Hey y’all! More super-duper exciting social media news! Do you see that little line of blue icons to the left there? There’s a new addition to the family, and its name is Instagram! And guess what—Baby June has created an account! But how could this be? Baby June doesn’t even have a smartphone! Well guess what, there’s a new bitch in town called Bluestacks, where you can download some Android games onto your silly old-fashioned laptop for free, using this genius new software called Layer Cake. How app-ed (haha punnnnnnn) is that? Okay, and I also have to use Gramblr to actually upload the goddamn photos. Without filters. Mostly because I am a hapless pleb.
So the point of that verbal mess was to explain that yes, Baby June has an Instagram account and she is very excited to finally be able to spam you with pictures of food and shit. Ain’t that grand?
What I have for you today, however, is far more exciting than a mere online account. This is the second installment of my exploration into Finnish food—I mean, somewhat Finnish food that contains as much sugar and carby goodness as possible—as I prepare to move to this Earth-bound utopia later in my short and sad life. In case you missed it, the first installment was pannukakku topped with blueberry compote. That was a pretty scrumptious breakfast, if I do say so myself, but this is far, far superior to a simple baked pancake. This is…
|*drowns in carbs*|
BRAIDED. CARDAMOM. BREAD.
I kid you not. What you see here is a vegan (and likely sacrilegious, if there are any Finnish folks reading this) interpretation of the Finnish classic pulla; a slightly sweet, challah-esque enriched bread (meaning that it is filled with butter and sugar and all the good stuff) flavored with cardamom and, sometimes, almonds and raisins. The braided loaf shape you see here is referred to as pitko, meaning “long wheat loaf”. However, there are other varieties, such as smaller scone-shaped ones and rolled breads reminiscent of American cinnamon rolls (the latter of which is called korvapuusti, literally meaning “slap on the ear”).
|Yeah, I totally see the similarity here. source|
I have no idea why they call it that. Ah, Europeans, you so confusing.
So how do the lovely Finnish eat it? With coffee, of course. I don’t even know why I had to Google that, because it is quite obvious. All bread should be eaten with coffee. Or tea. Or both, if you fancy like that.
But how to recreate pulla without using any animal products? Easier than one might think. I’ve been meaning to make the Post Punk Kitchen’s mind-blowing vegan challah for a while, so it made sense to merge it with Saveur’s more traditional recipe to substitute both the eggs in the dough and the egg wash—two critical ingredients in making a nice enriched braided bread like this. The Post Punk Kitchen suggests substituting mashed bananas and a combination of maple syrup and nondairy milk, respectively. Who would’ve thunk it? Not me, so thank the heavens for vegan food blogs.
|See? Works perfectly.|
Now, take my advice and this recipe with a grain of salt. I’ve made yeasted bread before (most notably Take a Megabite’s incredible peanut butter chocolate swirl bread, which was, um, way too addictive for this carbaholic) and have some experience with the whole kneading / letting it rise / punching thing, but this is the first time I’ve made a braided bread quite like this. And no, breakfast braids don’t count—totally different culinary animal right there.
I mean, plant! Sorry! Forgot this was a vegan food blog!
|Goddamit June, look what you've done now! source|
Ahem—so, yeah, I may have even made a few mistakes in making this. Even though I used an electric stand mixer (yeah, too lazy to knead for twenty minutes) I think I may have cut the kneading period short a wee bit—perhaps that would make a denser, more doughy bread? Maybe. Maybe not. But homemade bread is still delicious.
And the cardamom flavor. Oh god. It’s flawless through and through.
And the cardamom flavor. Oh god. It’s flawless through and through.
Make this. Put on a pot of coffee while you’re at it.
Vegan pulla (Finnish cardamom braided bread)
Makes one loaf
163 grams • nondairy milk, heated to 115 degrees F • 2/3 cup
67 grams • granulated sugar • 1/3 cup
4 grams • cardamom • 2 teaspoons
7 grams • active dry yeast • ¼ ounce
84 grams • mashed banana • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons
406 grams • all-purpose flour • 3 ¼ cups
2 grams • kosher salt • ½ teaspoon
35 grams • Earth Balance, room temperature and cut into ½-inch pieces • 2 ½ tablespoons
20 grams • maple syrup • 1 tablespoon
15 grams • nondairy milk • 1 tablespoon
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine milk, sugar, 2 ½ teaspoons cardamom, and yeast; stir together and let sit for about ten minutes until foamy. Add mashed banana and mix to combine. Add flour and salt and mix just until a dough begins to form.
Replace paddle with hook attachment and knead dough on medium speed for two minutes. While kneading, slowly add butter one piece at a time and mix until incorporated; this will take about three to four minutes. Continue kneading for four more minutes after adding butter.
Transfer dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm place (I used the bread proof function on my oven) for about one hour. Punch down dough; cover again with plastic wrap and let sit until fully risen, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Transfer dough to a very lightly floured work surface and divide dough into three equal pieces. Roll each portion between your palms and surface to create three 16-inch ropes. Place ropes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and braid together to form a loaf, following guidelines here if you are new to braiding bread. You will have one large loaf. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for another 20 minutes, or until slightly puffed up.
In a small bowl, whisk together ½ teaspoon cardamom, maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon nondairy milk. Brush over loaf. If you want, you can sprinkle with crushed lump sugar and / or sliced almonds, but being the peasant that I am I did not have either of those things. The loaf is now ready to bake. Stick it in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is somewhat golden brown. It will not be quite as browned as a traditional non-vegan loaf, but it will still be delicious. Let cool for about ten minutes before serving.
Just look at all of this carby goodness. Look at it.
|Oh no, it's sliding off the table!|
I’ve been eating it plain, but you could certainly spread on a bit of lingonberry jam—which, I might mention, is a staple of Scandinavian cuisine—or something like that, if you have it on hand. Never had lingonberry jam myself, though.
|Notice the dense crumb. I fucked up. I'm sure of it.|
But even if homemade bread doesn’t come out all perfect and golden brown and filled with impeccable crumb and flavor, it is nothing short of addictive. I no longer demand perfection of myself, much less my bread. I mean, that’s just unreasonable. Poor yeasty thing didn’t do anything to you.
|DAT GOLDEN CRUST DOE|
Except draw you into its doughy, carby grasp. But that ain’t no crime.