312 - Spice up your baking

By Lauren Gosnell

Cardamom – a spice that conjures up images of exotic Indian curries and Arabic coffee. The spice originates from India and Sri Lanka, but did you know that cardamom is also a key ingredient in Scandinavian baking?

The Swedish, the Danish and the Finns use this fragrant spice to add a sweet and spicy flavour to their pastries and baked goods. It is said that the Vikings brought cardamom to Scandinavia over a thousand years ago and it has been much loved ever since.

Pulla loavesCardamom adds a subtle warmth to baked goods like Finnish Pulla Bread. In Finland, you can’t serve up a cup of coffee without a piece of this gently spiced loaf.

Toronto’s Milbree Viking Bakery and Smokehouse, the only authentic Finnish smokehouse and bakery in the city, shared their Finnish Pulla bread recipe with Street Eats.

The Milbree Viking Bakery and Smokehouse
133 Laird Dr.

The Milbree Viking’s Pullapitko (Pulla) Recipe

Makes 6 good-sized loaves.

Need: Large Pot, Baking Sheets

6 cups whole milk
3/4 tbsp yeast (dry)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water (lukewarm)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp cardamom seeds, crushed
1 egg, beaten
10-12 cups flour (unbleached, white)
1 cup raisins (sultanas, optional)
1/4 cup butter (room temperature) sliced thin

1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water or milk
3/4 cups almonds
3/4 cup large granular sugar crumbs (raesokeri)

In a large pot, heat milk to lukewarm.

In a measuring cup of lukewarm water, drop one teaspoon of sugar and yeast, cover, and set aside to activate.

To warm milk, add the melted butter, sugar, cardamom, egg and yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon (or by hand) until well mixed. Start adding flour about flour one cup at a time. When the dough starts feeling heavy to stir, add raisins, mix well and discard spoon.

Start kneading by hand. Keep adding the flour until the dough has an elastic appearance and is firm. Knead in butter until fully combined and the dough does not stick to your hands or the sides of the pot. Pat down and sprinkle very lightly with flour, cover with a clean linen or tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.

Turn onto lightly floured surface. Work dough about two to three minutes ending with a large roll suitable for slicing. Divide into 24 equal portions.

Roll each portion with palms into a rope about 15 inches long - four for each skein. Braid the four ropes together, forming a straight skein. Press ends together with the edge of your hand and tuck under; lift each skein onto a lightly greased baking sheet (or cover with parchment paper.) Cover with linen or tea towel.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 Celsius)
Let skeins rise for 20 minutes - they will be puffy but not double in size.

Glaze by brushing with beaten egg water, sprinkle with sugar and almonds.

Bake for 25 minutes. Turn if not quite done and bake to an even golden brown (for deeper glaze, brush again with egg when turning.)

Slice, serve and enjoy.