Pulla (Finnish Coffee Bread)

This recipe comes from the Finnish community of Sointula on Malcolm Island in north coastal B.C.  The Finns settled there to build a ‘place of harmony’ in the early part of the last century. Tuula Lewis, one of the community’s beloved matriarchs, often provided many loaves of this delicious sweet bread for the local museum. When I visited the museum, before I was even allowed into the collection of Malcolm Island memorabilia, I had to have a thick slice of this fabulous cardamom-scented bread, spread with butter and wild blackberry jam…a cup of tea was also de rigeur

For me this is a festive bread, one that is baked at both Easter and Christmas…and with luck, lots of times in between. 

If you are using Instant Yeast, the method will change slightly.  See Insert Below: 

The yeast puff:

  • ¼ cup (60 mL) warm water
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 package / 1 tbsp (15 mL) active dry yeast  

The Dough:

  • 1 cups (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (500 mL) very hot water
  • ½ cup (125 mL) warmed table cream (18%)
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) ground cardamom
  • 2 tsps (10 mL) salt
  • ½ cup (125 mL) melted butter
  • 6 – 7 cups (1.5 – 1.75 L) all purpose or bread flour  
  • Egg wash made with 1 beaten egg and 2 tbsps (30 mL) water 

In a small bowl, stir the water and 1 tsp (5 mL) sugar together till sugar is dissolved; sprinkle with yeast. Let puff for 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, dissolve the sugar into the very hot water. Whisk in the cream, the beaten eggs, cardamom and the salt.   Add the yeast mixture, stirring to combine. Add the melted butter, combining thoroughly.

Add the flour, a cupful at a time to ensuring that it is well blended after each addition. As you add the flour beat well.

(FOR INSTANT YEAST: Into a large bowl measure the sugar and then add all the wet ingredients whisking to ensure that the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in two cups (500 mL) of the flour to make a slurry.  Whisk in the yeast, another cupful or two of flour and then add the cardamom and salt.  Continue beating till the all the flour is incorporated.)

When the dough is dense and stiff, turn out onto a well floured board and knead in any remaining flour. Knead for 5 – 7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the kitchen is warm, simply cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled. Otherwise transfer it to a well oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 ½ to 2 hours or till doubled.

Punch down and divide into four. Roll each piece of dough into a flat rectangle, about 10” (25 cm) long. Make two lengthwise cuts to within 1 “ (2.5 cm) of the end of the rectangle. Braid the dough, pinching the loose ends tightly. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let rise a second time for about 50 to 60 minutes.  Brush with egg wash and bake in a preheated 350’F oven for 25 – 30 minutes.

Makes 4 braids.

(From Anita Stewart’s CANADA; The Food, The Recipes, The Stories (Harper Collins Canada 2008/2014), Toronto.

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