Sunday, November 18, 2012

Finnish Pulla Bread

This recipe comes from the illustrious and Finnish-American Natalie Johnson of Twin City Barbell. While protein is important for building muscle, carbs are essential for powering your workout--so what better than some tasty, home-made bread? This is essentially challah, a rich egg bread, with the added deliciousness of cardamom.

Don't fret about the braiding--it will look and taste delicious no matter what. Well, except if you accidentally use salt instead of sugar, which Natalie can tell you all about ;)

The best flavor is achieved by using whole cardamom pods. Remove the green husks and save the brown, irregularly shaped seeds from inside. Crush with a mortar and pestle (or in a ziploc with something heavy).

4 ½ to 5 ½ cups unsifted flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
1 package active dry yeast
2/3 cup milk
¼ cup water
½ cup (1 stick) butter
4 eggs (reserve the white of one egg for egg wash later)
2 Tbsp milk
2 tablespoons sugar
Slivered blanched almonds
Approximately 3 1/2 half hours

In large bowl, thoroughly mix 1 ½ cups flour, ½ cup sugar, salt, lemon peel, cardamom, and undissolved yeast. Combine 2/3 cup milk, water and butter in saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are warm (butter does not need to melt entirely). Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixture (or by hand), scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs, and ½ cup flour, or enough flour to make a thick batter. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes, scrapping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough additional flour to make dough soft (1-2 cups).

Turn out onto lightly floured board. Knead for 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, for about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Set 1 piece aside. Shape remaining 3 pieces into ropes. Braid ropes together, pinch ends to seal. Place onto a large greased baking sheet. Divide remaining dough into 2 parts. Roll into ropes. Twist together. Pinch ends to seal. Place on top of braid.  Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, for 1 hour, or until  doubled. Brush loaf with 2 Tbsp. milk beaten with 1 egg white. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and almonds.

Bake in 350°F oven for 30 minutes, then in 5 minute increments, until the loaf is deep golden brown and 180-190°F internally (took 40 minutes in my oven). Remove from baking sheet and place on wire rack to cool.

Amazing with butter and honey on top. Or goat cheese and apricot jam. Or practically anything.

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