Finnish Pulla

Finnish Pulla is very similar to challah, only fragrant with a warmth of spices. I find it intriguing how Scandinavians pull cardamon, a spice native to India, into their bread baking. Just like the tradition of baking cookies around the holidays, I love the Christmas bread baking tradition. I am mesmerized by cookies, but I have written about my frustrations with these crumbly, buttery treats in my Meyer Lemon Butter Cookie Sandwiches with Jam post. At least with yeasted breads I feel right at home. Unlike the cookies, I don't need to find a rhythm, I immediately get into the bread baking zone. I meant to tackle Stollen, Panettone, Swedish Tea Ring and Finnish Pulla for a number of years now, so when I saw this recipe on Red Star Yeast's website, I couldn't resist making it my next baking project.
Scandinavians not only use cardamon in their breads, but also in mulled wine, cookies, cakes, pastries and meatballs too. According to National Geographic's Edible: an illustrated guide to the world's food plants and other sources, the cardamon, the second most expensive spice after saffron, or sometimes considered the third most expensive after certain vanilla beans, is a part of the ginger family. Indigenous to South India, and according to some accounts to Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal as well, it was brought to Scandinavia by the Vikings, a thousand years ago, from their travels to Turkey. Cardamon appears in written Nordic cookbooks as early as 1300AD. Some believe the Dutch brought cardamon back to Scandinavia from their expeditions to south east Asia in the 16th century.
Today, the largest cardamon grower and exporter is Guatemala, with India right behind it. Cardamon was introduced to Guatemala in 1914 and is referred to in The Guatemala Times article as "the green gold."
This Holiday season I featured the Swedish Tea Ring and this Finnish Pulla.  Please feel free to link up, in the comment section, all your Scandinavian baking this season. Happy Holidays to you all!
This bread is a part of my professional collaboration with Red Star Yeast.

Finnish Pulla
adapted from Red Star Yeast recipe
makes 3 loaves

6 1/2-7 cups bread flour (I needed 7)
4 1/2 tsps active dry or platinum yeast
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp ground cardamon

1 egg, slightly beaten
Pearl sugar

Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt and cardamon, mix well in a mixer bowl with a hook attachment. In a saucepan, heat milk, eater and butter until warm (120-130F), butter does not need to melt). Add to flour mixture. Add 2 eggs. Blend at a low speed until moistened, then beat for 3 minutes at a medium speed. Gradually add the remaining flour and knead on low speed until a soft dough is reached, approximately 5-8 minutes. You might not need to add the remaining flour. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to grease top. Cover and let rise for an hour or until dough doubles.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Punch down dough. Divide into 3 parts. Divide each third into 3 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece to a 16 inch rope. On a parchment line cookie sheet, loosely braid 3 braids. Pinch ends and tuck under. Let rise in a warm place for an hour or until dough doubles. Brush with the whisked egg, sprinkle with pearl sugar and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet and let cool.

Red Star Yeast Series:
Cinnamon Buns
Yeast Pancakes
Multigrain Oatmeal Bread
Marbled Rye Bread
Dark Pumpernickel Rye Bread
Jalapeno Cheddar Bread