Family Recipes: Finnish Coffee Bread

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I’ve come to realize that many of us have been bequeathed a cherished family recipe. Be it simple or elaborate to prepare, it’s a dish so fiendishly delicious that it is the unmistakable star of the family meal, whether celebrating triumphs, comforting woes, or keeping family traditions alive. Withholding such heirloom recipes from the world seems almost cruel. Hence, I am championing the family recipe. I will entice the people in my universe to share favourite, nostalgia-infused family recipes, and I will give one of them centre stage in this very space on a monthly basis. In the end, we are all family, and these recipes represent the legacies of our shared passions. This month’s post is written by my  pal Sherry. Enjoy!

My paternal Grammie emigrated from Finland with her sister when she was 17 years old. Landing at Pier 21 in Halifax, she brought with her a few material possessions and an unwavering passion for baking. One dish in particular took centre stage in her repertoire—pulla coffee bread. The Finnish people know this bread well and every household makes a slight variation from the next. Sitting around the kitchen table with a strong brewed coffee and a slice (or four) of pulla bread is a time honoured custom.

Pulla is a Finnish sweet bread flavoured with crushed cardamom seeds and sometimes with raisins or sliced almonds. My Grammie preferred currents so our recipe was adapted as such. Pulla is braided into loaves (pitko) that are formed from three or more strands of dough.

The golden exterior is flecked with coarse sugar. The interior is at once pliable and toothsome. As a child, pulla made me deliriously happy. The scent of this sweet-smelling bread wafting from the oven made us kids want to eat it all up…which we always did. Luckily for us, Grammie made it every time we visited or when she visited us. Today, we honour Grammie and our Finnish ancestry by making pulla at Christmas to not only continue a family tradition, but because it brings back happy memories from our childhood that we are now able to share with our children. Pulla bread is fiendishly good and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  One word of caution, though; it’s a bit time consuming so allow yourself the afternoon to create this delicious treat. I guarantee it will be worth it.  Nauttia (Enjoy)!


Pulla Coffee Bread

Yield: 1 braided loaf and cinnamon buns or Korvapuustit

Ingredients

2 pkgs yeast
1 c. warm water
2 tsp. sugar
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp freshly cardamom from pods (white pods preferred)
1 tsp. salt
Approximately 1 kg flour


Method

Ground cardamom in a mortar & pestle (brass if possible).

Mix yeast, warm water and sugar and let rise.

Beat eggs and sugar together.

Add warm milk and cardamom.

Add some flour to make a thin batter (1-2 cups).

Stir yeast and add yeast to the mixture.

Add brown sugar and eggs.

Add flour gradually, one cup at a time.

Combine salt with second cup of flour, add to mixture.

Keep mixing flour until it forms a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured board and knead-in extra flour until the dough no longer sticks to your fingers.

Place into a buttered bowl or pot and brush top of dough with butter. Cover with a damp tea towel and place in a warm area to rise to almost double in size.

Remove from pot and place onto floured surface, patting down with fists to remove air bubbles in dough.

Separate dough into approximately 400-430 g loaves.

Split dough into 3.

Roll onto lightly floured surface and form into long tube-like loaves.

Set aside (the loaves will shrink slightly).

Braid- take 3 of the rolled tubes, connect at the top and flip under.

Braid the loaf loose but up (high).

Close bottom of braid by flipping under.

Place completed braid on a doubled pan.

Put damp tea towel over the completed braid and let rise in warm area. Can place in oven heated to low, and turned off with the door open.

Egg wash (using a whole egg and a bit of milk).

Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake at 350-375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Test by tapping the hear a hollow sound.

Enjoy!

 

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