Braided Cardamom Bread, or Finnish Pulla, is a great bread for the new bread baker with a special herbal, citrus character. It makes two delicious loaves, but the dough is excellent for cinnamon rolls, too.
I always feel so accomplished when I can say that I baked my own bread.
There really isn’t much that is more rewarding than making your own bread. And nothing compares to how it makes your house smell – especially this sweet scent of Cardamom Bread.
Plus, the dough also makes incredible cinnamon rolls. This recipe makes two loaves. Feel free to make one roll of bread and use the other half for cinnamon rolls. This recipe comes from the book Scandinavian Gatherings by Melissa Bahen.
What is Finnish Cardamom Bread? What is Pulla?
Cardamom bread, Pulla or nisu is a type of braided sweet bread or pastry flavored with cardamom.
It is popular among Nordic countries (Sweden and Finland).
What Does Cardamom Bread Taste Like?
Cardamom is very strong and aromatic. It has a slightly herbal, spicy, citrusy flavor that goes well with orange or warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.
There are two ingredients in this Braided Cardamom Bread that you might not have on hand but are worth having in your spice cabinet and pantry.
Gather together whole milk, sugar, butter, instant yeast, flour, sea salt, ground cardamom, eggs and pearl sugar.
Cardamom. The first, not surprisingly, cardamom. Cardamon is a spice that is used in a lot of European baking, particularly Scandinavia. I love it and have been using it more and more. It’s wonderful in Swedish Cardamom Buns, too.
Pearl Sugar. The other is pearl sugar. Have you ever had a liege waffle or one that has some crunch in it? The crunch is from pearl sugar. I bought pearl sugar from King Arthur Flour, but have also seen it in the grocery store. You can find it with the sugar, but on the top shelf.
Tip: If you don’t want to buy it, you can use sugar cubes. Put the cubes into a Ziploc bag and crush them with the back of a big spoon. You want chunks, so be careful not to completely crush them.
How to Make // The Steps
Making homemade bread might seem hard, but it really isn’t. It is really more about being patient than anything. A few simple ingredients, and some time, yield loaves of the most delicious bread.
This Finnish pulla bread can be made in the stand mixer or by hand. Simply:
- Add 2 cups milk and sugar to a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Whisk until combined and add butter.
- When the butter has melted, remove from the heat and stir in yeast. Let cool until the mixture is the temperature of a warm bath. Too cool and the yeast will not activate, and too hot and the yeast will die. I use a thermometer and like it to be in the 100° to 118° range. You will know that your yeast has activated when bubbles begin to form.
- While the yeast is cooling, add 2 cups flour, salt, cardamom, and one egg to the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached.
- Pour the milk mixture into the bowl and stir until combined.
- Put in 3 more cups of flour.
- Stir until completely incorporated.
- Add the remaining cup of flour, a little at a time.
- Stop when the dough forms a ball and is no longer sticky to the touch.
- Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. I like to go an extra step and put the bowl inside of an extra large Ziploc bag. It creates a draft-free rising environment. Let rise until doubled, about one hour.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board. Punch the dough down, knead by hand for one to two minutes, then let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. (I weigh the dough using a kitchen scale and then divide the weight by six to get the correct amount of dough.)
- Roll the pieces into a skinny rope about 15 inches long.
- Line up three pieces of dough and pinch the top together. Braid the three pieces into a loaf. Pinch the bottom and tuck underneath. Repeat with the other three ropes.
- Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make an egg wash by whisking the remaining egg and one tablespoon milk. Brush the sides and top with wash and sprinkle pear sugar all over.
- Bake the loaves for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool before slicing.
What Makes This Cardamom Bread So Good?
As mentioned, nothing beats homemade bread. I make this on lazy weekend afternoons because:
- It’s great for a new bread baker as it’s very forgiving and versatile.
- Two special ingredients expand your baking repertoire.
- It’s a double-duty dough best for bread and cinnamon rolls.
I make a batch of this bread on Saturday, bake one loaf and reserve the other half of the dough for cinnamon rolls the next morning.
In Finland, the bread is traditionally served as a treat with coffee or tea.
The bread is wonderful lightly toasted with butter. The cinnamon roll version gets a heavy dose of sweet glaze when they are fresh from the oven.
How to Store
Leftover bread makes wonderful French toast. But it also freezes beautifully wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for up to 1 month.
Simply defrost for a few hours on your countertop and rewarm in a low oven.
More Bread Recipes //
- Cinnamon Twists
- Cinnamon Swirl Bread
- Orange Sunshine Coffee Cake
- Almond Breakfast Rolls
- Panettone Muffins
- No-Knead Challah
Originally published in January 2018, updated December 2020 with updated images and updated recipe card.
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