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Traditional Finnish Pikku Pulla Recipe

Finnish Pikku Pulla

You see a lot of people talking about how busy they are. We’re all busy in the scheme of things. Some days I am busy feeding my face with ice cream watching reruns of Offspring in bed. Still busy, busy being lazy.

When I worked full time my version of ‘busy’ was very different to how it is now. Then it was manic, frantic, chasing-my-tail, head-all-full-of-stuff busy. These days however my ‘busy’ is quite lovely. 

As a freelancer I am constantly looking ahead. I am surrounding myself with lovely creatives for inspiration (and their wonderfulness), and when someone plants an idea in my head, I run with it. I am a leap now and find my wings on the way kinda gal. If there is too much planning with too much time ahead of me, I don’t use it wisely anyhow. I am all about the cram at the last minute, but the thoughts and my desired outcome are already in my head and they sit there until I am mid project.

The only problem with this is, sometimes my head likes to dabble in several different projects at the one time. And at times like this I can start to feel a little inundated. I don’t want to reduce my work and projects and collaborations, I want to increase them. I want to see my calendar filled with delightfully creative endeavours. However if I don’t focus on tucking some things away in my head, I can feel like I am drowning and suddenly I forget that I actually do have time to do all this.

Last weekend I had plans to make these beautiful little delights. Fortunately, and unfortunately, I am an optimist so in my head it goes a little like this. Saturday, wake up, finish breakfast, make dough, let dough rise beautifully, make pikku pullat, style them, photograph them, smile and pat myself on the back for making them look so delightful. Then, clean up, edit photos, draft post, share with you here. Problem is, last Saturday the dough didn’t rise. Can you see how it went from here?

Tantrums and foot stomping ensued. I called my Mum. MUM, THE DOUGH DIDN’T RISE! WHY DIDN’T IT RISE? Of course it turns out it was too cold on Saturday. And my house isn’t heated so the dough that loves to be warm and cosy was cold and not cosy. No rise for you. 

Take two. This time I popped the dough into my heated bedroom and wrapped it up. Then it kind of rose, good enough I thought. But in my haste I rolled and cut the dough, popped the pullat into the cupcake papers, then realised I’d forgotten the knead the dough! So I huffed and puffed as I slid the second lot of dough into the bin, disappointed at the waste, the fact I wasn’t at this moment stuffing my face with delightful Finnish pikku pulla, and, no blog post for you. 

Later in the week Mum emailed me some supportive words of “it wasn’t meant to be.” I love my Mum for that – chin up, chest out, soldier on. However I smiled to myself and thought, yeah, not this time Duck. 

You see the Finnish folk have this special word called sisu. Sisu can’t even be translated properly because there is not an english equivalent to the awesomeness that is sisu. It isn’t just a word, but a way of life, a philosophy. It’s about tapping into a mental strength and resilience, it’s about overcoming adversity. According to Wikipedia: Sisu is a Finnish word generally meaning determination, bravery, and resilience. However, the word is widely considered to lack a proper translation into any other language. Sisu is about taking action against the odds and displaying courage and resoluteness in the face of adversity. 

Without trivialising sisu and taking away its depth by relating it to my dummy spit in the kitchen about non-rising dough, I had to remind my Mum that us Finns don’t give up that easily. “Mum, you told me that the pikku pullat weren’t meant to be? Now that’s not Finnish sisu!” I am not defeated that easily.

A week on, sulkiness gone, and take three saw my dough rose beautifully. It better bluddy have, it was wrapped up like a newborn, swaddled in a tea towel hidden in my bedroom with a heater on and door closed. It was like a sauna for dough in there. When I walked in an hour later to see the tea towel on top with a little mountain rising up beneath it, air punches and squeals of delight followed.

As if I’d let a little cold air and defiant dough beat me. I am too Finnish for that.

Whenever I make pulla dough it reminds me of my childhood. I remember seeing mum, spatula in hand spreading butter and sugar (sometimes cinnamon) across the rolled out dough. The smell brings me back in an instant, and it feels like home. I have my grandmother’s old hand-written recipe book so I looked for the recipe in there. And there it was among hundreds of pages of recipes, written out beautifully and so eloquently. Such a lovely reminder of the Finnish women in our family who have kept these traditions alive, and thankfully passed them onto me. 

Finnish Pikku Pulla

Ingredients // makes approx. 22-25 pieces

1 1/4 cup milk

5 teaspoons dry yeast 

150g butter, cubed at room temperature

3 1/2 cups plain flour

1 egg

2 tablespoons sugar


100g butter, softened

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla sugar


Warm milk in a jug, add yeast to dissolve. 

Place butter into a bowl with flour and mix together with your fingers. Add milk/yeast mixture, egg and sugar, mix with a spoon until combined. Using your hands, bring together into a ball. If it is a little sticky you can add a sprinkle of flour. Or if it is too dry you can add a drop of milk. 

Cover dough with cling wrap (and a tea towel if you are partial to floppy dough tantrums) and leave to rise to double its size in a warm place and away from draft for about an hour.

Mix filling ingredients together in a bowl into a soft paste.

Preheat oven to 220C. 

Once dough has risen, turn on to a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until soft. I love this bit. I love kneading dough, I have never used a mixer to do it for me. 

Divide dough into two even portions. Roll each portion out to rectangular pieces at about 25 x 35cm each. Brush the butter/sugar mixture onto both portions.

Starting at the longer side of the first portion, roll the dough to form a long log. Cut into 2-3cm pieces and place into paper cups with the cut sides down. Repeat with the second portion. If you want to have a visual of what the dough looks like rolled out and how to cut it, you can see so in my previous post here.

Cover the pullat with a tea towel and leave to rise again for about half an hour or so. Brush with lightly beaten egg and sprinkle a little sugar on top. I used the coffee sugar granules, another lovely childhood reminder. 

Bake until golden brown for about 10-15 minutes. 

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  • Baby June - Love love love this post!! Sisu sounds like a wonderful word, I will have to keep that in mind. Personally I’m obsessed with Finland, and I only just discovered pulla a few months ago…this variation sounds incredible! Awesome that you have roots in Finland, so interesting!! :DReplyCancel

    • Peggy Saas - There is so much to love about Finland. I was originally going to make this blog mostly about Finnish recipes, but I would like to write and photograph a Finnish cookbook so I’ve saving my favourite recipes for that. Actually, they’re all my favourites! Thanks June. xReplyCancel

  • Siru - Seeing this post on my Blogger feed totally made my day since I am 100% Finnish and living in Finland as well :) Pulla really is maybe the most Finnish thing there is, even though I think there are as many recipes for pulla as there are bakers. Me and my mom, for instance, always, ALWAYS put cardamom into the pulla dough. In my opinion it really makes the pulla. You should try it sometimes! :)

    And the part about sisu… heck yes! Finns are tough ;)ReplyCancel

    • Peggy Saas - Thanks for stopping by Siru. I agree, Pulla is pretty much as Finnish as it gets. I also do them with cardamom, don’t you just love that smell! This is the first time I have made the vanilla ‘pikku pulla’ version, but my mum used to make them a lot when I was a kid. My son loves the cinnamon and cardamom ones most.

      And yes, Finns are tough! xReplyCancel

  • Your One and Only Loving Mother - You made it! They do look so yummy. They are different from normal Pulla but I love the vanilla taste. They are great for the emergencies, just pop some in your freezer and when some one drops in un expected, just pop in the Micro for 20sec and there you are. Soft fluffy yummy pullas. BTW love our photos too xxooReplyCancel

    • Peggy Saas - Thanks Duck. I love them too, such a sweet taste. They turned out super soft too, really delightful. Very happy with my first (third) try. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Bec - How delicious?! The photos looked so pretty I had to pin one to my bake-it list. Lovely recipe – Bec xReplyCancel

  • Tammi - Oh boy, the trials and tribulations of a food blogger aye?! It’s comforting to know that I am not the only one who has failures in the kitchen that often results in major triumphs :)ReplyCancel


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