Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Finnish bun - Finnish Pulla

Moomin cup "The Groke" by Arabia
Today is one of those rainy and cloudy days. The weather is warm but you just need something to cheer you up and since there is no sun shine to do that it was time to do some quick baking. I am glad that the rain did stop for a while so that  I could take some photos under the birch tree.  Even now when I am writing this I can hear the rain drops making that little sound on our roof. Summer rain -  it's sort of romantic.


Pulla in all forms has been in the Finnish coffee tables probably from the beginning of time. It is sold in all stores and baked in most homes. Pulla can be really bad or it can be really delicious - it depends on the baker and the ingredients.

The scent of pulla is what makes home, a safe feeling, it brings memories from the childhood - probably even to those whose mother did not even bake! It's like a national scent I might say. OK, maybe I am exaggerating a little but that's how it feels. Pulla is the big part of Finnish baking traditions.

I don't like to use any machines when  making the pulla dough. Sure if you have Kitchen Aid or Kenwood it makes things easier and you get that viscosity in a heart beat. But you also lose the feeling. And in many times baking is all about a feeling. There is nothing more relaxing than kneading the dough, feeling the softness of it.  It's like you can sink all your troubles into the dough and then bake them in the oven and  turn them into something that smells and looks beautiful. And somehow it takes your troubles away at least for a while. Pulla is all the things that home is.


You can make lots of different shapes with pulla dough. Use your imagination! Hedgehogs, cinnamon rolls, braiding, Boston pulla and tons of other possibilities are just around the corner! In the future I will add recipes for my Boston pulla and I will make some hedgehogs  - and something else too but I'll let that be a secret for a little longer.  So stay tuned! Now it is  the basic version called pikkupulla - literate translation is small bun.

This is the very basic Finnish pulla  recipe. If you want more festive and even more delicious version of the pulla, add 2 more eggs, 50g more butter and if you want you can add additional 0,5-1 dl of sugar too. This will make pretty great pulla dough!  You may have to add a bit more flour after all the other additions. I can guarantee this is going to be delicious!

Good ingredients can save even the worst baker - well at least they help a lot.  Pulla may not look pretty but with well chosen ingredients it at least tastes good! Please, if possible use butter instead of margarine. Olive oil I have tested a few times and it's all right but the texture of the pulla will change and the crumbs feel different than when baked with butter. Trust me - butter is the bakers best friend.

I have known people who make pulla dough into water. And the pulla tastes a little like water too and the end product even looks sort of grayish. Not pretty at all! And the taste which is the most important thing is ruined. Of course allergies are totally different story but even in those cases you can usually find something else than water. Rice milk, almond milk - have a try with something that suits your needs - well even that water, if it is the only option left. 

500 grams (1.102 lb) milk
50 g (appr. 2 ounces) fresh yeast
1 egg
2 tsp salt
150-200 grams (5.291 - 7.055 oz) sugar
1000-1100 grams (2.205 - 2.425 lb)  all-purpose flour
200 grams (7.055 oz) melted butter
(1 tbs cardamom) 
(raisins 130 grams/4.586 oz - if using add with the rest of the milk)

1. You need lukewarm milk so heat it up. 
2. Take a big bowl and pour a little warm milk into it and add the yeast. Mix well.
3. Once the yeast has dissolved add the rest of the milk, the spices and the egg(s).
4. Add 7 dl of flour and keep mixing with wooden spoon. Mix as long as the dough starts to look like a runny porridge. 
5. Add another 7 dl flour. Mix now with your hand. Keep kneading/mixing it as long as you have a nice dough in your hands. Then add the melted and cooled butter and knead some more. Once the butter is well in the dough continue kneading on the baking board.  Add some more flour if needed but be careful - too much flour will make the pulla hard and not that tasty. Softer dough makes better pulla but remember to knead well. It is the viscosity we are after when baking pulla. Once you have nice smooth pulla dough with good viscosity in your hand you can put the dough into a bowl and cover it with a baking towel and let it rise until it doubles. That will take an hour or so.
6. Put the dough on a baking board. Divide the dough into 24 equal size pieces and shape them into buns.
7. Let the buns leaven on a baking tray under a baking towel. After they have almost doubled their size brush with  egg (or with strong coffee) and sprinkle some nib sugar (and almond flakes) on the top.
8. Bake in the center of the oven in 200 °C (400°F) about 15-20 minutes until the pullas are golden brown.
If you want to make smaller pullas you can divide the dough into 40 pieces and bake them in 225 °C (450°F) about 10 minutes.

Once the pullas have cooled a little you can serve them with a big glass of cold milk. In my opinion that is the most delicious way to eat these but I have been told that coffee and tea are tasty too. And some people like to have these with cold or hot cocoa.  Well, what ever your choice is just remember to enjoy!

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