Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pulla - A Finnish Cardamom and Raisin Sweet Bread

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...One of the great pleasures of my childhood was the smell of bread baking on Sunday mornings. I spent a good part of my early years in a building that housed 4 adjacent duplex units that shared a common basement. Our neighbors were extraordinarily good cooks and the aromas that wafted into the basement on a Sunday were enough to drive the hungry truly mad. One of our neighbors was Scandinavian and she rose early on Sunday mornings to bake off slow-rising bread that had been refrigerated overnight. Back in the day, it was not unusual for extended families to gather for Sunday supper and the P's clan faithfully broke bread together following Sunday services. The bread, whose aroma I so enjoyed, was part of that Sunday ritual. It was a sweet bread made rich with butter and laced with soft raisins and a liberal dose of cardamom. I learned to make bread watching Mrs. P and Hannie, another of our neighbors, miraculously turn flour and water into breads with wonderfully toothsome crusts. I was too young at the time to realize that nothing lasts forever, so, I only have a handful of the old recipes in my files. Unfortunately, Mrs. P's Sunday bread was not among them. Several years ago, I came across a recipe in Gourmet magazine that came very close to that lovely bread of memory. The Gourmet recipe makes a loaf that is soft and barely sweet, but has that special richness that only butter can provide. The recipe is unusual in that cold butter is cut into the flour, pie crust fashion, before liquid is added to form the dough. The dough is a slow-riser, so factor wait time into any plans you have for serving the bread. The finished loaves keep for several days if well-wrapped and they freeze beautifully for up to a month. The marvel of this bread is the aroma that is released by the yeast and cardamom as it bakes. This is truly a lovely bread that is perfect for special occasions. I'm going to freeze a loaf to serve for breakfast on Valentine's day. I really hope you'll give this loaf a try. It's wonderful. Here's how it is made.

Pulla - Finnish Cardamom and Raisin Sweet Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Gourmet magazine

1 cup light or dark raisins
1/4 cup warm water
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast ( 2-1/4 teaspoons)
5 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1-1/4 cups warm whole milk ( 105-115 F)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg yolks, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

1) Soak raisins in hot tap water to cover until plump, about 20 minutes, then drain. Meanwhile, stir together warm water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2) Stir together flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt in a large bowl, then blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in milk, whole egg, and yeast mixture with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.
3) Pat dough into a 9-inch square and sprinkle with raisins. Fold dough over to enclose raisins and pinch edges to seal. Knead, dusting surface and hands lightly with flour, until raisins are distributed. (Dough will be lumpy and slightly sticky; if any raisins pop out, just push them back in.) Form dough into a ball.
4) Put dough in a buttered large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
5) Punch down dough (do not knead), then halve. Cut each half into thirds and roll each piece into a 15-inch rope. Braid together 3 ropes to form a loaf, then transfer to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, tucking ends under. Make another loaf with remaining 3 ropes, arranging loaves 4 inches apart. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
6) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle.
7) Brush loaves with egg wash and bake until golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Yield: 2 loaves.

One Year Ago Today: Snickerdoodle Blondies

Two Years Ago Today: Homemade Nutella Spread

Three Years Ago Today: Warm Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce


Federica said...

I love kneading bread and sweet breads. Yours is so beautiful, it looks soft like a feather. I really like the scent of cardamom. It's delicious with cardamom :) Bye, have a great day

Unknown said...

Mary, my childhood has happy memories of pulla as well. I grew up in an area full of Italians but also Finns and their bread was famous! I remember going to a Finnish boy's birthday party and we were so excited that pulla would be served! Luckily my mother shared her pizza recipe and the Finnish ladies showed her the secrets of pulla. Mmmmm, I love it and yours looks fabulous with plump raisins studded throughout!

Ginny Hartzler said...

I think about a quarter of a loaf plus some tea would make a great meal for me!!!! (I adore bread and have about four or five kinds in my cabinet at any one time) Today I have Ciabatta, egg twist, bagels mini and large, regular white, and Nann.

Katarina said...

I grew up with this kind of bread! So delicious. Thanks Mary for bringing childhood memories to my mind.

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

I'd love to spread a good dollop of butter on that!
Duncan In Kuantan

pam said...

This bread sounds delightful, just like the memories!

Kim said...

The smell of the bread that is baking, so perfect!!!! I'm sure I would love this one!

Tricia @ saving room for dessert said...

I love these kind of memories. It is so interesting how one single aroma can take you back to a long forgotten place years ago. The bread is lovely and so is your story.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I would love to love this toasted any day of the week Mary.

Pondside said...

I'm not a very good bread maker - I missed inheriting that gift from my mum. I love the scent and taste of cardamom and have fond memories of many a braided loaf brought home warm from the bakerei when we lived in Germany.

From the Kitchen said...

I am imagining this slathered in butter and orange marmalade! Hope all is well with you.


Claudia said...

Isn't it just the best day when you find a recipe that brings you back to good memories? Almost serendipity. Love the Sunday morning aromas you grew up with - this is such a flavorful reminder that I don't bake bread often enough.

Suvi said...

mmm...pulla...We make these as round buns filled with marmalade (or marsipan if you prefer) and whipped cream for shrove tuesday.

A Sunflower Life said...

I just printed off the recipe! Can't wait to try it.

sississima said...

fantastic! Bye SILVIA

kitty@ Kitty's Kozy Kitchen said...

I love baking bread, Mary, as it satisfies so many senses for me. This bread looks divine and I can almost taste and smell it. Thanks for sharing.

David said...

Mary, Great looking bread! Now all I need is a couple of warm slices and some nice creamery butter... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

teresa said...

oh this is such a gorgeous bread! great for all the senses, delicious!

Joanne said...

This is one gorgeous loaf! I bet it would be great with peanut butter!

tender b. said...

Fresh bread memories. I like the idea of pairing the cardamom with raisins.

decocinasytacones said...

I love anything with raisins....you´ve just made my day.
Love Marialuisa

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