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Pulla – traditional Finnish cardamom bread

Traditional Finnish Pulla is sweet, cardamom flavoured bread that encapsulates the essence of Finnish baking. It is simple to make with few ingredients, but tastes like home.

When I made my very own first batch of Pulla the smell of cardamom brought childhood memories flooding back. My Mum used to make Pulla when we were kids and is one of my longtime favourites. In the past I have made scroll type Pulla with cinnamon as posted here, and the traditional (although mine took on a somewhat rogue shape) Korvapuusti shaped Pulla as posted here.

Kneading Pulla dough isn’t for the faint hearted. I estimate it takes a good 15 minutes of kneading to get the dough perfect. My Mum’s tip is the softer the dough, the softer the Pulla. There is quite a bit of mixing prior to kneading as well.

I have recently heard that the Thermomix makes light work of the kneading, as does a dough hook on a mixer reducing the risk of RSI that comes from kneading. I must say the kneading does not turn me off, clearly, since I made Pulla on Sunday and again today.

My son has decided Pulla is a must-have for his lunchbox. My son has great taste.

Ingredients:

500ml warm milk

2 eggs

150g sugar

1tsp cardamom

1tsp salt

900g plain flour

6tsp dry yeast

200g melted butter

Sugar to dust on top

30g flaked almonds

1 egg (to brush on top)

** You can add a handful of raisins to the dough before you roll it out if you like.

This recipe makes 3 Pulla loaves. You can halve the ingredients if you wish to make 1 bigger loaf but I prefer to make 3 loaves after the effort of kneading.

Pulla freezes well in an airtight freezer bag and can be defrosted in the oven. Perfect to serve to unexpected guests, they’ll think you’ve been baking all day!


Method:

Preheat oven to 225oC.

Mix warm milk, 2 eggs, sugar, salt and cardamom together until the sugar has melted. 

In a separate bowl mix the flour and yeast together. 

Using a spoon to mix, start adding a little of the flour and yeast through the milk mixture.  Keep adding the flour a little by little, and when the mixture starts to resemble dough, ditch the spoon and use your hand. Knead until the dough comes off your hand (don’t worry if you have not used all the flour). 

Add slightly cooled melted butter and keep kneading until it is all absorbed into the mix. Don’t worry if it seems the dough is swimming in the butter, as you keep kneading the butter will be absorbed into the dough.

If the dough is too moist and sticks to your hand, add a little more flour. Knead until the dough is super soft.  Mum’s tip: the softer the dough, the softer the pulla. 

Cover the kneaded dough with a tea towel and let it rise to double its size in a warm place (away from draft), for approximately 1 hour. 

Once risen, punch the dough once, then pour out onto a lightly floured work bench. Divide into 3 to make 3 loaves.

Divide the first portion into 3 pieces and roll out each piece into a long rope shape approx 50cm in length. Place each piece onto a baking tray side by side, press one end of all 3 rope pieces together then plait. Tuck both ends under to make loaf neat. 

Cover with a teatowel and let rise for about 15-20 minutes. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with beaten egg, then sprinkle sugar and a handful of flaked almonds on top.

Bake in a preheated oven at 225oC for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Do not overcook as the Pulla will dry out. 

Best eaten fresh out the oven. I can guarantee you won’t be able to resist, the smell of freshly baked Pulla is amazing! Accompany with freshly brewed coffee for a delicious afternoon tea treat.

Don’t forget to pop some into your kid’s lunch box!

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  • Mum on the Run - Mmmm.
    I love your instructional.
    Like you're talking me through – which is exactly what I'd need.
    Do you have a hotline?
    Looks delicious.
    :-)ReplyCancel

  • Peggy - I could add way more instructions but I don't want to come across as too controlling! ha!

    You can call my hotline anytime, I will walk you through it. And they are very delicious, I've had to pack it away otherwise I can't stop eating!ReplyCancel

  • Your ONE and ONLY Loving Mother - You make Finns pround! Your pulla looks so light and fluffy. I must sya that I find kneading quite therapeautic and even though I do have a mixer with a dough hook, I never use it for Pulla. I love the feel of the dough in my hands…that's the love you put in it…I think so anyway!ReplyCancel

  • Peggy - I agree, I found the kneading tedious the first time but now I quite enjoy it. I daydream and don't even realise how long I am kneading for. I found the pulla loaf doesn't dry out as much as the small buns. The loaf I made on Sunday was still super fresh up until yesterday. I quite like the loaf style!ReplyCancel

  • thetobykennedy - Oh my…

    Oh Peggs, why don't you live closer? ;(

    This looks A.MAZING!! xxxReplyCancel

  • Deb @ home life simplified - That looks so incredible. I will add it to hubby's “to cook” list and when I get my mixer (she says optimistically) I shall implore the dough hook to kick some Finnish cooking ass! (ooh can i say that?

    thanks peggy!ReplyCancel

  • Peggy - Toby if you lived closer we'd be food swapping a lot! I'd be pinching off you more than you off me. ;) As a food lover I know you know how awesome this would be fresh out the oven. xoReplyCancel

  • Peggy - Yes Deb, you can say that, kicking some Finnish cooking ass is what this is! I highly recommend you add it to the list. Very easy and so delicious! Beats buying ready made sweet bread full of preservatives. Let me know how you go if you ever make it. xoReplyCancel

  • Your ONE and ONLY Loving Mother - It's quite nice toasted when getting a bit stale or my mother used to dip it in milk and fry it and we had with spread of jam and fresh whipped cream…..that was called “Koyhan Ritari”ReplyCancel

  • Mrs Lettuce - My boys had them warm for breakfast this morning. I know it is not the Finnish way but I do mine in my Thermomix – I find the kneading tedious and hard work! I make a batch every week, divide it into 3 and freeze 2. The night before I take a batch out of the freezer and in the morning, roll, sprinkle, cut and cook. Too easy. Dont know how many times Pulla has saved my lunchbox dilemmas!ReplyCancel

  • Peggy - Oooh that sounds nice Mum, must try that! I imagine toasted with jam would be delicious!

    @Cass, it doesn't matter if you do them in the Thermomix, the recipe is still very much Finnish. The technique of kneading is very old school and you are a modern day girl. I can't believe you make a batch every week, good on you! You might like to try the loaf, much less work and the loaf seems to stay fresher than the little buns. I notice the little buns dry out a lot quicker. Although with 3 boys I don't think they would stand long enough to dry out!

    Well done Cass, I am glad someone else is enjoying this old family recipe. :)ReplyCancel

  • Katelinn - my dad always does ours in the bread maker to mix it. he tweaked my great grandma's recipe a bit to make it more bread maker friendly in order in the bread maker

    3/4 cup very warm milk with 2 eggs beaten into the milk
    I warm it in the micro for 25 seconds, beat and warm again 25 sec
    watch it doesn't turn into scrambled eggs

    heaping as much as you can 2 cup measuring cup of flour
    all purpose. shuould be around 3-4 cups

    1/4 cup sugar

    1/4 tsp, salt

    20 cardamom seeds ,ground , should make about 1 tablspoon
    or 1 tablespoon preground cardamom

    1/4 lb butter, cut into 4 pieces in each corner of the bread maker
    OR
    I have now in place of the butter been using 4 tablespoons of EVOO
    lol,, extra virgin olive oil

    fleischmans traditional dry yeast- 8ml,, //or 2 teaspoon

    use the dough cycle on the bread maker to mix and knead the dough

    when the cycle is done, take it out and divide into 2 pieces

    divide each of those into 3 pieces

    take 3 pieces and french braid, place into a glass pan that has been greased with crisco
    do the same with the other 3 pieces
    if you want really big pulla, just divide the dough out of the breadmaker into 3 pieces and braid

    place the braided dough in a warm place to re-rise

    in a gas oven with a pilot light works real well
    or pre-heat the oven a little so it is warm inside and shut it off. place the dough inside with a tea towel over it or place near a heat vent , grandma Tuovinen used to place it on the radiator in the house.

    When it has puffed up, brush on a thick mixture of a little milk and sugar

    pre-heat oven 350 f

    bake for about 15 minutes until just turning brown
    don't over bake

    I'm going to try yours as soon as i finish what i have in the freezer (my dad made me 3 loaves on the weekend) yum!!

    thanks so much for sharing!
    KatelinnReplyCancel

    • Peggy - That sounds great, when I get a bread maker I am so trying that. I love that your dad enjoys baking. Pulla is a favourite loved by all in our family, I love seeing the kids eat it knowing how much I loved it as a kid.

      Thanks for the ideas Katelinn, and thanks so much for stopping by. :)ReplyCancel

  • Auli - I am first generation Finnish, meaning I was born in Finland but have lived in Canada since age 4. If I want pulla, I have to make it, because there are zero Finns and Finnish bakeries in my neck of the woods. When I was younger, I used to make a batch of four loaves every month or so, but now do it only at Christmas. Everyone loves it. although it is a lot of work up to the kneading stage. My mixmaster handles it quite well until that point. I can tell, because I can smell something electrical burning! Once I get to the point of kneading, I have to dump everything onto the counter to get that last little bit of flour in. (And I HATE the feel of flour on my hands!) I just finished kneading and thought to check in to see if anyone else feels that kneading is hard work! Mutta sen mauste on niin ihana! )But it tastes so good!)ReplyCancel

    • Peggy Saas - Oh definitely Auli, the kneading kills my arm every time! I actually knead it myself as I don’t have a mixer that would handle it and as I am kneading I start wondering WHY AM I DOING THIS?! but as you say, the taste is SO GOOD so by the time I can smell the pulla baking the pain of kneading is long gone.

      They are a favourite in our family, the kids just love them. So do I. I love to eat them warm and unravel the spirals to reveal the cinnamon inside. Then wash down with coffee. Of course. :)

      Thank you so much for saying hello, lovely to hear from you. I will be trying some new Finnish recipes soon (meaning ones I have not tried to make myself before), hope you will stick around.ReplyCancel

      • Auli - Thanks so much for your reply! I’ve learned the painful reality to make sure your yeast is active. If you’re cheap like me, you buy yeast in bulk, but sometimes it loses its voimaus (strength), even if you’ve covered it and kept it airproof in the fridge. So that’s why I prefer traditional yeast that must be activated with a half-cup of lukewarm water and a teaspoon of sugar, because you can tell if it’s worth using before stirring in all the other ingredients. I sometimes use instant yeast too, but always add that ha;f cup of water.

        I use the recipe from Beatrice Ojakangas’ classic Finnish Cookbook/ The only change I make is to glaze the loaves straight out of the oven after baking, rather than before. The heat of the loaves cooks the egg glaze nicely and the sugar sticks to it well.

        Do you ever make lanttulaatikko? Rutabaga casserole. It is so good! I’m doing paistettu kalkkuna (roast turkey) today – didn’t fill my craving at Christmas. What other Finnish dishes do you like? Lettuja? They are the tin pancakes or crepes, much tastier than the lumberjack style popular here.

        Happy New Year!ReplyCancel

        • Peggy Saas - Happy new year to you too Auli!

          Thank you for the tip on glazing the loaf once it comes out of the oven. I did it both before and after this time, and it looked amazing and shiny!

          I haven’t made lanttulaatikko yet but it is high up on my list. I make makaroonilaatikko and porkkanalaatikko, but yet to make lanttulaatikko. I remember my mum making lettuja when were kids, we would cover them with heaps of sugar. I love pulla and korvapuusti, they’d have to be my favourites. Oh and joulutorttu, I can never say no to them!ReplyCancel

  • Cheryl - I make Squeaky Cheese and oven pancakes!ReplyCancel

    • Peggy Saas - Oooh what is squeaky cheese Cheryl, I am intrigued!ReplyCancel

  • Korvapuusti – Traditional Finnish Cinnamon Buns » cake crumbs & beach sand - [...] This time I decided to try out the traditional Korvapuusti shape like my Mum used to make in my much younger days.These buns are a little fiddly at first, but as you get going you will notice shaping them becomes a lot easier. Mine didn’t turn out as perfectly as some that I have seen made by my grandmother and my mum, but those Finnish women are pretty hard to match! I think the key is to push down firmly. The main thing is they taste delicious, no matter what the shape.This Pulla dough is the same recipe as my previous post. [...]ReplyCancel

  • Voisilmäpulla: Finnish butter eye buns » cake crumbs & beach sand - [...] have made Pulla countless times. I have posted different ways to craft them – into a loaf topped with flaked almonds, into spirals with cinnamon added and the traditional cinnamon filled [...]ReplyCancel

  • Nichole - I love pulla! My mom makes it every year for Christmas. In addition to almond slices, she also tops it with a simple powdered sugar glaze. Yum!ReplyCancel

  • Lihapiirakka; Finnish meat pie » cake crumbs & beach sand - [...] pasty that are often called pies or hamburger pies. They are made with the same dough that you make pulla with but with less sugar and no cardamom. They are filled with mince, onion and rice, and then [...]ReplyCancel

  • Piparkakut: Finnish Christmas Gingerbread Biscuits » cake crumbs & beach sand - [...] of Mum standing over our dining table with her baking utensils scattered around either rolling Pulla, making the popular windmill shaped tarts called Joulutorttu or cutting out Christmas cookies. Such [...]ReplyCancel

  • Jon Brandt - Thank God for Internet. My grandmother (French Canadian) used make “boolah” (Never wrote it. Only said it.) and would put homemade blackberry jam in the nest made of each bun. She did this for my grandfather would came from Finland by boat as a young boy. We delighted in visits and these “coffee buns” especially when she tracked a drizzle of glaze over the tops. She promised to share the recipe but never did. Pulla IS the boolah.ReplyCancel

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