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Pulla Please!

Here is my recipe for the classic Finnish coffee bread:

2 eggs

1 cup warm milk (I microwave it for 30 seconds)

½ cup soft or melted butter (margarine is fine if you use that stuff)

½ c sugar

½ tsp salt

4.5 c flour

1 tsp cracked  cardamom  

1.5 tsp quick rise yeast

Place all ingredients in your bread machine on the dough cycle, in the order recommended by the manufacturer. At the end of the cycle, cut the dough into three, then into three again (you should have 9 equal pieces). Roll out each section, stretching and pulling gently as you roll into long logs. On an ungreased baking sheet, braid three strips together; start at the middle and work your way down, then start at the middle again and work up. This way you get a nice, even braid. Stick the ends together and tuck them under to hide them. Repeat with the other two. Cover loosely with a tea towel and place somewhere warm for about an hour to rise. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush the tops evenly with either beaten egg or cream, and sprinkle liberally with decorator sugar. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a rack to cool. It’s great plain when it’s fresh, and after a day or two when it starts to get dry (if it lasts that long!), it’s great toasted with butter. Makes 3 loaves.

 

A note about ingredients: traditional pulla is made with cracked cardamom, and for good reason. It has a more intense flavor which survives the baking process, and the flavor lasts much longer than it does in ground cardamom. Ground Cardamom from a fresh jar will taste fine for a short while, but it will quickly lose flavor and so it will be hard to constantly adjust (and predict) in order to get a consistent flavor. Many eschew cracked cardamom because of the price; it is certainly exorbitant in the grocery store spice aisle but very reasonable at the bulk food store, where you can also buy it in smaller amounts that you can use up in a reasonable amount of time. Try to find some with a coarser texture so that you can give it a quick grind with a mortar and pestle right before using to release the flavor, because even cracked cardamom loses its flavour fairly quickly.

Likewise, specialty grocers charge an arm and a leg for “crackling” sugar to sprinkle on top. A specialty shop wanted $7 for a 10g packet, whereas I paid pennies for the same amount at the bulk food store. Just find the cake decorating aisle, and search out a sugar that you like the appearance and texture of (there’s a whole range of decorating sugars).

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