Monday, 20 December 2010

Finnish Nisa (Pulla) Bread or German Stollen

What both these breads have in common - besides being very suitable treats for Christmas - is that they are made of rich, eggy dough flavoured with cardamom. The pulla leaves it at that point; and as a breakfast or bread to be eaten with coffee, it's excellent, and suitable alll year round.

Finnish Nisa, or Pulla Bread
I took half my dough, and added dried fruits and marzipan to make stollen. It should also be dredged in icing sugar, but I will do that right before I serve it. Right now these loaves are in the freezer, waiting to come out for Christmas breakfast and our tree-decorating party.

I tend to think if you are going to bake, you might as well bake, so I have given instructions for making both of these at once - 4 loaves in all. However, there is no reason not to cut the recipe in half, and make just one or the other, or one loaf of each instead of two.

I used the lower amount of sugar, and I actually thought it could use a bit more. At that level, there is a sweetness to the dough, but it's really quite subtle. You might like a little more.

Note: The amount of fruit given to make stollen assumes you intend to make 2 loaves. If you intend to make all 4 loaves as stollen, you will need to double the amount of fruit.

Makes 4 loaves
6 hours - 1 hour prep time, 4 hours rising time (or more)

Christmas Stollen
Start the Yeast Proofing:
2 2/3 cups milk
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
2 1/2 tablespoons quick acting yeast

Put the milk, sugar and salt in a pot, and begin heating them over quite low heat. Meanwhile, grind the cardamom pods. Sift out the green hulls, then grind the remaining seed some more, until it is as fine as you can get it. Add it to the milk mixture.

When the milk is just warm to the touch but the sugar is mostly dissolved, turn off the heat. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface and cover the pot. Set it in a warm but not hot spot and let it proof for about 15 minutes. At this point the yeast should be dissolved and foamy.

Make the Dough:
6 cups white spelt flour
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 to 7 cups white or whole spelt flour

Put the flour in a large mixing bowl, and make a well in the middle. Pour in the yeast mixture, and add the eggs and the butter. Mix well. You will have a very soft batter.

Put out about 3 cup of the remaining flour on a clean counter or large board, and turn out the dough. Begin kneading in the flour, adding more as required once the first amount is absorbed, until you have a soft, very slightly sticky dough. You can use white or whole spelt depending on how refined a loaf you would like to have.

Knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Put it back into a mixing bowl, clean and well greased with butter. Cover and put in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size; about 2 hours.

To Finish as Pulla or Nisa:
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions.

Working with one of the resulting portions at a time, divide it into 3 equal sub-portions. Roll out each one between your hands, until you have a long rope of dough about a foot long. When you have all three rolled out, pinch them together at one end, and braid them. Place the resulting braided loaf on a large baking tray lined with parchment paper, or well buttered. Let rise again until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Heat the milk and sugar together until the sugar melts; the microwave is a good place to do this. Brush this glaze over the loaves. Bake them for about 30 minutes, until done.

To Finish as Stollen:
1/4 cup candied orange peel
1/4 cup candied lemon peel
1/4 cup dried cherries, cut up
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut up
1/4 cup light raisins
200 grams good Danish marzipan
icing sugar

Take half of the above dough recipe, and knead in all the fruits. Mine were rather dry, so I soaked them in a couple tablespoons of sherry for an hour first.

Divide the fruity dough in half. Press each portion out into a rectangle, about a foot wide and 6 or 7 inches high. This should leave it about an inch in depth. Do this on a well floured board to keep it from sticking.

Divide the marzipan in half, and roll each half out between your hands into a long log just a little shorter than your rectangle of dough. Flatten it a bit, then lay it on the dough. Roll up the dough around it, and place it seam-side down on a large baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat with the other loaf.

Bake for 30 minutes, until done. Sift icing sugar generously over the loaf before slicing.

Last year at this time I made Beet & Grapefruit Salad.


Mr. H. said...

This sounds like a very nice bread. My Mom is Finnish, perhaps my wife and I should make this for Christmas dinner.:)

Ferdzy said...

Ask your Mom about it, Mr. H. Who knows, she may even have her own recipe. It's a sweet bread so it's usually served as a snack with coffee, or for breakfast rather than with dinner. But it's delicious; I love the cardamom and could eat it all the time.