Pulla: Finnish Cardamom Bread (YS, bookmarked)

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Worldwide Blogger Bake Off
summary: recipe for sweet cardamom bread made into 12 buns and a braided loaf; information about Bookmarked Recipes, YeastSpotting and Breadline Africa’s Worldwide Blogger Bake Off Challenge (click on image to see larger views and more photos)

Bookmarked Recipes - every MondayBookmarked Recipes #47

pulla A while back on The Fresh Loaf, Julie J was asking for advice on how best to crush cardamom for her Finnish cardamom buns. As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew I had to try it! And finally, this week, I got the chance.

Why did I wait?!! These are the best! Sure, the photo doesn’t do them justice at all. In fact I’m very disappointed in the photos. But the bread? I can’t imagine it being any better!

The recipe calls for milk and a fair amount of sugar. We had some mishti doi that wasn’t quite right (it tasted fine but wasn’t at all the right texture; the starter was old and caused it to break apart) so I decided to use some of that in place of some of the milk and sugar….

I’m not sure if this is how the buns are supposed to look. I pretty much guessed about how much of an indentation to make for the butter. And as I was inserting butter into the thumb holes, I completely forgot about sprinkling extra sugar on top as per Julie’s instructions. (Julie says that pearl sugar is very nice to use because it makes a nice design.) But I did think of using some inferior apricot jam on two of the buns.

It turns out that this is a great way to use and improve apricot jam!

pulla I decided to make a 3-strand braided loaf as well. And then when I was placing the buns on the tray and worried that they were too close together, I shaped 4 of the rounds into snakes and braided them together into a smallish 4-strand round loaf.

Here’s what I did to make Julie’s cardamom bread:

Finnish Cardamom Bread (Pulla)
based on Julie J’s Finnish Mother Inlaw’s recipe

makes 12 buns and 1 braided loaf

  • ½ c butter
  • 1 c (250ml) water, boiling
  • 4 tsp active dry yeast
  • ½ c (125ml) water, lukewarm *
  • ½ c (125ml) milk powder
  • ½ c sugar
  • 1 Tbsp crushed cardamom**
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c mishti doi (plain yoghurt sweetened with dulce de leche)***
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c (250ml) whole wheat flour****
  • 6½ c (1625ml) unbleached all-purpose flour****
  • butter, cream for topping*****


  1. In a large heatproof mixing bowl, pour boiling water over ½ c butter. Cut up the butter til it has melted.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk yeast and lukewarm water together until creamy. Set aside.
  3. Whisk milk powder into the butter mixture. Stir in sugar, crushed cardamom seeds and salt. Check the mixture against your wrist to ensure that is not too hot. Add mishti doi (if you don’t have any mishti doi, use what Julie’s recipe calls for: 2½ c scalded milk and 1 cup sugar).
  4. Whisk egg into the large bowl mixture and then dump in the flours, holding back ½ c all-purpose for kneading. Stir with a wooden spoon til the flours are almost encorporated. Add the yeasted water and finish mixing.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board (use some of the held-back flour). Wash and dry your mixing bowl. This prepares the rising bowl AND gets your hands clean.
  6. Kneading: Hand knead the dough for 8-10 minutes til the dough is smooth and silky around the slight graininess of the crushed cardamom. Add the set aside flour as required. You don’t have to use it all up!
  7. Put the kneaded dough in the clean mixing bowl. (It is entirely unnecessary to oil the rising bowl!) Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot (oven with only the light turned on is good) to about double (about an hour or so). A good way to tell if it has doubled is to run your finger under water and poke a hole in the top of the dough. If the hole fills up, it hasn’t risen enough. If there is a whoosh of air and the dough deflates a little, it has risen too much. If the hole stays in exactly the same configuration and the dough remains otherwise intact, it is ju-u-st right.
  8. Shaping: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide it into 2 even pieces. Set one aside, covered to stop it from drying out. Divide the piece on the counter into 12 even pieces. Form them into golf ball sized rounds and place on a parchment papered jelly roll tray (cookie sheet with sides). Cover with a damp tea towel.
  9. Divide the other piece on the counter into 3 even pieces. Use your hands to roll into pieces that look like dowels. Braid them together, starting in the middle and working towards the ends (confused? Please see Steve’s braiding video – scroll down on linked page). Cover with a damp tea towel.
  10. Allow the shaped breads to rise to about double. To test if they have risen enough, flour your finger and press gently on an edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.
  11. About 15 minutes before baking, put the oven rack at the highest spot it will go and preheat the oven to 400F. While the oven is preheating, use your thumb to make indentations in each bun. Put a small piece of cold butter into the indentations. Brush the buns with cream. (Julie says to sprinkle with sugar as well, but I forgot….)
  12. Bake on the top shelf for about 10 minutes. Turn the pan around half way through baking to allow for uneven oven heat. Becaue of the high sugar content, watch it like a hawk for burning!
  13. Remove to cool on a rack. Wait til the bread is cool before breaking it open or cutting it. It is still continuing to bake inside!*****

These buns are fantastic for breakfast. I prefer to have it with hard boiled eggs but T insists that scrambled eggs with cheese (brrrrr) are de rigeur for sweet buns.

Julie says that stale pulla are delicious sliced and fried in butter til browned. She then allows them to cool enough to spread with strawberry jam and top with whipped cream! Sounds great, doesn’t it? Too bad we aren’t going to have any stale pulla to try this… :-D


* Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated. Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature, (use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist – your fingers have no idea of temperature!) Or you can use a thermometer. The temperature should be BELOW 120F because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

** Julie says that crushed cardamom works better than powdered cardamom.

*** Julie’s recipe calls for 2½ c scalded milk and 1 cup sugar. We had a cup of mishti doi that was begging to be used in bread so I eyeballed the necessary adjustments.

**** The unbleached bread flour is “no name” (about 11.5% protein). The whole wheat flour is “Five Roses” (about 13% protein).

***** Julie uses an egg wash to create the shine. But I’m not wild about using eggs for that. I’m always worried about getting that horrible dead eggy taste. So I always use cream to create the shine instead.

****** If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat unsliced bread, preheat the oven to 500F. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

pulla Did I take my advice to use the coffee grinder to crush the cardamom? Ha! That would have been too easy. I used the mortar and pestle.

Remind me to use our big sharp knife next time. The mortar and pestle is way too labour intensive and leaves rather large chunks of cardamom behind. Or perhaps I will follow my own Fresh Loaf advice to use our coffee spice grinder.

Luckily, large chunks of cardamom taste good and are soft enough that we aren’t risking getting broken teeth… and the crumb is beautifully soft and moist. Absolutely delicious with or without extra butter! (The extra butter is really unnecessary! But oh so good!)

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Julia!! What a wonderful addition to our table!

Bookmarked Recipes - every MondayBookmarked Recipes
Some time ago, Ruth (Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments) created this event to urge herself (and everyone else) to actually make the several recipes they have bookmarked in various books, magazines and internet pages. This is now the 46th session for Bookmarked Recipes! (I think.) Ruth has asked others to help with the hosting and Cristie (Edible Antics – Having Fun with Food) will be posting the roundup next Monday.

For complete details on how to participate in Bookmarked Recipes, please read the following:


Yeastspotting - every Friday (wordle.net image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


Breadline Africa’s Worldwide Blogger Bake Off Challenge

Breadline Africa: Worldwide Blogger Bake Off Challenge I’m not certain if the Bake Off Challenge is still ongoing. Sadly, however, I am certain that hunger is ongoing. And not the kind of hunger that we get around 11:30 when we start thinking about lunch. I mean real hunger….

Happily, Breadline Africa’s work is still ongoing. Read about how you can help:

Breadline Africa (image © breadlineafrica.org) Breadline Africa is an internationally registered charity supporting ground level African charities that are working with communities to help them to become self-sustainable and “break the cycle of poverty in the lives of individuals and communities in Africa through sustainable, long-term solutions”.

This post is partially mirrored on The Fresh Loaf


(edited to add note about the BakeOff Challenge)

6 responses to “Pulla: Finnish Cardamom Bread (YS, bookmarked)

  1. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Cardamom is just the best and fresh is always better than the ground.
    Sounds like these are totally over the top good.

    They are, Tanna! And I wonder if the sweet yoghurt made a difference. I guess I’ll have to make a big sacrifice to make the buns with just milk and sugar to see. :-) I might also try making them with pre-ground cardamom. -Elizabeth

  2. Susan/Wild Yeast

    I need to get a spice grinder! Nice buns, as always. That idea for the stale bread sounds wonderful; make extra next time!

    Good idea to make extra, Susan!!
    And you don’t need a spice grinder for the cardamom seeds. A good sharp knife will work too. The seeds are fairly soft. Also, I suspect that if I had put some of the sugar into the mortar with the cardamom seeds, it would have made the grinding easier. It also may have been smarter to do half the seeds at a time.

  3. Stefanie

    The pulla looks great. The recipe is added to my “What I want to bake”-list :-)
    I do grinding by hand, too. It is easier, when some salt or sugar (depend on the recipe) is added. And when I need fine grinded spice, I grind more then needed, and sieve it afterwards.

  4. ejm Post author

    I haven’t made the Finnish bread with just milk yet, Jude. So I don’t know if there is a huge difference. But the bread was so fabulous made with mishti doi that I suspect I’m always going to want to use a combination of yoghurt, milk, dulce de leche (if we have any) and sugar rather than just milk and sugar. I doubt that I’ll get to use mishti doi again though. There isn’t likely to be any left over. We figured out why that other batch failed. We didn’t know that the yoghurt used as its own starter would get tired – or something like that – it caused the resulting yoghurt to be too acidic.

    Let me know how yours turns out, Stefanie. (It really is fabulous… we have finally made room in the freezer. I think I may be able to make some in time for Easter.) Good idea to add salt or sugar when grinding spices by hand. Even better idea to pass the ground spices through a sieve to remove the larger chunks!

    Thank YOU for hosting Bookmarked recipes, Cristie.



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