Friday, December 26, 2008

Finnish Biscuit

Known as Pulla, Cardamom Bread or Finnish Biscuit - it's always rich and tasty with coffee.  My grandmother always bought it from a woman who made it in her home. Makinen, Minnesota is like that - everyone shares their talent, whether it is making Finnish Biscuit or sharing your table for coffee. 

Since Finnish heritage is so important to my grandparents, I wanted to try making my own Finnish Biscuit. I tested 3 different toppings - and found the simplest was my favorite. Below is the recipe from Beatrice Ojakangas's "The Finnish Cookbook."

1 pkg yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups milk, scalded and cooled to room temp
1 cup (or less) sugar
1 tsp salt
7-8 cardamom pods seeded (1 tsp ground)
4 eggs beaten 
8-9 cups flour
1/2 cup melted butter

Dissolve the yeast in water. Add milk, sugar, salt cardamon, and enough flour to make a batter (2-3 cups).  Beat the dough until smooth and elastic. Add 3 more cups of flour and beat well. Add the butter. The dough should be smooth and glossy. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough.  

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and let rest for 15 minutes. Then knead until smooth and satiny.  Place in a lightly greased bowl and set in a warm place to rise until doubled (about 1 hour.)  Punch down dough, and let rise again until not quite doubled (about 3o minutes). 

Turn out dough unto a floured surface and divide into 3 parts (this is where a kitchen scale comes in handy!)  Divide each part into 3 more - and roll each piece into long rolls. The strands should match each other in length. Braid three strands together - pinching the ends at the beginning and end to keep in place. Place braids onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet and let rest for about 20 minutes. Brush loaves with egg wash and bake in hot oven (400 degrees) for 25-30 minutes.

Don't overbake - it will dry out the loaves! 
Loaf #1: raw sugar (large crystals) sprinkled on after egg wash, before baking.
Loaf #2: egg wash only (personaly favorite)
Loaf #3: egg wash, then brushed with coffee after baking and sprinkled with bakers sugar. 

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