Monday, September 14, 2015

Julia Child's Finnish Pulla

Julia Child's Finnish Pulla is gorgeous, delectable, and very easy to make. Active time is low on this one; about 30 minutes, with two resting periods of about 45 minutes each. Thaz it! For a wonderful fresh breakfast or brunch treat, you can do the first rise in the fridge overnight, then shape the wreath and do the second rise in the morning before baking. 

Did I mention this thing is gorgeous?!

I made this loaf last winter with my mother-in-law Debbie during a family trip to the Hudson Valley. We stayed in a quaint, artsy house with a fireplace and lots of great cookbooks. It was a perfect little getaway and baking this loaf with Debbie was a great bonding experience. You know you get along with someone when you can cook side-by-side with them. 

In addition to lots of cooking and baking, we introduced Freya to the snow and brought her to her very first whiskey tasting. Very little whiskey was consumed, and none by Freya, just to be clear!

She seemed much more impressed with the pourers than with the snow.

This recipe is just like Julia's except that I steeped the cardamom in the warm milk to ensure maximum flavor. I also added citrus zest, which I highly recommend.

Julia Child's Finnish Pulla

adapted from Baking with Julia Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers
1 cup milk, scalded and cooled
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (no hotter than 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds (the seeds of about 5-8 pods)
zest of one large orange or zests of several clementines
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
2 large eggs
4 ½ to 5 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled


1 large egg and 1 tablespoon milk, for wash
Sliced almonds or any crushed candied nuts (we used candied pecans)
Coarse sugar for sprinkling (we used regular and it was fine)

Scald the milk then add the sugar, salt, and cardamom. Allow to steep. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and make sure it foams (aka, is alive!). When the scalded milk has cooled to about room temp, beat in the eggs, then add the yeast mixture, butter, and zest, mixing well. 

Pour the wet mix into a stand mixer with dough hook or into a large bowl and stir in enough flour to get a shaggy dough. Continue adding flour little by little either using the dough hook on low speed or kneading by hand (or with a flexible pastry scraper) until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is less sticky.  Knead by hand or with the mixer for an additional 5-10 minutes until it is elastic and smooth. Allow to rise in a oiled bowl in a warm place for 45 min to an hour (until doubled in size).

After about an hour, punch the dough down gently and separate into three balls rolling each into a long log about 30-40 inches long. Braid the three strands and connect the ends, pinching them together to close the circle and create your wreath. Transfer the braided wreath to a parchment lined baking sheet and allow to rise for about 45 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 375. Brush the wreath with the egg and milk wash and sprinkle with nuts and sugar. Slid onto the center rack of your preheated oven and bake until deeply colored, about 20-25 minutes.  It's wonderful warm and is best eaten the same day you bake it.