helsinki

When I want a hint of Scandinavia in my baking, I reach for my Great Scandinavian Baking bible by Beatrice Ojakangas for some inspiration.

I attempted my first Finnish bread a couple of years ago.  It was a nerve-racking event as it was ultimately going to be tasted by someone whose mummo (Finnish grandmother), was an all round cooking star.  Needless to say, the pressure was on.

I heard about a tasty cardamom flavoured bread called Pulla.  Naturally, I had to research this thing called ‘Pulla’ within an inch of its life.  Fortunately, in my efforts, I stumbled across Beatrice Ojakangas.  After my first Pulla attempt when I was told the bread tasted, “just like my mummo used to make”, I knew I had picked the right recipe (thanks, Beatrice!).  Now Pulla is made with some regularity at home.  It certainly is worth the time.

pulla

Here is my adapted recipe of Finnish Pulla.

{ Finnish Pulla }

Makes three small braided loaves

* Ingredients *

1 cup (250ml) milk
1/2 cup (125ml) warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3.5 g active dry yeast
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cardamom (or to taste)
2 eggs, beaten
4-5 cups plain flour
1/4 cup (62.5g) butter, melted and cooled

1 egg, beaten
Almond slices, toasted

* Directions *

. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add one teaspoon of sugar and let stand for 5 minutes until yeast foams.
2. Warm milk in a small saucepan until it reaches about 45 degrees then remove from heat. Let cool until lukewarm.
3. To the yeast, stir in the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs, and enough flour to make a batter (approximately 2 cups).
4. Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add 3 more cups of the flour and beat well. Add the melted butter and stir well. Beat again until the dough looks glossy. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is stiff (you may not need all 5 cups).
5. Turn out of bowl onto a floured surface, cover with an inverted mixing bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes.
6. Knead the dough until smooth and satiny. Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, and turn the dough to grease the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
7. Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled. About 1 hour.
8. Turn out again on to a floured surface, and divide into 3 parts. Divide each third into 3 again. Roll each piece into a 30 cm strand. Braid 3 strands into a loaf. Lift the loaves onto baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper. Let rise for 30 minutes.
9. Brush each loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with almond slices along the centre of the braids.
10. Bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes. Check occasionally because the bottom can brown easily.
11. When cooled, drizzle with icing.  Try an orange, coffee or plain icing.  All delicious complements to the cardamom, I promise!

hot-cross-buns

Easter is not Easter without Hot Cross Buns.

And it is not hard not to be tempted by the range available (they are everywhere!).  This year I wanted to forgo the usual and plentiful fruit, extra spice, and chocolate chip selections.  After staring at my pantry for a few minutes I happened across my trusty ground cardamom.  I love the flavour of this fragrant spice in Scandinavian baking and reflected it was perfect choice for these little festive buns.

easter-eggs2My little nieces were staying over during Easter so thought Hot Cross Bun baking was a perfect activity to tackle together.  I also thought it would be fun to add some Easter craft to the mix.  Inspired by the cover of latest Martha Stewart Living magazine (and the corresponding article on decoupage eggs), I purchased up a range of coloured paper and ribbons last minute before the sleep over to keep the ‘Easter twins’ occupied.

The baking was simple enough.  Hot cross buns use a basic sweet bread dough.  The dough is fairly versatile and can be flavoured, shaped and baked a range of ways (buns, rolls, scrolls, loaves …etc.).  For the craft, I opted against using blown out eggs (only due to time), and adapted the decoupage idea using a simple egg shaped card instead.  The end result actually worked well.  We created a range of individual little swing tags perfect for Easter gift giving!

On the craft front, next year I will plan ahead.  In the meantime, try this basic dough recipe anytime you want a sweet treat. 

{ Hot Cross Buns }

* Ingredients *

2 x 7g sachets granulated yeast
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
1½ cups (375ml) warm milk
4 cups (600g) plain flour
2 teaspoon cardamon
60g butter
1 egg
¾ cup (120g) chocolate chips

Flour paste for crosses
½ cup (75g) plain flour
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) water, approximately

Glaze
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon gelatine
1 tablespoon water

* Directions *

Combine yeast, sugar and milk in small bowl or jug; cover, stand in warm place about 10 minutes or until mixture is frothy.

Sift flour and spices into large bowl, rub in butter. Stir in yeast mixture, egg and sultanas; mix to a soft sticky dough. Cover; stand in warm place about 45 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead about 5 minutes or until smooth. Divide dough into 16 pieces, place piece of chocolate into each piece of dough and knead into balls. Place balls 8cm apart onto oiled oven trays, stand in warm place about 10 minutes or until buns have risen.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to hot.  Place flour paste for crosses in piping bag fitted with small plain tube, pipe crosses on buns.  Bake buns in hot oven about 20 minutes or until well browned. Turn buns onto wire rack, brush tops with hot glaze; cool on wire rack.  To make the flour paste for crosses, combine flour and sugar in bowl. Gradually blend in enough of the water to form a smooth paste.  To make the glaze, combine ingredients in small saucepan; stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar and gelatine are dissolved.

{ A few ideas … }

:: Flavour this dough with anything you like.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, lemon zest, orange zest … or even cardamon.  It is up to you.
:: For buns, loaves and rolls, towards the end of kneading, add a handful of any dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate or butterscotch chips etc. if you fancy.
:: If you wish to make scrolls, roll out each piece and spread with a flavoured butter (e.g. cinnamon), and then sprinkle with additives of choice.