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Finnish Pulla | A festive, braided Christmas bread

Finnish Pulla #TuesdayswithDorie

A holiday braid flavored with cardamom from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Grind 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.
  2. Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add the 1 cup milk. Scald the milk, so small bubbles are just visible around the edge. Remove the pot from the heat and cool the milk to around 110º Fahrenheit.
  3. While the milk is scalding melt the 1 stick butter in the microwave.
  4. In a large bowl, add ¼ cup warm water (around 110º) and whisk in the 1 tablespoon active dry yeast. Set the yeast/water mixture aside for at least 5 minutes. It will become creamy.
  5. Once the water/yeast mixture is creamy, whisk in the 1 cup scalded and slightly cooled milk, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, and the 2 beaten eggs. Whisk until fully combined.
  6. Now, using a wooden spoon, add 2 cups flour to the bowl. Beat the mixture until smooth. Vigorously stir in the 1 stick melted butter. Once the butter is incorporated, add in the additional flour, a ½ cup at a time, until the dough is fairly stiff. Stop adding flour before the dough becomes dry.
  7. If you wish, you can also use a stand mixer with a dough hook to mix the dough. Follow the directions in the same order.
  8. Once you have your dough mixed, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 15 minutes.
  9. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough until smooth and shiny, about 10 minutes. Add a bit of additional flour if needed. This is where I added my last ½ cup of flour or so.
  10. You can also knead the dough in the mixer with the dough hook at medium speed. It may only take about 8 minutes or so, depending on your machine.
  11. Shape your dough into a ball and lightly grease a large bowl. Turn the ball of dough in the bowl to lightly coat in the grease. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place. Let the dough rise until it is double in size. This will take at least 45 minutes, but could take over an hour.
  12. Cover your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  13. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out of the bowl onto a cool, lightly oiled surface.
  14. Knead the dough briefly to release the air. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Weigh the pieces to ensure they are equal, or close to it.
  15. Roll each of the three pieces into a log about 36 inches in length.
  16. Now, line the logs up next to each other and pinch them together at the top. Braid the 3 pieces into a log braid. Carefully move this braid to the parchment lined baking sheet, forming it into a circle onto the sheet. Cut an inch or two of dough off each end and fuse the circle together. Knead the cut bits together and shape into another small log. Form into a bow and place the bow over the seam of the wreath.
  17. Loosely cover your bread with a towel and let rest and rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes. Don’t let it double in size.
  18. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375º.
  19. Whisk together egg and milk for glaze. Brush the egg glaze all over the shaped dough. Sprinkle the dough all over with sliced almonds and pearl sugar.
  20. Bake the loaf for 20 to 25 minutes. The top will be just golden, and the bottom of the loaf will be very light. Be careful not to over bake the bread.
  21. Transfer the baked loaf to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before cutting into the bread.
  22. To store, cover the loaf in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. Or, wrap tightly, so the bread is air tight and freeze for up to a month. Thaw the bread at room temperature.