Saturday, 16 March 2013

Finnish pleasures: Pulla

Every member of my family has grown up with the wonders of warm pulla. Fresh out of the oven or microwaved out of her freezer stores, Mummi's pulla will always warm you from the inside out. We have all visited Mummi and asked her to make pulla for multicultural days at school. Our Aussie friends may not understand the obsession we have with this divine bread, perhaps because they don't have a Mummi who pours her heart into each bun of scrumpciousness.

I do not know if this recipe is identical to the imprint inside my grandmothers head, but my six year old cousin consumed almost an entire batch of my pulla while he was visiting from Finland - language barriers aside, I'm pretty sure that's a stamp of approval!

I have adapted this recipe to be vegan. If you would like to use butter and eggs I have written the alternatives beside the ingredients I use. My (very) Finnish father can't tell the difference between vegan pulla and the dairy-filled version so don't worry about it skimping on authenticity!

Finnish Pulla - Korvapuusti
Step 1: Adorn Mummi slippers and apron.
500mL warm milk (I use almond, also works well with soy),
2 egg replacers: 2 tsp psyllium husk mixed with 6 tbsp boiled water
150g raw sugar (dextrose works well here for a fructose-free alternative)
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt

900g + 200g plain flour
3x7g sachets yeast (equivalent to 6 tsp)

200g vegan margarine (or butter)

Cinnamon, sugar and margarine for rolling

1. Mix warm milk, eggs, sugar, cardamom and salt together in a large mixing bowl until the sugar has dissolved.
Note: if your milk/egg mixture is too hot it will kill your yeast - if you have a thermometer test the mixture before proceeding to the next step - your wet mixture should ideally be 37°C.

2. Whisk 900g flour and yeast together.

3. Add flour to milk mixture a spoonful at a time. Combine using a spoon until a sticky dough consistency is reached, then ditch the spoon and knead with your hand. Continue kneading and adding flour until the dough comes off your hands - you may need to add some extra flour to achieve this, but also don't be concerned if you haven't used all the flour mix. I find it varies with each batch I make.

Ditch the spoon, get messy!

4. Melt the margarine and let it cool slightly, then work it into your dough. It will take some work to be absorbed but it will happen. Continue kneading until you have a soft, flexible dough. If your dough is sticky add some of your extra 200g flour - the amount will vary, today I used about 150g extra.
Keep kneading. 
Don't stop.
When your dough reaches the soft, flexible consistency you will know it, there will be an obvious change. When this happens knead a little longer. 

The dough WILL become soft and elastic

5. Cover the dough with a tea towel and put it deep into your bed. Mummi puts her electric blanket on its lowest setting, I just let the blankets perform their magic. 

Tuck your pulla dough into bed :)

Let your dough rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 180°C.
6. Tip your dough onto your bench and punch down once, then break into 5 pieces. 

7. Work with one piece at a time, rolling/stretching it out with your hands to form a long rectangle. Smother the surface with margarine, then sugar and cinnamon. Add more cinnamon. And some more.
Be generous with the cinnamon!

8. Roll the dough into a long sausage and cut diagonally - this is important to get the traditional pulla shape. Now press each piece down firmly with your thumb at the narrowest point in each slice. 
Cut diagonally
Find the narrowest part of the slice..
.. and press down

9. Leave on a baking tray to rise for another half an hour - about the time it takes to cut the rest up. 

10. Bake in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them, they should be just brown and slightly firm to touch. 

Pulla are heavenly straight out of the oven with fresh, strong, proper Finnish coffee. Don't forget the coffee, please. 
I find the flavours develop when they pulla are left overnight, but maybe it just takes me that long to forget how much I enjoyed eating them straight out of the oven..

Pulla freeze great - microwave to defrost and heat up and you have an instant cake for afternoon tea!

My freezer isn't stocked until there is a good supply of pulla inside. I'm curious to know what other peoples freezer essentials are...

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