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.