the pulla continued rising even as it browns.  As individual strands swell, newly exposed dough does not brown quite as much, resulting in an almost checkerboard of golden brown mixed with light yellow.  All the while, the scent of butter, yeast, and cardamom — a particularly warm and inviting smell — fills the kitchen.  Once removed from the oven, the pulla must be cooled to room temperature before carving off a slice.  The particularly wonderful smells of baking made this wait even harder than usual.

FinnishPulla_sliced

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14 Responses to Finnish Pulla

  1. SandraM says:

    Your wreath looks wonderful. And your braiding is really good! I love the pic of your long braid.
    This is a great sweet bread. I loved the cardamom flavour. Never baked with it before and I have to say I love it!
    Will be making this again.

  2. Ferda says:

    Your bread looks beautiful and so neatly braided.. I also loved the cardamom flavour and smell.. Definitely a keeper..

    • Paul says:

      Thanks, braiding was kinda fun. Not having a lot of experience with hair, it feels like braiding dough strands is easier. I like the way your loaves turned out even better — I’ll probably bake mine just a little longer next time.

  3. Dawn says:

    Ohhhh, I’m totally stealing your idea of making french toast! I know what’s for breakfast tomorrow! :)

    • Paul says:

      Hey that’s the sincerest form of flattery. Your decorated cakes are superb. One of these days I might try some decorating like that. I bet you’ll out-Martha Martha when we eventually tackle the Wedding Cake.

  4. barbaramais says:

    The risen pulla shape looks different–check the left & right fotos. Why is this? You could also use this for a good bread pudding if it lasts long enough. I like the idea of nuts (almonds) or whatever for a topping.

    • Paul says:

      As the dough rises, it grows in every direction where it’s not kept in check by a pan. In the wreath shape this have the effect of the strands getting fatter, the hole in the center smaller, and the bow puffy.

  5. bobbie mueller says:

    Can I send this to our Jewish Norma? She gave us challah which dad gobbled.

    ________________________________

  6. Cathleen says:

    Picture perfect! I had a hell of a time with the bow – gave up and just layed it out over itself. Is that a cement countertop or marble? I have been intriqued with cement tops.

    • Paul says:

      I totally winged the bow — and figure I’ll be doing straight loaves next time. I didn’t anticipate just how much the dough would poof up — would have to remember to use a very skinny rope for the bow, and maybe really roll it flat — or maybe poke it somehow.

      I rent the countertop — and the rest of condo as well! It is marble, except that it’s tiles about 12″ square with no grout in between.

  7. Cakelaw says:

    Your pulla looks fabulous. I had to do dome pretty tricky manouevres to braid the long strands in my very limited benchspace.

  8. Teresa says:

    Lovely wreath! Your braiding is perfect.

  9. Absolutely beautiful! Also sounds like it would make delicious French toast. Will have to try that in the future when we make our gf version of this recipe. Great idea.

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