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.

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Anzac day

It has been all over the place for a few weeks now: Anzac day. I figured out that the A stands for Australia, N Z New Zealand and then had to google the last 2: Army Corps. Today is the centenary of Australian (and New Zealand) army corps landing to Gallipoli, Turkey, where they apparently got slaughtered during World War II. This event had the most casualties and all in all it was a shitty situation – and I don’t remember ever studying about this in school! Perhaps I’ve just forgotten it, or then it is not considered as one of the highlights of WWII in Europe.

Nowadays Anzac day is huge: there’s a special footy match with tons of footy fans, parade, memorial ceremonies at dawn, just to name a few. I spent this special day at work: our anzac biscuits sold well, and people were out and about enjoying the gloomy rainy day. Today Anzac represents all the AUstralians who have died in war, and it is carried even through the younger generations.

I find this kind of national event rather interesting: especially when I found out that it is not a religious festival at all (besides a little praying in the memorial, maybe?). If April 25th falls on a weekday, Anzac day is a public holiday. Today, it being a Saturday, some shops had special opening hours (mostly open from afternoon onwards, instead of opening in the morning), but I haven’t really been out enough to figure out if most places are closed or not. I guess I’ll figure it out when dinner time comes.

PS: this is my 200th post on this blog, wohoo! Time for commemorating of my adventures and encounters of the past 3 years.

White pepsi in Tokyo, 2012. Eww.
White pepsi in Tokyo, 2012. Eww.

Sweet Buns

Strollin' in the hoods
Strollin’ in the hoods

Weekend trip to an outlying island – always a fun day! This time, it was something rather special that I had been waiting for months!

Busy in the bun business
Busy in the bun business

Cheung Chang is a charming island just an hour off Hong Kong. I have been looking forward to it’s annual Bun Festival, which is when things get rather interesting, to say the least. This festival is an old Taoist ritual, held according to the Chinese lunar year, coinciding with Buddhas’ Birthday (remember to celebrate on May 17th!)

Bun scrambling towers getting bunned up
Bun scrambling towers getting bunned up

Throughout the festival week, there are various activities and festivities, in addition to the different types of buns that are everywhere! The highlight and culmination of the festival is the bun tower climbing competition, when brave pre-selected climbers compete on who reaches the top first. Before the actual competition, there is demonstrations and whatnot.

Climbing practice, no buns
Climbing practice, no buns

I don’t know how lively the island is outside of the bun-season, but now everything seemed to be revolving around those sesame, red bean, lotus or taro paste-filled steamed, white “pillows”. Besides the edible versions, one could buy keychains, toys, posters, and God knows what other necessary stuffs.

All bunned up
All bunned up

The story behind all this? Well, the all-knowing Wikipedia tells that the festivities are fishermen’s rituals for praying safety from the pirates! In ’78 one of the towers collapsed and killed 100 people. More precautions have been taken into action since. Also, the village goes vegetarian for one day (not when I visited, though) – all of the seafood restaurants as well as McDonalds apply this rule, too! If I had been there on that day, maybe McDo could have lured me in…

Scary dragon and Mickey
Scary dragon and Mickey

Festivals are always filled with happy people and interesting things; the Bun festival was definitely not different in that way, though it was quite like nothing else! And going to an island is always an experience, this time I even went to swim, for the first time this year! Once going into the sea, I cannot get enough.

Hong Kong Vappu

I have never been a big fan of Vappu, as Labor Day or May Day is known in Finland, so it was not a big deal for me to to be abroad and “miss” the holiday and all the drunkness that annually invades Finland for few days. Here in Hong Kong Labor Day is a public holiday as well, and our Finnish team did the best we could to have some vappu feeling.

 

Munkki, just like at home
Munkki, just like at home

Last Saturday me and my dear roommates cramped into our tiny kitchen to prepare the traditional munkki pastries (donuts, basically deep-fried pulla dough), which apparently turned out just right! Team work at its’ best, one might say.

 

Sugar and syrup, yeast, lemon and raisins make the other staple Vappu treat
Sugar and syrup, yeast, lemon and raisins make the other staple Vappu treat

Last Friday I prepared sima (mead with raisins) to be ready for Vappu. On Tuesday we had few other Finns outside of our office gang to join us for a lovely evening -at the office- of listening to a myriad of 90’s songs and memorize our dear Motherland. The actual Labor Day, vappupäivä, was rather different than the usual picnic in the park – I got to cross another thing on my to-do list: junk boat!

 

Junk Boat with a nice sunny filter
Junk Boat with a nice sunny filter

 

Even though the weather was rather homey (cold, windy and almost rainy), the day on a boat was really nice!
Junk boat trips are usually organized in the warm months; basically you gather about 20-30 people to spend the day on a boat, chilling and doing some water activities. Not bad, unless you burn yourself or jump off the boat in a weird angle.

 

Sunny filter for brave swimmers
Sunny filter for brave swimmers

 

I hope I get to go on a junk boat trip again, and the next time the weather would be warm enough for me to actually get in the water and try wakeboarding! (Okay, I was about the only one not swimming, but it was damn cold.)

Did I miss the Finnish version of Vappu? Not a bit. We shall see where I’ll be next year!

Old Capitals

Last post about Japan for a while; here in Hong Kong I have been caught up with work and all the hustle and bustle of the city. Moving on to a new country, and new era for me! But for now, the old capital Kyoto and even older capital, Nara. My last days of Japan, including the aforeposted setsubun were rather different than any other trips I’ve had.

Geishas do exist, and they are constantly hunted by paparazzi and photographers alike
Geishas do exist, and they are constantly hunted by paparazzi and photographers alike

I lived in Gion area, right in the middle of the historical Geisha spirit (and tourists). I did not visit the Golden or Silver temple, since I was busy with the setsubun parties and other places.

Fushimi Inari, few of the 8000 gates
Fushimi Inari torii, bright red despite the rain
Holy water, kamisama no mizu
Holy water, kamisama no mizu
Temple, the name started with H
Temple, the name started with H

Other than the beautiful religious spots, I enjoyed the other visual treats of the Japanese harmony.

Japanese traquility
Japanese traquility

Nara, the town of Daibutsuen buddha statue and the deer that eat crackers from your hand and may poop on your feet, was not bad, either.

Oh deer!
Oh deer!

The deer were aplenty during daylight, but after that they all oddly vanished.

Enjoying the light festival
Enjoying the light festival
Holy deer water
Holy deer water

From the peace and tranquil to the metropole and smog of Hong Kong – it’s a completely different world in here!