A Celebration In Bread – The Finnish Pulla Wreath

I am  fascinated by bread, especially the  ones  leavened with  yeast.   So every December,  you will see  me trying  out   traditional celebratory bread recipes  from  around the  world.  Here is  one  such bread – the Finnish Pulla.  Rich, soft, sweet and  close crumbed,  this  bread  could  easily be  mistaken  for cake.   This  cardamom flavored  treat  from Finland is  perfect  to  be  served  with a hot  mug  of  coffee.  Or  make a  few  of  these  wreaths  and  send   them as  gifts !    

Cardamom  flavored  bakes are  very common  in  Scandinavian  countries,  which  came as a  surprise  to me.  It  would  have  made  perfect sense if I had  paid  more  attention during the  high  school  history lessons. Vikings – travel – discovery   there is  definitely a  connection here.  Did you know that  the   around  the  world journey of  cardamon  started   from  the  hills of Western  Ghats   of  India,   a place  that is  very dear to me.  Do I need   any more  reason  to  make  this  bread ?!

I first  came  across  the recipe for  Pulla  in Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers .  It  is a classic  recipe, and  absolutely delicious.  Definitely worth  making  it  her  way at   least once.   After some tinkering  (anyone  surprised?) I found  the  perfect  recipe  for  my wreath 🙂 .

If  you look at  the  recipe  you  realize  that is  an  enriched  sweet dough.  These enriched  sweet concoctions are  not  very  friendly to the bread  baker.  Everything  about  an  enriched  dough – the  sugar , the butter and the  spices –  conspire to work  against  you  when it  comes   to proofing (making  the  bread  rise).   These  flavors  that  tickle  our  tongues  can be  lethal to the  yeast.  Often  you see  bakers   doubling  or  even  tripling  the yeast  to keep things  under   control.

Making Finnish Pulla Dough

To me  the best  breads are  of  the  slow  fermented   sourdough  kind. So it  was natural for me to take  advantage of  the  slow  fermentation and   create a   more  cake like  bread.  Instead of  the  standard  two rises I decided  to   do a  third   rise – in  bread  geek speak  an additional stretch and  fold.  This  does   wonders  to the   crumb,  there are  no  giant  holes  in the   resulting  loaf.  Now  if  you can  slow down one  of  the  rises by keeping  the  dough in the  fridge –  all the  better.

There are  many ways  of  shaping  the   bread, you could  do  a  standard loaf or a  braid.  Since it is  close to Christmas I made a  wreath and a  few  buns.  The  recipe  here  will  make  giant  wreath  that  needs a  full size  sheet pan or  two  smaller  wreaths. Alternately you could  make two  8 or  9 inch loaves   with it  as well.

Making The Pulla Wreath Forming  the  braid  into a  wreath adds a  festive  touch.  This  wreath  bread is a  fantastic  center  piece for  the  dinner table.  Divide  the  dough for  the  wreath into  3  equal  portions  plus a  small one. Form  each of  the large portion into a  long  rope about  22 to 24 inches  long.  Plait  the  ropes  together to make a  standard  braid.  Transfer  to a   baking  sheet  bring  the  ends  together to  form a  circle.  Pinch the   end  together  closing the  circle. For the  small piece of  dough into a long  rope about  12  to 16 inches  long  and  twist  it  into a  bow. Place  the bow  where  the  wreath was  joined  to cover  the  seal. Cover  the wreath  and  and  let  it  rise till almost  doubled.

When ready to bake  brush the  loaf  with  egg wash  and  place in the  center rack of  the oven.   I like  to bake  the loaf  for  about 15  minutes  before  taking  it  out  to apply a  second  coat of  egg wash  and  sprinkling  some pearl  sugar or sparkling  sugar on top.   This   ensures  that    the  bread  browns  evenly.  For a  more  festive  touch  use  colored  sugar.   Return to the  oven  to finish baking.  For a  quicker  version  brush the  egg wash on  and  sprinkle  any toppings  before placing   the  dough in the oven.

Another  fun  way  to  use  up this  dough is  to make individual buns. These I have have  decorated  in red  and  green .

Form the  dough  into  rolls .  Make  a  depression in the  center  and  slightly flatten the  ball.   Fill the  depression   with  the  filling  of  your  choice.  Bake :-).  The  thing  to  remember  is  that   unless  you make  the  center   very thin   the oven  spring   will  push out  most  of  the  filling.

Or  make  it  your  way – just  have  fun  with this 🙂

Finnish Pulla Rolls

 

If  that is not a piece of  heaven ..

Finnish Pulla Wreath

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 2 Wreaths

Finnish Pulla Wreath

Pulla is cardamom flavored bread from Finland. It is soft sweet and has an almost cake like crumb.

Ingredients

Flour - 600g (5 C)
Milk - 260 g ( 1C + 1 Tbsp)
Sugar - 125 g ( 1/2 C ) Unprocessed , raw
Fine Sea Salt - 7 g (1 Tsp)
Yeast - 7 g (1 Pkt)
Eggs - 2 Large
Butter - 110 g (1/2 C , I stick)
Cardamom - 1 tsp
Topping For Buns
Pistachios - 1/2 C
Strawberry/raspberry Jam - 1/2 C
Topping for Wreath
Pearl Sugar - 2 Tbsp
or
Fine Sugar - 2 Tbsp
Egg Wash
Egg -1
Milk/Cream - 2 Tsp

Instructions

Warm the milk till it is 110°F or just warm to touch. Take 1/4 c (about 50g ) of the the milk in a small bowl and stir in 1 tsp of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes until the yeast is frothy.

Take half the flour in a large mixing bowl. Mix in salt , sugar and the cardamom powder. Make a well in the center of this mix and add the activated yeast mix along with the eggs and the most of the remaining milk reserving a few tablespoons. Mix, using a wooden spoon or in a mixer, until the all the flour is mixed in and a sticky elastic dough is formed.

Slowly add the remaining flour half cup by half cup and knead until a soft dough forms. Add the softened butter to this dough and knead. At this time add a little extra flour (up to 1/2 C) if the dough is very sticky. On the other hand if the dough seems stiff add the reserved milk little by little to soften it. Knead until the dough is soft and supple about 15 minutes by hand or about 7 to 8 minutes in a stand mixer. At the end of kneading the dough should be smooth, elastic and a little glossy. It should not be tough or wet or sticky.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place till almost doubled (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.).

Punch down the dough and knead by hand for 1 minute. Form into a ball again, cover and let it rise. This takes about 40 to 45 minutes under warm conditions.

For The Wreath

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Take one half and pinch off a large lemon sized ball. Divide the remaining dough into 3 equal size portions. Take one portion and roll it into a long rope of about 22 inches in length. Repeat with the other 2 pieces. Braid the 3 pieces together. Transfer the braid on to a baking sheet and form into a circle. Pinch the ends together trying to make it look as seamless as possible. Knead the reserved dough it into a long rope of about 16 inches in length. Form it into a bow and place on the wreath to cover the braid ends are joined together.

Cover and let it rise until almost doubled 20 to 25 minutes.

For The Rolls

Divide the dough into about 18 equal sized portions. Roll each into a smooth balls. Gently flatten the ball using your palm. Place the ball on teh cookie sheet and make an impression on the center as deep as possible without making a hole. Spread the jam in the depression and sprinkle the chopped pistrachios on top.

Make egg wash

Break an egg into a small bowl add 1 to 2 tsp of milk to it. Beat well.

Bake

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) .

Brush the wreath with egg wash and sprinkle the decorative sugar on top. Transfer the wreath to the oven. For a smoother finish take the loaf outof the oven after 15 minutes and brush on the egg wash for a second time. If sprinkling the sugar add it after the second coat of egg wash. For the wreath bake for 30 to 35 minutes until teh tops are browned evenly.

For the buns, brush egg wash on top avoiding the jam and pistachios just before transfering to the oven. Buns are done in about 25 minutes.

Since this is an enriched bread when done the internal temperature should be 200° F (93°C)

Notes

  • The rise timings will vary based on the room temperature and yeast quality.
  • The first 2 times the dough should almost double and for final rise it should just look puffed up.
  • If the bread seem to brown too quickly reduce t eh temperature to 350°F (175°C).

https://oventales.com/finnish-pulla/

 

Here are other holiday breads  that  you may like …

Swedish Saffron Buns
Swedish Saffron Buns
Ukranian Paska - Easter Bread
Ukranian Paska – Easter Bread

Like to  try some  more  Christmas  Recipes ??

Xmas Treats

Liked  this  recipe ?  Share here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *