TWD – Tuesdays with Dorie
A sweet, braided bread has been on my holiday baking list for years, but I never get around to making one. The Tuesdays with Dorie baking group is an excellent motivator for finally making braided bread for the holidays. Braided breads just look so festive!
This Finnish pulla, which is a bit similar to brioche bread, is perfect to have around for guests. It’s great for breakfast, or a snack, with jam. Of course, it’s perfect with coffee or tea too. When it became a few days old, we even toasted it and used it for egg, cheese, and bacon sandwiches. It’s nice that the pulla is not too rich in butter or sugar — it’s just slightly sweet.
The Finnish pulla came out light, fluffy, and slightly buttery, with a gently stretching, chewy crumb. The cardamom adds a nice unique flavor, which I love, and a delicious scent while baking.
If I have the time, I do enjoy kneading breads by hand, at least for part of the kneading. For this recipe, I did knead by hand. I like the process, and the feel of the dough going from wet, to soft and spongy, to smooth and springy.
Total Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Rest Time: About 1 hour and 40 minutes
Baking Time: 20 – 25 minutes
Makes: 1 Large Braided Wreath or Braided Loaf for 10-14 Servings
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (no hotter than 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds (from 7 to 12 pods, depending on the size)
1 teaspoon salt (I like using fine sea salt)
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
4 ½ to 5 cups (22.5 oz. to 25 oz. by weight) all purpose flour
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg + 1 tablespoon milk, for glaze
Pearl sugar (I used extremely coarse Hawaiian sugar and it worked well)
1-2 small saucepots
1-2 large bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Mortar and Pestle or Coffee Grinder
Large Baking Sheet or Pizza Pan
Ruler and Kitchen Scale are helpful
First, take your cardamom pods and break them open to release the cardamom seeds. This will take any where from 7 pods to over 12. I had to use 12 pods to get 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds. Grind the 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.
Place a small saucepot 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 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure it is no hotter than 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the milk is scalding heat the 1 stick (4 oz.) butter in another small saucepot until just melted. Set the melted butter aside. Keep an eye on the milk and the butter. You don’t want them to burn.
In a large bowl, add ¼ cup warm water (around 110 degrees Fahrenheit) and whisk in the 1 tablespoon active dry yeast. Set the yeast/water mixture aside for at least 5 minutes. It will become creamy.
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.
Now, using a wooden spoon, add 2 cups (10 oz.) all purpose flour to the bowl. Beat the mixture until smooth. Vigorously stir in the 1 stick (4 oz.) 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. I needed about 4 ½ cups.
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.
Once you have your dough mixed, but not dry, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 15 minutes.
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.
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.
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.
Cover your baking sheet with parchment paper.
Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out of the bowl onto a cool (to cold) lightly oiled surface. Marble is great if you have it. You can also cool your surface down by filling a rimmed, metal baking sheet with ice and running it over your work surface. I have a tile surface with grout, so I put 2 of my largest cookie sheets together to form a large, cool surface.
Knead the dough briefly to release the air. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. I weigh the pieces to ensure they are equal, or close to it.
Roll each of the three pieces into a log about 36 inches in length. I took turns rolling each piece into a log. As one got too springy, I would move to the next. I continued in this manner until all 3 logs were 36 inches long.
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.
Alternatively, you can make a long braided loaf (or 2 braided shorter loaves).
Loosely cover your bread with a towel and let rest and rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes. It will get quite puffy. Don’t let it double in size.
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brush the egg glaze all over the shaped dough. Sprinkle the dough all over with sliced almonds and pearl sugar.
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.
Transfer the baked loaf to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before cutting into the bread.
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.
Check out the book Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan, for other awesome recipes.
Go to Tuesdays with Dorie to see fellow bloggers’ reviews and experiences.