My sweet friend Emily shared her family recipe for Finnish pulla bread this year. Pulla is a slightly sweet, cardamom-scented bread eaten with coffee or tea in Finland (so popular it’s like the coffee and donuts combo here). There are certainly several variations on the traditional, often it’s made into rolls instead of braids or speckled with raisins. Here, if I dare say, is the most divine recipe—it might just become a holiday tradition!
The Pulla Legacy (and confessional)
This bread has been a Harris family staple since Emily’s dad made it for her mom when they were first married. The best part—he made it out of boredom on his two week Christmas break from law school! Finding the recipe in a cookbook he had from his time spent living in Finland on a mission, he surprised Mom Harris with braided loaves of bread and an apartment scented with sweet cardamom.
Mom Harris now bakes the bread every Christmas to give away. One year making over 100 loaves! The bread, warm out of the oven, is so tempting the Harris kids enacted a “pulla bread tax.” Stating that some of the loaves from each batch had to stay home to be eaten. Fair enough I say!
Emily’s favorite memory is of a particularly snowy December night when the roads hadn’t been plowed yet. Dad Harris pulled her and her brother through the neighborhood on their Radio Flyer sled to deliver the loaves. It’s THAT worth it!
More than one of their friends have confessed to eating entire loaves themselves, even hiding the special delivery from their spouse. Clearly, you should make this bread and see what all the fuss is about!!
This braided bread is a staple in Finland (and with the Harris family at Christmastime!). Slightly sweet and flavored with cardamom, it can be devoured warm or sliced when cool.
Makes 3 braided loaves
2 pkgs (2 scant tbsp) instant dry yeast
½ cup warm water
2 cups plus 2 tbsp warm milk
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
5 large eggs
8 to 9 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup butter, melted
Swedish pearl sugar
- In a small bowl dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand 5 min. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 2 cups of the warm milk, granulated sugar, 2 tsp salt, cardamom, 4 eggs and 4 cups flour. Add the yeast mixture and stir for 1 min.
- Stir in the melted butter and add the remaining flour, about ½ cup at a time while the mixer is on low speed. Dough should pull away from the bowl when enough flour is added. Let dough knead for 5 minutes on low. Cover and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 hr.
- Turn mixer on low again and knead dough for 30 seconds. Remove from bowl to a floured work surface. Divide dough into 3 balls.
- Starting with one ball, divide it into 3 smaller balls and roll each into a long rope, 14-to-15-inches long. Pinch the ends of the 3 ropes together and begin to braid. At the end of the braid tuck the tips under the loaf and pinch to secure. Transfer loaf to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with 2 remaining balls of dough.
- Loosely cover loaves with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, 45 min to 1 hr. Heat oven to 375ºF.
- Whisk together remaining 1 tsp salt, 1 egg and 2 tbsp milk. Brush each loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with Swedish pearl sugar and sliced almonds. Bake until deep brown and cooked through, 18 to 20 min. Cool slightly and eat warm. Bread will keep airtight for up to 3 days.
See just how to create the beautiful braided loaves: