Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pulla? Must Be Christmas!



According to #2, it's not Christmas until she's smelled the pulla. Apparently, the Christmas season officially began in our house today, because we fulfilled our family tradition of making the Finnish sweet bread.

Pulla has always meant Christmas to me. We had it every December when I was a kid. Dad was usually the one who made it, and I have lots of great memories of sitting at the kitchen counter watching and "helping."

I'm no expert, but I do enjoy making pulla, and this year was extra special, because I had fresh cardamom straight from a Helsinki grocery store. This meant that the cardamom was not only mucho cheaper than the stuff in the States (a bottle here can run you around $15), but it has a stronger, better flavor. One whiff had my eyes rolling into the back of head.

Ooooh, yeah.

Lots of versions of the recipe are out there, but here's the one I use. The amount of cardamom listed assumes you have the fresh stuff. When I have to use a U.S. bottle, I double or triple the amount.

Pulla
1 TB dry yeast
1/2 c warm water
2 c hot milk
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom
4 eggs, beaten
9+ c white flour

Dissolve yeast in water and let sit for several minutes. Add milk, butter, sugar, salt, cardamom, and eggs. Add 2 to 3 cups of flour and beat until you have a batter. Add 3 more cups of flour. Beat until smooth and glossy. Stir in remaining flour until dough forms a stiff ball.

[At this point you're supposed to let it rest for 15 minutes and then knead until it's smooth and elastic. I let my trusty KitchenAide do the kneading because I'm lazy like that.]

Put in a greased bowl and let rise until double. Cut into pieces to make 3 large braids or several smaller ones. Let the braids rise for another 20-30 minutes. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes (large braids) or 15-20 (small braids) until they are golden brown.

Finns often put lump sugar on top of the egg wash before baking (something else hard to find over here).

Dad generally lets the braids cool and then drizzles a simple powdered sugar glaze over them. Sometimes he adds sliced almonds on top. I do it his way.

The kids love rolling out the dough and making the braids. I let them, because they love it so much. The resulting braids aren't as even as pretty as they could be, but the memories are worth it. We made the smaller braids this year, and the picture above shows a few of them.

One Finnish food I adore but have never tried to make is Karjalan Piirakoita (Karalian Pies). My new year's resolution is to learn to make them. Then my life will be a tad more complete!

23 comments:

Kristina P. said...

That looks and sounds delicious, Annette!

Cheryl said...

I agree with Kristina --I just wish I could say it smelled/tasted delicious. Then I'd REALLY know if I should make it. ;)

Maybe one day I'll get motivated to try your recipe. Today we baked and decorated sugar cookies, so I'm all baked out for now. Sigh...

Jan said...

What a neat tradition. I could almost smell it through the computer. I love warm bread and looks delish Annette. Thanks for sharing all the tidbits that went along with the Pulla.

Jenna Consolo said...

Yum! I can smell the cardamom just from these pictures! I wish I could be there to taste it!

Heffalump said...

I like to pick a new kind of holiday food to try each year, and I have a particular soft spot for traditional foods from other countries. One year it was Krumkake from Norway (which I even bought the special iron for) and Rosette cookies. This year it was Churros (which are great homemade). Maybe next year I will try this recipe. I think I'll copy it down right now!

Lara said...

YUm! Thanks for the recipe. I will have to try it if I can find some cardamom. :)

Becky said...

Looks yummy!

I read Spires of Stone yesterday. My maiden name is Spiers (but pronounced like temple spires), and I LOVE Much Ado. I even own the sound track, which is well worn. I loved your adaptation. No wonder you are an award-winning author!

Annette Lyon said...

Ah, Becky, thanks! I'm going through one of those confidence questiioning times, so that really made my day. :)

samiam said...

Can you make this with me for my birthday present in a couple? I'm totally serious--braided, sweet bread sounds heavenly!

Rebecca said...

That looks scrumptious! I'm going to have to make this someday.

Annette Lyon said...

Heck yes, Sam! I've got plenty of cardamom left. Remind me when it gets closer!

Julie Wright said...

For me, it's pepporkakor (swedish) But I have been so insane for the last three years I haven't done it. I think maybe on wednesday, I need to get baking. Thanks for the recipe.

LisAway said...

Mmmm. Yum! Thanks for the recipe. Yours look lovely! The kids are great braiders!

Cynthia said...

Awesome! In my Mom's family the tradition is making (I totally can't spell this just so you know so I'm going to sound it out) Facut-noct-heli-a-hes. It's Swiss. Sadly, it wasn't passed on to us but we've enjoyed it at my Aunt's home. Maybe I should try making it sometime (if I can ever figure out how to spell it- it took me years just to be able to pronounce it verbally).

I think it's wonderful that you carry on this traditional part of your heritage- AND are passing it on.

RobisonWells said...

I don't believe I've ever tasted cardamom. But the real question is: are Finnish chefs at all similar to the Swedish Chef?

Heather B. Moore said...

Looks yummy!

Annette Lyon said...

Cynthia, If you ever get that recipe, let me know. My paternal grandfather was a Swiss immigrant.

Rob, Unfortuantely, the Finnish chefs, don't sounds nearly as entertaining as the Swedish chef. But I always thought of him whenever I heard a Swedish newscast. :D

Alyson (New England Living) said...

What a cool tradition! I love hearing about old world traditions.

Luisa Perkins said...

I cannot wait to try this, even with wimpy American cardamom!

Tristi Pinkston said...

That is a beautiful bread! I'm terrible at shaping dough ...

Melanie J said...

I'm a devout non-bread baker, but this might change my mind. Wow!

Lyon Pride said...

Looks yummy! By the way, thanks for the truffle bar! It was scrumptious!!

Josi said...

This sounds so good--thanks for the recipe. I love how much you have held on to those things you experienced as a kid--it obviously takes a lot of determination to keep them strong. Good for you. I hope you had a great Christmas.

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