If there is one thing that excites most Finns I know, it’s Pulla. Pulla is a traditional cardamom sweet bread that everyone’s grandmother used to make. We ate Pulla as kids, I couldn’t wait for them to get out of the oven after smelling the combination of butter, cardamom and sugar melding in Mum’s kitchen. And the smell of the cardamom bread baking in the oven is just, well even better than salted herring squished onto a slice of rye bread topped with fresh dill (another Finnish must-have). Pulla is my quintessential childhood memory.
I 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 Korvapuusti. Whichever way you want to shape it, Pulla always tastes insane.
Today I made the pulla dough into simple little buns and filled them with butter. The easiest little butter buns you ever did try. The trick with pulla dough is in the kneading, it has to be super soft to come out light and fluffy once baked. I do mine by hand, I’m just not a thermomix/dough hook kinda gal, but if you prefer to make light work go ahead and use a dough hook. I personally love the pain of almost putting a shoulder out, something to do with the 15 minutes of meditation that comes with moving the dough around.
Pulla can be frozen, once cooled place into freezer bags and pop into the freezer. To defrost, simply pop onto a tray and into the oven for 5 minutes. If you have unexpected guests you can give them the impression you just baked your buns off (geddit?) and whipped these up before their arrival. And the smell from the Pulla in the oven will excite any warm-blooded being. Whenever I make a batch I run a bag full around to my Dad, he just loves it.
I made the mistake of telling my pulla-loving-child that I was making these today well before I had started baking. Five minutes later we had “when will the pulla be ready?” It seems like that childhood tradition of impatiently waiting for the Pulla to come out of the oven has been passed down.
Ingredients (makes 7 million buns – approx 45 actually):
500ml (2 cups) milk, warmed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150g (2/3 cup) sugar
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
900g (6 cups) plain flour
6 tsp dry yeast
200g butter, melted
For the topping:
75g butter, melted
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg for egg wash
2 tbs milk for egg wash
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 in small portions, 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. At first it may seem the dough is swimming in the butter, but 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. I love waiting for dough to rise, the anticipation of waiting to see that little rise in the tea towel is just thrilling! Clearly doesn’t take much…
Punch dough, then let rest for a few minutes. Roll dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface.
Divide dough and roll into small balls about the size of (or slightly bigger than) a golf ball. You can make them any size you like, but I find if they are bigger I have more guilt about going in a for a second (ahem, third) bun. Smaller portions mean more helpings, right? Right. Makes about 45 balls at this size.
Place buns onto baking trays, cover with tea towel and leave to prove for a further 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 225oC. Combine egg and milk wash.
Once balls have risen, use your thumb to make a hole in the middle of each bun. Fill each hole with 1/2 tsp of combined butter and sugar. I know, I know, lots of butter and sugar. Well they are called ‘butter’ buns. And let’s face it, butter makes everything good again.
Brush all over buns with egg wash and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes. Don’t let them overcook or the pulla dough will dry out, just slightly golden and fluffy is the key.
Then, if you’re like me, devour half a dozen fresh out the oven with a bluddy good cup of coffee, then invite the kids to come and take their pick!