Nothing says Christmas season more to me than this classic Scandinavian coffee bread. This bread keeps well and you can enjoy it with your morning coffee for several days. I made three loaves with this recipe, so I can keep one and share the rest with family.
I’ve always thought of this as Swedish, but I recently learned it’s the same as Finnish Pulla bread. I got this book for Christmas last year and I highly recommend it.
I made this bread almost exactly as it’s printed in the book. There’s some super helpful information in there on proofing yeast. The only liberties I took were with the size of the loaves and the wash at the end.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk, add the sugar and whisk to dissolve, then add the stick of butter to melt in the mixture.
Let the sugary butter milk cool until it’s warm to the touch, but not hot, and add 5 teaspoons of yeast, whisking after you add each one so the yeast doesn’t gel. Let this stand for 5 minutes to activate the yeast. You’ll know it’s working because it will bubble and expand. It should look like the picture below after.
Proofing the yeast like this is a game changer. The bread just rose and rose. It was so satisfying after my past experiences with yeast.
Next move the yeasty liquid to a bowl. I put mine in my stand mixture with a dough hook attachment. Gradually, add two cups flour, the salt and cardamom, and one egg. Mix well.
Gradually add three more cups of flour. Mixing one at a time into the dough ball. I found I’d have to flip it over to fully incorporate all the flour. If your dough is still sticky, slowly add the last cup of flour.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic and let it rise for at least an hour. When you are ready to proceed, move the dough to a floured surface and knead it a bit. Let it rest while you prep your baking pans.
I divided the dough into three equal sized balls, then divided one ball into three smaller equal sized balls and rolled them into ropes for braiding. Preheat the oven to 375 and let the formed bread rise another 30 minutes before baking for 20 minutes.
I wanted to do a trial loaf and was too lazy to do the egg wash with sugar pearls (which is a sugar crystal customarily put on top of cardamom bread), so I brushed watered down honey on this loaf. Since the recipe was for two loaves instead of three, I started checking the bread at 15 minutes, but I found it needed a full 20 minutes. The result was excellent, but I wanted a tiny bit more cardamom flavor so for my final two loaves I added 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom to a beaten egg and brushed that over the bread and dusted it with plain white sugar. This didn’t have the dazzle of the sugar pearls, but it tasted spectacular.
Cardamom bread is great plain or toasted with butter or toasted with maple butter or dipped in coffee! You can’t go wrong!