Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Yesterday I got up early, rolled up my sleeves and set about to make something special for my last Finnish class. I decided on pulla for several reasons - we'd talked about it in class and many of my classmates had never tasted it, it was a recipe I was familiar with and it also reminds me of my dear grandmother.
For the non-Finns out there, pulla is a cardamom-flavored sweet bread and you can find several different versions of it in the various Scandinavian countries. My grandma always has a loaf or two on hand during our visits, and it is delicious with your morning cup of coffee/tea or as a mid-afternoon snack.

The recipe I used comes from Beatrice Ojakangas, an acquaintance in Minnesota and one of the best Scandinavian chefs in the area. She's written several different cookbooks, mostly variations on the Finnish/Scandinavian baking theme - you can see a list of her books here.

Pulla Recipe: (I halved it - otherwise that's a lot of bread for one person!)

1 package active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

2 cups mik, scalded and cooled to lukewarm

1 cup (or less) sugar

1 teaspoon salt

7-8 whole cardamom pods, seeded and crushed (or 2-3 tsps ground)

4 eggs, beaten

8-9 cups sifted white flour

1/2 cup melted butter


1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds (optional)

1/2 cup crushed lump sugar (optional)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs, and enough flour to make a batter (about 2 cups). Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add about 3 cups of the flour and beat well; the dough should be quite smooth and glossy in appearance. Add the melted butter and stir in well. Beat again until the dough looks glossy. Stir in the remaining flour until a stiff dough forms.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and cover with an inverted mixing bowl. Let the dough rest 15 minutes. Knead until smooth and satiny. Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, turn the dough to grease the top, cover lightly, and let rise in a warm place (about 85 degrees) until doubled in bulk (about 2 hours). Punch down and let rise again until almost doubled (about 30-45 minutes).

Turn out again onto a slightly floured board, divide into 3 parts, then divide each of these parts into 3. Shape each into a strip about 16 inches long by rolling the dough between the palms and the board. Braid the 3 strips together into a straight loaf, pinch the ends together, and tuck under. Repeat for the second and third loaves. Lift the braids onto lightly greased baking sheets. Let rise for about 20 minutes (the braids should be puffy but not doubled in size).

Glaze the loaves by brushing with the beaten egg, and if you wish, sprinkle with the crushed sugar and the almonds.

Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees) 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overbake or the loaves will be too dry. Remove from the oven when a light golden-brown. Makes 3 braids. Slice to serve.

Variation: Sometimes for special occasions, my grandma will drizzle powdered-sugar icing over the top of it all once the loaves have cooled.

Instead of making the third loaf, I decided to roll it out and make some korvapuusti. Korvapuusti is sort of like the Finnish version of a cinnamon roll - you use the pulla dough, roll it out, spread it with butter, cinnamon & sugar and then roll it back up and slice it. Press down in the middle so that the sides smoosh out, let them rise a bit more and then pop them in the oven.

I'd never made it before, but it sounded simple enough, so I decided to give it a shot. Until I realized I couldn't find my rolling pin. I searched high and low for it (and really, where could it go in my shoe-box of an apartment?), but it was nowhere to be found. So I improvised instead with an unopened bottle of hairspray. I'm getting to be quite the expert at finding second-uses for everyday household objects, non?

This is how they turned out - they're slightly over-cooked because I didn't realize they would bake so fast - these were in the oven for less than 10 minutes.

They turned out okay, but I probably won't make them again - nothing can ever compare to the ones I used to buy from the grocery store in the shopping center below the Helsinki train station!



Blogger wcs said...

Sounds, and looks, delicious! Except for the hairspray, of course. :)

June 20, 2009 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

yum! I love cardamom! very resourceful, you, with the hairspray can... nicely done.

June 20, 2009 at 1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Makes my mouth water! Yum!

June 20, 2009 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Zuleme said...

I make semlor every spring for my in-laws. It is a variation on the Swedish sweet bread recipe, but with marzipan filling. You top off the buns with whipped cream, hot milk and cinnamon. Scandinavian comfort food.

June 21, 2009 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Amazing! You are so talented!

June 21, 2009 at 6:02 PM  

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