Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pulla - Finnish Cardamom Bread

Pulla. I used to love to come home after school to a house warm and smelling of fresh baked cinnamon rolls. A sure sign my Aiti, my father's mother, who spend a good part of the year with us, had a very productive afternoon. At Christmas, she would make little bread men with them, using currants for eyes and buttons, sometimes adding a little simple frosting. I have fondly sticky memories of sharing pulla and my grandmother's homemade raspberry freezer jam, chest puffed out in pride at having helped my grandmother make the jam, at my elementary school's Heritage Day. Although, admittedly, I grew rather tired of hearing "You're Finnish? Finn-ished? So you're done, right?" by the end of the day.

My grandmother passed away a few years ago, sadly, never writing down her own recipe for her cardamom bread. My dad has his own technique for making it (he's successfully adapted the dough-making portion for the bread machine!) and I've tried to recreate it as best I can, giving it my own spin of course. I always make multiple batches at once, as each batch is quite the labor of love. I do love the process of making it though - it always makes me feel closer to my grandmother - a woman who had a very large part in raising us but was no longer able to do much cooking by the time I was getting really interested in it. It also helps me feel a bit closer to my Finnish heritage - though only half of my ethnic makeup, is certainly a formative half. In our flawed but never-the-less melting pot of a society, it feels good to have something solid to hold onto when it comes to tradition and roots. Making pulla is a very grounding thing, especially when preparing it for your pulla-loving family. I don't think I've quite achieved her mastery, but I like to think that she's watching and nodding approvingly.

2 c milk
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 Tbs. crushed cardamom seeds
2 pkgs. dry yeast (or 2 Tbs)
6 c unbleached white flou
2-3 c whole wheat flour
2/3 c butter1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs waterplus about
1/4 c Turbinado sugar
Optional for Cinnamon Rolls:
2 Tbs melted butter
1/4 c white sugar
1/2 brown sugar
3 Tbs cinnamon

1. Scald milk with cardamom and 2 Tbs of sugar from 1/2 c of white sugar
2. Cool to lukewarm, and add yeast. let sit for 5 minutes or until doubled
3. In seperate bowl, add remaining white sugar and brown sugar, salt and 1 1/2 c white and 1 1/2c wheat flours
4. combine melted butter cooled to lukewarm, egg and milk/yeast mixture
5. add wet mixture to dry, adding remaining flour as necessary
6. knead for 10 minutes, then allow to rise about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in greased bowl covered in a damp dish towel.
7. Shape into braids (2-3 depending on size) or rolls*, cover with dish towel and allow to rise 45 mins or until doubled8. For braids, brush with egg mixture and sprinkle with turbinado sugar9. bake in 350 degree oven for 15-25 minutes
*rolls option: roll dough flat into a rectangle to about 1/4" thick, spread melted butter till covered and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly accross it. Roll into a log and cut into 1/2-1" slices and place in buttered cake pan (round or rectangular). Allow to rise as mentioned above and then bake as described.

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