Pulla: Finnish Cardamom-Spiced Sweet Buns

By • March 7, 2014 0 Comments

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Author Notes: I could make these in my sleep. That's how well I know and love this traditional Nordic treat. Pulla, or bulle in Swedish, are probably the most loved baked good both in Finland and in Sweden. They are slightly sweet and spiced with cardamom, which is, with cinnamon, one of the most used spices in Scandinavian baking. Yes, Scandinavian cuisine is full of surprises as you would rather expect to come across these kind of spices in Indian rather than Scandinavian food. You can find pulla at every bakery, café, and shop around here. If there's a celebration, a variation of this Scandinavian sweet bread is most probably found on the coffee table. But by no means is this treat solely reserved for special occasions. The Swedes call it fika – you sit down together, drink coffee, chat, and usually eat something sweet. But no worries: if you aren't that into coffee you can serve them with tea or a glass of cold milk. They will taste equally delicious.

This is the most basic pulla recipe but there are endless variations to discover – cinnamon rolls, braided loaves, "Boston cake" (which has, at least to my knowledge, nothing to do with Boston itself)... I'm eager to share them with you in the future!

A few notes: For the best result, make sure that all your ingredients are at room temperature. You can leave the egg out and, furthermore, substitute the milk with water if you follow a special diet. However, as you can imagine, the most delicious and flavorful result is made with eggs and milk.
Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen

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Makes 16 pulla

For the dough:

  • 2 cups 2 tablespoons (5 dl) lukewarm milk (preferably whole milk)
  • 1.8 ounces (50 g) fresh yeast (or alternatively 16 g / 0.6 oz / 1 tbsp + 2 tsp instant active dry yeast)
  • 6.5 ounces (180 g; ¾ cup + 2 tbsp; 2 dl) granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp 1 tsp ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
  • 1 egg
  • 32 – 37 ounces (910 – 1050 g; 13 – 15 dl; 5 ½ – 6 ½ cups) bread flour
  • 6 ounces (170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

To finish:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • pearl sugar, to sprinkle
  1. In a large mixing bowl (you can make the dough by hand, like me, or in a stand mixer), combine the lukewarm milk and crumbled yeast. [If using active dry yeast, skip this step. Combine the yeast with some flour and add to the warm, 108°F / 42°C, milk mixture before adding the rest of the flour.] Stir with a spoon until the yeast is completely dissolved. Add sugar, salt, cardamom, and egg and mix until combined. Gradually add most of the flour and knead. Add butter and knead until well combined. Continue to knead the dough and gradually add just enough flour so the dough comes clean off the sides of the bowl and doesn't stick to your hand.
  2. Don't overwork the dough or you'll end up with hard buns, not soft as we want them to be. Shape into a ball and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour, or until it's double in size.
  3. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Shape the dough into about 16 equally sized buns and place them on the two baking sheets, spacing them about half the diameter of a bun apart. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for further 30 minutes, or until they're double in size.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 435°F (225°C) .
  6. For the egg wash, whisk together the egg and water until combined. Before baking, slightly brush each bun with the egg wash and generously sprinkle them with pearl sugar. Bake the buns on the middle rack for 10 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Repeat with the other sheet of buns.
  7. Pulla are best eaten still slightly warm, on the same day. However, you can freeze them once baked and warm them up again when ready to serve.

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