Finnish Cardamom-Coffee Bread (Nisu)

May  7, 2018
17 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 4 hours
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Makes 3 loaves
Author Notes

Nisu is crusty on the outside, flaky on the inside; crowned with thick, coffee-tempered sugar; perfectly rectangular on the bottom, with peaks so voluminously rounded they threaten to spill down the sides of the loaf pan. Each bite infused with the sharp sweetness of cardamom. —Kate Willsky

What You'll Need
  • 2 packets yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk
  • 15-18 cardamom pods
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 pound butter, plus more for greasing
  • 6-8 cups white flour
  • 1 shot strong black coffee
  1. Dissolve two yeast packets in the warm milk.
  2. Open 15-18 cardamom pods and grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle. It’s okay to have a few larger pieces. Add the cardamom to the beaten eggs along with the salt.
  3. Cream the sugar and butter.
  4. Add the cardamom/egg mixture to the creamed butter and sugar, and mix well. Next, add the milk and yeast and mix until combined.
  5. Add the flour one cup at a time until you can knead the dough on a floured breadboard, continuing to add flour until the dough, in my grandfather’s words, “feels like a baby’s bottom.” It should be soft and satiny to the touch, with no stickiness.
  6. Place the dough into a large, buttered bowl. Let it rise until it’s doubled in bulk, about two hours.
  7. Punch down the dough (flour your fist first!), then divide it into three equal parts.
  8. Take one of the three sections and divide it again into three parts, rolling each piece into a rope about 12-15 inches long. Once you have three equal ropes, braid the loaf, tucking the ends underneath when you’re finished. Place in a buttered and floured loaf pan and repeat with the other two sections.
  9. Let the braided dough rise in the loaf pans until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ hours.
  10. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  11. Bake loaves for 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn out onto cooling racks that have been placed on a sheet of waxed paper. If the bottom feels too mushy, put back in the pan and give it a while longer. (You can also test for doneness by knocking on the top of the loaf to see if it sounds a bit hollow.)
  12. Brush the nisu with strong black coffee, sprinkling sugar as you go (this is where the waxed paper will save you a lot of cleanup).
  13. Let cool, and try to not to eat the whole loaf!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jenny Callentine
    Jenny Callentine
  • Caroline Emily
    Caroline Emily
  • Arlene Kolundzic
    Arlene Kolundzic
  • Steph
  • Megan

49 Reviews

aitkenmail May 2, 2024
Please can you consider posting measurements on grams? Serious bakers weigh ingredients for accuracy. It's much more efficient, accurate and easier. Save us the trouble of converting. Thanks..
Lloyd L. June 25, 2021
Here in Canada the Finnish community calls it Pula Bread.
Steph June 25, 2021
Pulla — translates to “buns”. Many different varieties of it. Delicious- no matter what you call it:)
bang H. June 25, 2021
Could you substitute say 100ml (3.38oz) milk for strong coffee in the fluid mix?
Pinkale February 2, 2021
Can i leave a pic?! Wow I can’t believe it turned out wonderful I would double up on the cardamom next time other than that perfection no I had to do one braid normal cooking and one in the bread loaf pan -both rose too perfection! Be careful of the timing I burned one loaf out of the three-Keep checking for 10 minutes until cooked
Pinkale February 2, 2021
Hi im making this now & my bread dough did not rise much at all a little nervous but i braided the loves & am on my second rise 🤞 (I had to use 2 cups of bread flour as I ran out of regular as I was making it or I was wondering if putting the yeast in the milk instead of water could be my issue?)I am known in my family for making the best fin bread I really hope this turns out great!
Linda C. August 1, 2020
I have used 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon of ground cardamon in the recipe in place of the ground cardamon pods. The ground cardamon sometimes is not as potent as the freshly ground seeds from the pods. You have to adjust it to your own taste accordingly.
Jenny C. August 2, 2020
Thanks :)
Jenny C. August 1, 2020
Hi- can ground/powdered cardamom be used instead (I can’t get the pods here right now)? If so, could you suggest how much to use in place of the pods? Thanks!
Laura July 2, 2020
What kind of flour is used to make the bread?
Lloyd L. July 2, 2020
All purpose is fine
Dave L. July 2, 2020
I've made this recipe with bread flour, all-purpose, and cake flour. The more protein in the flour, the more bread-like it becomes. Most often I use all-purpose, but I've made it with cake flour and skipped the braiding.
izuko June 8, 2020
If I just want to make 1 loaf, how much flour should I use? And do I just use 1 egg?
Steph June 8, 2020
I’d just half the recipe. This stuff freezes great. I always bake everything and let it cool completely, then slice it all and throw it in the freezer. Super good for morning toast.
izuko June 8, 2020
Thanks for the advice.
javafiend May 16, 2020
Can the dough be frozen? I don’t have 3 loaf pans
giuliadimarino May 20, 2020
I only have two loaf pans, so right after making the dough I put one third in the fridge and continued with the other 2/3 of the dough. then two days later I made the last loaf, starting with step 6. the first rise did take longer because the dough was cold, but otherwise it came out fine!
Megan June 6, 2020
I used one loaf pan, and the other two I braided into a circular wreath baked on a sheet. The wreath was of course a little flatter, but still super delicious!
Caroline E. January 11, 2020
Amazing! In my family we call this kafe leipa (direct translation of “coffee bread”). My mom typically buys loaves at a Finnish bakery in Gardner, MA. I’ve tried our own family recipe and others online but none came close to the bakery version which is softer and sweeter than what I’ve made at home... I checked the label and discovered coffee as an ingredient but had no idea how it was incorporated. So happy I found this recipe! I was nervous it wouldn’t rise since the dough is heavier than what I’ve made before, but it came out close to perfect. Thank you!
Kate W. January 11, 2020
Awesome!! So glad you liked it :)
Makesha J. May 17, 2020
Hello— how much yeast is in 2 packets? I have yeast but not in packet form. Thank you.
MNBecker May 19, 2020
It will be 4 1/2 teaspoons.
Samantha9583 July 24, 2019
Amazing bake!! Came out beautiful 😍 I'd submit a picture if I could.
Kate W. July 24, 2019
So happy to hear it! Enjoy!!
Dave L. November 18, 2018
Hi, If I want to use decorticated cardamom instead of the pods, how much should I use? Thanks.
Erik May 27, 2018
Does anyone have a number of cups of flower they lean towards. Baking being pretty precise at times, 6-8 cups of flour is a wide range. Thanks in advance!
Steph May 27, 2018
Hmm. I don’t know if I’ve ever counted cups of flour. (Maybe I should start;) I’d say start w a smaller amount (6). When you transfer dough to a surface to kneed, add a bit more till it looks ready. Not too sticky but nice n soft:) best of luck!
Debz May 27, 2018
The directions as published in the recipe state, "Add the flour one cup at a time until you can knead the dough on a floured breadboard, continuing to add flour until the dough, in my grandfather’s words, 'feels like a baby’s bottom.' It should be soft and satiny to the touch, with no stickiness."

I would say that is our guide on the exact amount (and it might vary based on our location/elevation, etc.)
Kate W. May 28, 2018
I find that I usually end up using all 8 cups, but as Debz says, it may vary based on certain factors. Definitely pay attention to how the texture changes as you add, as that's your best guide.
vlampson May 19, 2018
I made this to the letter and loved the texture of the bread, the amount of cardamom (I would even add more next time!) and how quickly it all came together. However, I would definitely skip the coffee next time - I didn't use much but still ended up with an impossibly soggy bread bottom that didn't get better over time. Maybe there's a better way to incorporate coffee flavor, like a maple-coffee-cardamom glaze?
Kate W. May 20, 2018
Strange! I've never had that happen before. Did you put the loaves on a wire rack while you brushed with coffee? That should keep the coffee from pooling and soaking the bottom.
valn August 31, 2018
I have always brushed water on my Limpa with no resulting sogginess. Yes, you need to do this on a wire rack and while the bread is hot out of the oven. By the way, I thought using black coffee was brilliant.
Arlene K. May 15, 2018
Yum, looks awesome! My momma made pulla with cardamom pods but her recipe has no mention of coffee.. However, I like the sound of it, as we always had it fresh with a strong cup of coffee on the side! Thank you so much for the recipe. Also loved reading all the great comments! Kitos pellio😘😋
Steph May 14, 2018
I’ve been making this for 19 years;) pulla to us Finns:) I’ve used cardamom pods and the pre ground stuff. From the pods and fresh ground is best. Also, if you kneed butter in at the end, pulla is best. Messy and more time consuming but worth it!
Kate W. May 14, 2018
Ooh I'll have to try that! Sounds delish.
Debz May 13, 2018
Thank you for the wonderful story, and for this yummy-looking recipe. Can't wait to take it out for a spin, because I love cardamom, and also in honor of my recently-proven Swedish heritage!
Kate W. May 14, 2018
You're welcome! I hope you enjoy!
Lloyd L. May 13, 2018
Very popular in the various Finnish communities in Canada where it is called pulla.
Judy M. May 8, 2018
This looks divine! How big are the loaf pans you use?
Kate W. May 8, 2018
Thank you! I've used a variety of different sizes, but a standard-sized loaf pan should work (approx 10" x 5", and 3" high).