Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that a cardamom flavoured coffee bread was among the most typical foods of Finland. Certainly I know that cardamon is natural to India, and has long been used there and in the surrounding countries. But for it to have gained such popularity among Scandinavians is news for me. Apparently I’m far behind news, since it has been their favourite spice for more than 1,000 years.
Cardamom was introduced to Scandinavia by the Vikings after their raids to Constantinopla around the 860’s a.D. After that they developed an affinity with the spice and took action to establish trade routes that would secure the availability of cardamon throughout Scandinavia. Since then its been used greatly to season all kinds of foods, from pickling herring to baking, flavouring aquavit and even season meatballs. Impressive since afterall cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world. Only saffron and vanilla come before it in price. But Scandinavia consumes yearly almost half of the worlds supply. India of course consumes the most, leaving the rest of us as insignificant users of this marvelous spice.
Have you ever had Middle Eastern coffee? Most of it is usually mixed with cardamom to give it a nice scent and add flavour. But for me, born and raised in a coffee producing land (with no cardamom) I tend hold on to my coffee as it is. Strong and simple. The middle eastern version I like, but I can’t never seem to get it right and haven’t been able to relinquish my own coffee rituals. While researching for Finland’s cuisine I checked this girl’s blog that I follow. She resides in Scandinavia and I got inspired by her Finnish Coffee Bread. Her work is impressive and I admire her a lot. I decided to make an adaptation of her Pulla recipe. You should check her out, she’s truly talented. This Cardamom Coffee Bread I can definitely incorporate on my coffee routine. In fact, I feel my life would not be complete if I don’t have it ever so often. It’s wonderful!
Yesterday my neighbour stumbled upon me on the sidewalk as I was walking my dog Lola. She asked me: How come your house always smells so good? Of course I told her the whole story of my Boil and Trouble Blog. And today she must have had a heart attack, or more precisely a “stomach” attack. The aromas that inundated my kitchen while baking this beauties must have surely reached her house, and nose, in the most tempting of manners. Naturally I’ll be a good neighbor and give her some of the mini loaves that I made. That is if I can overcome my greediness of keeping these all for me. It can be hard to let go of these buttery, tender and aromatic treasures. But I will… I will give her some… maybe… Hahaha!
A few pointers before sharing the coffee bread recipe. Cardamom is an expensive spice, and has the shelf live of a house fly. Store it on an airtight container, in a dark place. To keep it fresh longer store it in the freezer. You can buy ground cardamom seeds but it would lose it’s potency really quick. Better to buy it in the pod and go through the tedious process of removing the seeds right before each use. To do that just press the pods with the flat of a knife. They’ll brake quickly and the seeds will come of easily by hand. I like my mortars but if you’d like to hurry up the process use an electric coffee grinder that’s reserved especially for grinding herbs. Keep this things in mind when making Pulla (Finnish Coffee Bread) and get ready for a magical experience on your coffee break. They do remind me a bit of Spanish Mallorcas, but the hint of cardamom makes them truly special!
- 2 cups lukewarm whole milk
- 2 (1/4 oz) packs of active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 tbsp + 1 tsp freshly ground cardamom seeds
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter (cubed & at room temperature)
- 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp heavy cream for brushing
- Pearl Sugar for garnishing
- Place lukewarm milk, sugar, 1 tbsp cardamom and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attached. Mix well so the sugar dissolves and let sit for about 10 minutes until the mixture becomes foamy. Incorporate the eggs and mix until incorporated. Add flour and salt while mixing at medium low speed. Change the paddle for a hook and knead the dough on medium low speed for about 8 minutes while incorporating the butter little by little. Wait until a few cubes of butter get well incorporated into the dough before adding more. Knead the dough for another 3 minutes after adding the butter. Do not overwork the dough as it will develop too much gluten and you'll only get a tough bread. Transfer it to a lightly buttered bowl. Cover with a lightly butter plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour on a warm place until it doubles in size. Punch down the dough, cover again and let rise for another 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare 6 (6 x 3 inches) oven-safe paper dishware molds by buttering them lightly. Divide dough into 6 equal sized pieces. Take one of the pieces and cut it into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a 7 1/2 inches long rope. Pinch together the three ropes on one end and braid them together. Tuck the ends of the braid underneath it and place the mini loaf on a mold. Place the mold on a baking sheet. Alternately you could just place the mini loaves directly on top of a buttered piece of parchment paper or silicon mat over a sheet pan. Repeat this process with the remaining 5 pieces of dough. Space them well as they'll rise while baking. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let them rest for 30 minutes. (Bread just loves to take breaks).
- Preheat a convection oven to 400° F. Whisk the remaining cardamom together with the egg yolk and heavy cream. After the loaves are rested brush them with the egg mixture, then sprinkle with the pearl sugar. (You could also sprinkle sliced almonds or any other garnish you might like) Bake for 20 minutes, turning the tray once halfway through. The tops will become golden brown and when knocked underneath they should sound hollow. Let them rest (again) on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Try to control your impulses of eating them all on a single day.