With my other half having worked for a Finnish Company for 18 years, and what with him travelling there and back an awful lot, it was only natural that a few Finnish things were going to find their way into our home before too long… I blame this past company for lots of my addictions beginning with M too – mostly of the Moomin and Marimekko variety – and all that before we had even moved to another part of Scandinavia.
Thanks to this particular job, I also have a huge fondness for Fazer chocolates and for all things cardamom, which I had to learn to love! Little was I to know that this would serve as training for our Scandinavian Sojourn, as cardamom (alongside marzipan and liquorice) is everywhere as you will discover before too long when you live there (not that this was a problem for me, I would actively look forward to the Small people coming back from birthdays and presenting me with party bags stuffed with marzipan and liquorice, the only time they have ever complained about not living in the UK!)…
And, a little like the Swedish Lucia buns I made last Christmas, this Finnish Pulla is also a seasonal celebration bread (although strictly speaking, it’s available all year around, it just looks a little more ornate at this time of year!). Packed full of spice and topped with sugar and almonds (and sometimes with raisins or fruit peel), I can think of few nicer ways to start a Christmas morning than with a hefty chunk of this. It’s definitely worth the effort to make. And although I cheat, and make the dough in food mixer, it’s one of those therapeutic recipes for these hectic pre-Christmas days (slightly adapted from Jennie Shapter’s Ultimate Bread Machine book. I first made it a few years ago by hand. Not through choice, but when I couldn’t work out how to work our bread-machine…).
1.5 tsp saffron strands;
5ml dried yeast;
200ml warmed milk;
500g white bread flour (or the strongest white flour you have to hand!);
1.5 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds;
2.5ml fine salt;
50g caster sugar;
60g butter melted;
For the topping: 1 beaten egg to glaze, a large handful of freshly chopped almonds and a large handful of “hagel” sugar as it’s called here.
- Gently mix the saffron with the warm milk and the dried yeast and pour it into the food mixer bowl. Add the eggs, the flour, the cardamom, the salt and the sugar, before pouring in the melted butter. Mix to a smooth dough, and leave to prove in a warm place for an hour.
- Knock the dough back, tip onto a floured surface, knead for 5 minutes and leave to rise again for another hour in a covered lightly oiled bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 190DegC, and again, knock the dough back. Divide into three equal pieces, and roll into cylinders around 25″ long. Plait and place onto a lined baking sheet.
- Glaze the dough with the beaten egg and top with the chopped almonds and sugar.
- Place into the oven and bake for 20 minutes before reducing the heat to 180DegC and baking for a further 10 minutes.
And if you have any left over? It’s perfect toasted and served with big mugs of hot chocolate much later in the day. Moomins optional!