How To Make: Pulla

I am more of an advocate for clean treats, but pulla is so tightly in my DNA that in the name of giving others the ability to enjoy the essence of Finnish coffee table staple is something that I am willing to compromise on. I have made the Finnish national pastry, pulla, 4 times this past year, and now I decided that it is time for me to share my dear grandma’s wisdom with you.

When I heard the words “But you haven’t even made pulla yet!” yesterday, the inner housewife in me was devastated. And so today I decided that “it is too hot” is merely a poor excuse for not allowing the lovely scent of cardamom and cinnamon to fill the house. All I have is time, so why not sweat for a good cause?

Pulla is essentially cinnamon bun, but then again it has some unique characteristics making it very Finnish/Swedish, depending on which side of the gulf you’re standing. Sure, you can get kanelbulle/kanelipulla/cinnamon buns from Ikea, but trust me, these are way worth the proofing, kneading and baking yourself.

In Auckland I experimented with making gluten free pulla, and ended up gobbling them all down like I would never have the chance to get them again, so it is proven you can also make allergy friendly version of these, it just won’t be quite the same.

Epic Finnish Cinnamon Buns

5 dl/ 2C + 2 tbsp milk (heated to body temperature aka 37C)
50 g yeast or 16 g instant dry active yeast
2 eggs
2 dl/180 g caster sugar
2 tsp fine salt
1-2 tbsp cardamom (use less if whole pods, way more if ground)
1 tsp vanilla (or 2 tsp vanilla sugar)
15 dl all purpose flour (don’t use self rising or other similar wild stuff) and some for dusting
200 g butter or shortening, melted

Filling:
caster sugar
cinnamon
butter

1 egg for brushing

A whisk, mixing bowl at least twice as big as the dough, rolling pin, sharp kitchen knife

Mix the luke warm milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, and vanilla together in a huge bowl. If you use fresh yeast, mix that in with the milk first, otherwise just hang on and mix the dry yeast with a bit of flour. Whisk the milk and other ingredients before gradually adding about 2/3 of the flour. Knead the dough, add butter and the rest of the flour gradually, all the while kneading so that the dough comes off the sides of your bowl and doesn’t stick to your hand. Cover with a tea towel and put the dough bowl in a warm place (ie sink filled with hot water) to incubate for a good while, until the size has about doubled – something around 1/2-2 hours.

Ready to roll
Ready to roll

When the dough is good to go, turn your oven up to 220C. Gently knead the dough for a bit, dust your baking surface with flour, and get your rolling pin ready. Grb a nice big chunk of the dough and roll it into thin rectangular shape. Use flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Once nice and somewhat even, lather the dough with a layer of butter, a layer of sprinkled sugar, and a layer of cinnamon.

Rolled dough ready for cutting
Rolled dough ready for cutting

Start rolling the dough in from the long side like a sushi, making it nice and tight. After you have a roll, turn the edge to face downwards, and it is time to cut! Get your knife, and cut the roll in an angle, like you were making triangles with blunt tops. The size of these blunt triangles depends on the size of your dough roll and how big buns you like. Once you’ve cut all the triangles, turn them so that the blunt part is facing upwards, and use the nail side of your middle fingers to press firmly down lengthwise. This should pop the middle parts out a bit. If not, that’s totally cool as well.

Pulla triangles in a row
Pulla triangles in a row
Neat triangles
Neat triangles

After all the tops are pressed down, whisk an egg in a mug, brush the buns, and sprinkle them with some coarse sugar, also known as pearl sugar. If you can’t find that, no worries, just use normal sugar and almond flakes or coconut flakes or whatever comes to mind. These guys need some more time proofing, so let them be under a tea towel on top of the oven for about 10-15 minutes before baking. Pop the buns in the oven and bake until the smell is divine and the buns are brown – approx. 7-10 minutes, or if your oven is uneven and weird, maybe closer to half an hour.

Ready for brushing and oven
Ready for brushing and oven

Notes: You can also make normal pulla with no cinnamon sugar filling, just by rolling the dough into balls. If you want to make it more interesting, press a hole on the top, and fill it with butter, finish off with a sprinkle of sugar. Raisins are a popular addition in the dough, but personally I like to stick with the cinnamon version.

Pile o' pulla
Pile o’ pulla

The dough is tasty, but with 20 years of pulla making experience, you will feel gross and bloated and get yeast burps if you eat too much of it. I have learned that the hard way, trust me.

Cuppa and pulla
Cuppa and pulla

Enjoy your pulla with coffee, but have cold milk on the side. Best enjoyed warm and fresh from the oven, but also edible the next few days and delicious when popped in the oven for a bit before eating.

Keep calm and eat pie.

Autumn aka cold and creeping darkness…wait, I already told you this. Happy things: baking and pie. I’ve felt seriously under the weather (despite the sunshine) lately, not having been able to work out due to flu has been challenging for me. So, I bake. And this is something rather randomly put together that turned out to be the best apple pie I’ve made (and maybe had?). No gluten, of course. No nuts, either, if you don’t want to use them. It is easily vegan, has no added sugar or fat. And it tastes amazing. Try it if you don’t believe me.

 

Cupcake form. Portion control, you know.
Cupcake form. Portion control, you know.

Base/crust:

5 dl dried figs (approx 20, you can also use dates but figs are yummy!) – soak in water
5 dl soaked sunflower seeds (approx. 3.5dl dry)
1.5 dl coconut flour
2 dl (whey) protein powder (or just use 3.5 dl coconut flour, whatever floats your boat)
Pinch of salt

Blend the seeds and figs into paste. Add flour(s) and salt, form to a dough. Use more flour if needed. Depending on the size of your pie pan, you can save some of the dough to crumble on top of the filling. Coat the pie pan with some coconut flakes or coconut flour, then pat the dough evenly to the pan. It is sticky, that’s okay. Don’t eat all of the dough at this point.

Goodies.
Goodies.

Filling:

5 dl chopped apples (or apple puree)
1 tbsp cinnamon (also vanilla if you like)
4 dl black currants (and/or lingonberries)

Boil the apples in a bit of water until soft. Drain, mix in cinnamon and berries.

Nom. Unbaked.
Nom. Unbaked.

Topping:

Leftover pie crust, chopped hazel nuts, sunflower seeds and oat flakes, coconut flakes…whatever you fancy and happen to have around. Top it off and in to the oven! I baked my pie for 45 mins in 200 Celcius, and put a foil to cover the goodness from burning the crust. Half-baked is definitely also good with this one. No stomach upsets awaiting for munching the dough and licking the blender.

A tad messy but still classy.
A tad messy but still classy.

To be enjoyed with:
1) Tea or coffee
2) Preferred ice cream or milk alternative
3) Vanilla sauce (easy cashew vanilla sauce: blend 1/3 nuts with water, add vanilla and desired sweetener)
4) Just as is.

Cashew cardamom butter is the boss.
Cashew cardamom butter is the boss.

 

Last day of summer (and few days after that)

Time to say goodbye to the family before leaving for the unknown, for unknown period of time.

I left to Kuopio, and to our summer house in Vaajasalo, on the last day of August, which is also the last day of summer.

Pittoresque summer house porch

The summer is over, since syyskuu (September) means fall month. I was wearing 3 layers of clothes and, well, it was not too hot.

Chillin' by the fireplace, lookin' hot!
Chillin’ by the fireplace, lookin’ smokin’ hot!

On Saturday I went blueberry picking and had baked a pie before 10 am. In the evening we had a crayfish party, which is an annual fall time fest specially popular among the Swedish Finnish people and in the west coast of Finland. My cousin works in one of the fanciest restaurants in Finland, where the price per crayfish is 12€. My brother ate probably 40 crayfish alone – thank God our food came from local (cray)fishermen!

Whole family together for the first time since…can’t even remember how long!

Sunday was rainy and too much like the crappy fall that I am running away from to Japan. I went to my grandparents’ place, and the plan was to go berry picking on Monday. Due to constant rain, the plans changed to baking and munching comfort food and the berries my grandparents had already picked.

Comfort food to Japan, if I can’t restrain myself!

If I had more self-discipline, I probably could take some of our bakings with me to Japan. Knowing myself, there will be nothing left by next weekend. At least I’ll have memories!

Ps. I also “dropped my winter fur” (swam for the first time this year) on the first day of fall this year! The combination of sauna and icy lake is something special, for sure. At first I was being a sissy, but then the sisu took over.