Finnish Pulla-is a fluffy and soft yeast bread scented with cardamon. A traditional Finnish bread that smells incredible while baking and is perfect for a coffee break or for Christmas morning.
I look forward to baking Christmas breads every year. This beautiful cardamom spiced Finnish Pulla is officially one of my favorite Christmas breads.
Finnish Pulla bread is usually glazed with an egg and some milk before being baked. It can be braided into a loaf or a wreath. The texture is very similar to a brioche, rich from the eggs, milk and butter. Some bakers sprinkle sliced almonds or raw sugar on top of the dough as well. I sprinkled some granulated sugar on top that I have leftover from Italy this summer. It adds a festive touch to this beautiful bread.
The past week I have shared some beautiful Christmas breads for you to try. The first was the Romanian swirl bread from Roxana’s Home Baking. Next, I shared this easy version of a panettone: Bundt Panettone. Last year I shared a typical bread from Genoa, Italy: Pandolce Genovese. Earlier this month you saw my Christmas Stollen. They are all fantastic recipes to try if you would like to bake a holiday bread this year.
I found this lovely recipe in Saveur Magazine (April 2010, Issue #128). This bread reminds me of the Italian Easter bread (guti di Pasqua) that my mother-in-law and her mother make. The unmistakable perfume of cardamom permeating in the kitchen while it bakes seems to be the only difference between these wonderful holiday breads.
Where is the spice cardamom from?
Cardamom comes from India and other parts of southeast Asia. Cardamom first made its way to Scandinavia after some Vikings purchased it from Constantinople.
What does cardamom taste like?
It has a fruity flavor similar to citrus.
When do you use the spice cardamom?
Cardamom is primarily used in Finland and other Scandinavian countries in baking. It is also uses to flavor tea and savory dishes in other places around the world. In Sweden, the bread is known as vetebrod, while in Norway it is known as hvetebrod, both of which mean wheat bread.
You can see a beautiful Finnish pulla version on my friend Shulie’s blog.
The bread is usually glazed with an egg and some milk before being baked. It can be braided into a loaf or a wreath. The texture is very similar to a brioche, rich from the eggs, milk and butter. Some bakers sprinkle sliced almonds or raw sugar on top of the dough as well. I sprinkled some granulated sugar on top that I have leftover from Italy this summer. It adds a festive touch to this beautiful bread.
How to pronounce pula?
The correct way to pronounce “pulla” is POOL-ah. That simple!
How to braid Finnish Pulla?
You could do a simple three strand braid like I did. I have also seen four braid strands. So sort of like braiding challah, there are different ways. Have fun experimenting with the braids.
What is the difference between pulla and challah bread?
The breads do look very similar. Let’s go over some of their differences.
This bread also reminds me of my Calabrian mother-in-law’s very soft and buttery Italian brioche style breads.
- Pulla: This bread has butter, eggs, milk and sugar.
- Challah: This yeast dough has water, eggs, oil and sometimes honey (or sugar).
- Brioche: This yeast dough has very large amounts of butter, eggs, milk and sugar. So this typical soft yeast dough is much richer than a Finnish pulla, but they are similar. Also, it is not spiced with any cardamon.
What ingredients are needed to make Finnish pulla bread?
- granulated sugar
- ground cardamom
- active dry yeast
- bread flour
- kosher salt
- unsalted butter
- heavy cream
- egg yolk (to make the egg wash)
- pearl sugar, for garnish (optional)
- Sliced almonds, for garnish (optional)
When do you eat Finnish pulla?
Finnish pulla is lovely sliced just baked and served with hot tea or coffee. It makes a really nice bread to enjoy on Christmas morning or to give as a gift to your neighbors.
Can I make my own pearl sugar?
Yes! It’s really easy to make.
In a small skillet on medium-low heat, add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1tablespoon of water. Begin to store and the sugar will start to clump together. Add another 1/4 teaspoon of water if it isn’t clumping. Keep stirring and add a little bit more of water if it is still not forming the sugar clumps. It should take a few minutes for the sugar to dry out and you can lift it out with a spoon. The pearl sugar clumps will keep on hardening as they cool down.
Finnish Pulla baking tips:
- Bread flour is best for this recipe. But all-purpose flour could be used in a pinch. The bread flour has extra gluten and it will be a bit more chewy and bread-like in texture.
- Keep the bowl with the dough in warmest part of your house for the first rise. Make sure it’s away from any drafts. *I have been known to keep the bowl on top of a towel in my dryer after a drying cycle.
- When rolling out the strands, give them a little time to bounce into a shape instead of pulling and stretching. Sometimes leaving it for a minute (covered with a towel so it doesn’t dry), will let the dough loosen so it’s easier to roll into the strand.
- Best way to check if the bread is done is with a thermometer. The bread’s internal temperature should be 190F. I have baked so many yeast loaves so I can even tell when it’s done by it’s scent.
Can I freeze Finnish pulla?
Yes, pulla can be frozen! Let the bread cool completely. Wrap in very tightly in plastic wrap and you could cut it and put it into zipped lock freezer bags (unless you made a small enough loaf that will fit whole into a zipped bag).
Can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Defrost on the counter at room temperature. The loaf can be sliced and you could toast slices. The entire loaf could be reheated on a very low temperature. Cover the bread with foil paper so it doesn’t brown.
Some other yeast dough recipes to try:
- 1 ⅓ cups milk heated to 115°
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 4 tsp. ground cardamom
- 2 ¼ oz. packages active dry yeast
- 3 eggs lightly beaten
- 6 ½ cups bread flour
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter cut into 1⁄2" cubes, at room temperature
- 1 tbsp heavy cream or milk
- 1 egg yolk
- pearl sugar for garnish (optional)
- sliced almonds for garnish (optional)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together milk, sugar, 3 tsp. cardamom, and yeast; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. With dough hook attached, add eggs one at a time; mix to combine.
- Add flour and salt; mix until a dough forms. Knead dough on medium speed for 2 minutes. While kneading, slowly add butter a little at a time, mixing until incorporated before adding next batch, 3–4 minutes; continue kneading for 4 minutes more after last of butter is added.
- Transfer dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough; cover again with plastic wrap and let sit until fully risen, 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 375°.
- Transfer dough to a work surface and divide into 2 equal pieces. Set 1 piece aside and divide other piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion between your palms and work surface to create a 16" rope. Braid ropes together to form a loaf.
- Transfer loaf to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Repeat with second dough piece. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and let sit until slightly puffed up, about 20 minutes. Or you can make one large wreath like I did with all the dough.
- Whisk together remaining cardamom, cream, and egg yolk in a small bowl; brush over loaves.
- Sprinkle with sugar and almonds (if using); bake, one loaf at a time ( *or bake one large wreath) until golden brown, 20–25 minutes.
- Transfer to a rack; let cool 10 minutes before serving.