Sunday, February 2, 2014

Imbolc Bread

There are few things better than making bread. The warmth of the kitchen, the feel of dough in your hands, the subtle alchemy of turning yeast and flour and bits into something delicious.
This is the Cookbook. My mother and I started it years ago, and when I moved to Portland, it came with me. It has illustrations (yes, those are rum balls amusing themselves amongst the powdered sugar). It contains many wonderful things, in no particular order...
...including this recipe for a Finnish coffee bread, know as Pulla. Mum used to make it at least once a Winter, and I thought it would be a perfect way to celebrate Imbolc. Speaking of how awesome Mum is, she also made my favorite apron:

This bread is lightly sweet and cardamom infused. It isn't hard to make. It takes a little patience, but it's totally worth it. Recipe after the jump...

Finnish Coffee Bread
Preheat oven to 325F degrees.

Heat 1 cup of whole milk until bubbles form, but it doesn't quite boil. Remove from heat. Add 6tbsp of butter, and let it melt and cool.

In a large bowl, combine a packet of yeast, a 1/4 cup of lukewarm water, and a pinch of sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs with 4tbsps of sugar, a tbsp of cardamom, and a tsp of salt. Add mixture to milk and butter, then pour everything into the yeast.

Add 2 cups of flour and mix well, then add 2 more cups of flour, and a little more if necessary. Knead until not entirely sticky. Let dough rise in a lightly oiled bowl for an hour. Punch down, knead until slightly elastic. Divide into 3 balls.
    Wiggle them out into ropes about a 15" long. Lay them side be side and braid them.
Let rise another 30 minutes. While you do, make the topping. Mix together 2tbsps flour, 2tbsps chilled butter, 3tbsps brown sugar, and a tsp each cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Somethings just have to be done with your fingers.
This is one of those things.
                                                      Sprinkle over the top of the loaf.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until everything is golden and lovely. Like most egg breads, pulla is delightful toasted with a bit of butter and jam, perfect for a late Winter morning with the light coming back. Don't forget the strong black coffee!

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