Swedish Cardamom Bread (Pulla)

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This Swedish Cardamom Bread 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.

easy finnish pulla recipe with knife and pearl sugar on the side

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.

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sliced finnish pulla with pearl sugar on the side

What is Swedish Cardamom Bread? What is Pulla?

Cardamom bread, Finnish Pulla or nisu is a type of braided sweet bread or pastry flavored with cardamom.

It is extremely 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.

Ingredients

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.

sugar. butter, milk, eggs, yeast, cardamom, pearl sugar, salt, flour

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.
milk and sugar in pot with whisk
  • Whisk until combined and add butter.
melting stick of butter with milk in pot
  • 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.
hand holding small bowl of yeast over warm milk and melted butter in pot
  • 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.
flour, egg and ground cardamom in stand mixer with hook attachment
  • Pour the milk mixture into the bowl and stir until combined.
flour, egg and ground cardamom in stand mixer with hook attachment
  • Put in 3 more cups of flour.
  • Stir until completely incorporated.
wet finnish pulla dough in stand mixer
  • Add the remaining cup of flour, a little at a time.
flour added to swedish bread dough in stand mixer
  • Stop when the dough forms a ball and is no longer sticky to the touch.
mixing cardamom bread dough in stand mixer
  • 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.
finnish pulla dough in glass bowl
  • 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.
braided cardamom bread on parchment lined baking sheet

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.

Serving Suggestions

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.

sliced cardamom bread slather with butter with cup of coffee

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

Originally published in January 2018, updated December 2020 with updated images and updated recipe card.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it goes! Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, too!

easy finnish pulla recipe with knife and pearl sugar on the side

Swedish Cardamom Bread (Pulla)

bakedbree
Cardamom Bread, or Finnish Pulla, is a great bread for the new bread baker that makes two loaves and is an excellent dough for cinnamon rolls.
4.50 from 24 votes
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course bread
Cuisine baking
Calories 91 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups plus 1 Tablespoon whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 packets instant yeast or active dry yeast
  • 6 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons pearl sugar

Instructions
 

  • Add milk and sugar to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk until the sugar dissolves.
  • Add the butter and stir until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat.
  • Allow the milk to cool down to the temperature of a warm bath (not too hot and not too cold) and stir in yeast. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, you should see bubbles on the surface and it should grow in volume.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, add milk mixture, 2 cups flour, salt, cardamom, and 1 egg. Mix until combined. (You can also make this bread by hand.) 
  • Add 3 more cups of flour and mix until completely incorporated. Add remaining 1 cup flour a little at a time until the dough forms a ball and is no longer sticky to the touch. (You may not need the whole cup of flour.)
  • Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been lightly oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in a size, about one hour. 
  • Punch the dough down and knead by hand for 1 to 2 minutes on a well-floured surface. Let rest for 10 minutes. 
  • Divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Roll each piece into a skinny rope about 15 inches long. Line 3 ropes side by side on the counter in front of you. Pinch the three pieces together at the top and braid the three pieces into a loaf. When you reach the end, pinch the remaining dough together and tuck it under the loaf. Repeat with the second loaf. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and rise for 30 minutes. 
  • Preheat the oven to 375°. 
  • Make an egg wash by whisking the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon of milk together. Brush the tops and sides of the loaves with egg wash. Sprinkle each loaf with pearl sugar. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or until the loaves are browned on top. Let them cool before slicing. 

Video

Notes

Pearl sugar can be ordered online.
This bread can be made by hand, a stand mixer is not required.
Leftover bread makes excellent French toast.
This bread freezes well. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 91kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 2gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 52mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3g
Keyword pearl sugar, pulla, Swedish
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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3 thoughts on “Swedish Cardamom Bread (Pulla)”

  1. OMG, this bread is the best! I am not an experienced bread baker and it came out so light, wonderful and tasty. Everyone loved it. I also ground my own cardamom seeds. It makes a big difference.

    1. That’s great Deb! Ground cardamom takes the cake—or in this case, the bread—for a heavenly homemade delight!

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