Finnish Pulla Bread

February  7, 2023
0 Ratings
Photo by Lisa Steele
  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 1 loaf
Author Notes

I look forward to fall each year because it means we start lighting our wood stove. It also means it's time to bake bread again, setting it to rise in front of the fire. This bread is always the first loaf I make to kick off the season. The heady scents of yeast and cardamom drift throughout the house as the bread bakes, reminding me of my childhood and helping my Mom make this traditional Finnish braided bread.

Pulla is a sweet yeast bread similar to Jewish challah bread or French brioche, although the cardamom flavoring and Swedish pearl sugar on top sets pulla bread apart, making it solidly Scandinavian. It does get stale quickly, so it’s best to eat it right away - or save some to make bread pudding or French toast.

Recipe adapted from The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook by Lisa Steele ( HarperCollins, 2022).
Lisa Steele

What You'll Need
  • 3.25 cups flour
  • 2.5 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
  • 2.25 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 teaspoon heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons Swedish pearl sugar
  1. Whisk the flour, 2 teaspoons of the cardamom and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk two of the eggs in a small bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk the milk and sugar, then add the butter. Continue to whisk until the butter is just melted, then remove the pan from the heat and let cool to just warm (below 120 degrees F will prevent the yeast from being killed).
  2. Whisk in the yeast and let sit for 10 minutes until the top foams and starts to bubble. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the whisked eggs and mix to combine.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, one half cup at a time, until a dough forms and all the flour has been incorporated and the dough forms a cohesive ball. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Increase the mixer speed and knead for 10-12 more minutes until the dough is glossy and smooth, not sticky.
  4. Lightly butter a large mixing bowl and transfer the dough to it. Cover with a clean damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set the bowl in a warm spot for about an hour (if your house is cold like ours, trying setting the bowl in front of the woodstove or on the floor in a beam of sunshine streaming in through a window), or until the dough almost doubles in size. Punch the dough down, replace the towel or plastic wrap and let rise again for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
  6. Punch the dough down again, then using a bench scraper, divide it into three equal balls and let rest for 10 minutes on a floured surface, then stretch each ball into a long 15-inch rope. Lay the ropes side by side and braid them together, pinching each end to secure the braid. Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet, tucking the ends underneath, and let the dough rise again for 30 minutes.
  7. Once the dough has finished rising, whisk the remaining egg with the heavy cream and remaining ½ teaspoon cardamom, then generously brush the loaf with the mixture, making sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies. Sprinkle with the sugar and bake on the middle rack for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, then slice and serve.
  8. Leftovers can be wrapped tightly and stored on the counter for a day or so. Reheat by wrapping in foil and setting in a warm oven for several minutes.

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