Pulla, a soft and fluffy cardamom bread recipe from Finland, is easy to make without a bread machine or mixer.  This authentic sweet treat tastes great with coffee on a cold day!  This beautiful braided loaf will disappear quickly among family and friends.

Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
loaf of pulla bread on a cooling rack with a cup of coffee
Sweet Bread

Pulla: Finnish Cardamom Bread

We handpicked the products and tools linked in this post. If you buy from one of these affiliate links, we may earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting Savor the Flavour!

This recipe was originally published on December 8, 2017.

For several years now, we’ve had a recipe for pulla, or Finnish cardamom bread, sitting in our cupboard.  One of my Canadian relatives gave it to us a few years ago.  I’ve slightly changed the original recipe, and I think it’s a keeper for sure!

loaf of pulla, Finnish cardamom bread

👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.

What is pulla bread?

Pulla bread is a soft, fluffy cardamom bread served with a hot cup of coffee.  The bread is braided into a large loaf or rolled into buns, and can be sprinkled with sliced almonds or pearl sugar.  This bread is just as popular with coffee in Finland as donuts are in the United States!

How to Pronounce Pulla

Want to pronounce “pulla” correctly in Finnish?  It’s pronounced POOL-ah.

person holding a slice of pulla bread

How to Braid Pulla Bread

Feel free to braid pulla bread in a simple three-strand braid, or another pattern, such as the four-strand braid that I use in this recipe.  Check out this video tutorial on how to braid several different kinds of braids.  Here’s how I did my four-strand braid, with the photo tutorial below.

  • Think of the strands being in positions 1-4, from left to right.
  • Cross the strand in spot 4 over the one in spot 3.
  • Cross the strand in spot 2 over the one in spot 1.
  • Cross the strand in spot 2 over the one in spot 3.
  • Repeat this pattern until the whole loaf is braided.

three steps for braiding a four-strand braid

How to Eat Pulla Bread

Serve a large braided pulla cut in thick slices with a cup of coffee.  Spread a little butter on each slice if desired.  Although this is non-traditional, you can also tear the pulla bread with your hands, like you would with challah bread.

person pulling apart a piece of pulla bread

Pulla Bread vs. Challah vs. Brioche

Pulla bread is similar to challah and brioche, two other types of sweet yeast breads.  Let’s compare and contrast these three breads so we can understand the differences.

  • Pulla contains milk, butter, eggs, and sugar.
  • Challah contains water, olive oil, eggs, and honey.  Since this bread must be kosher, it does not contain dairy.
  • Brioche contains larger quantities of milk, butter, eggs, and sugar than pulla does, making it even richer.

closeup of a baked pulla bread

Can I freeze pulla bread?

  • Yes, you can definitely freeze pulla bread.  It’s best to freeze the bread once it has been baked and fully cooled.
  • Seal the bread in a zip-top freezer bag or wrap it tightly in layers of plastic wrap and foil.
  • Freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Defrost in at room temperature for an hour or two, toast individual slices, or microwave until warm.

How to Make Finnish Pulla Bread

Gather the ingredients for the pulla bread.  You’ll need bread flour, fast-action yeast, salt, eggs, sugar, cardamom, butter, and milk.

ingredients for Finnish pulla bread

Melt the butter in the saucepan, then add the milk and heat to 115 F on a thermometer.  Remove from the heat.

melted butter and milk in a small saucepan

Whisk together the butter/milk mixture, the eggs, cardamom, salt, and sugar until well combined.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and whisk until smooth.

whisking the wet ingredients together in a glass bowl

Gradually add the bread flour, mixing with your hand as you go, until a slightly sticky dough has formed.  Make sure to pick up all the flour from the sides of the bowl.

bowl of sticky pulla bread dough before kneading

Knead the dough on a floured surface for 10-15 minutes, until it’s smooth and much less sticky.  A piece of dough should be able to stretch thin enough for you to see light through it.  This is called the windowpane test.

kneaded pulla bread dough in a glass bowl

Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover tightly, and let it prove in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

bowl of proved pulla bread dough

Punch down the dough and divide it into 4 equal pieces, using a kitchen scale to make each piece the same weight.

four pieces of bread dough

Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 2 feet long.

four ropes of bread dough

Lay the four strands side by side and squeeze them together at the top.  Mentally label the strands 1-4, from left to right.

Start the four-strand braid by crossing strand 4 over strand 3, as in the photo below.

first step in braiding pulla bread

Now, cross strand 2 over strand 1.

second step in braiding pulla bread

Finally, cross the new strand 2 over strand 3.

third step in braiding pulla bread

Repeat this pattern until the loaf is beautifully braided.  Squeeze the ends of the braid together to seal, and cut off the extra dough on the ends with a bench scraper.  You can use the offcuts to make a mini 4-strand loaf.  It will give you extra practice with braiding.

braided pulla bread on a cutting board

Place the loaf on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and cover with a large, clean garbage bag.  Let the dough prove until it springs back quickly when prodded with a fingertip, about 30 minutes.

proved pulla bread on a cookie sheet

If you don’t have store-bought pearl sugar to decorate the loaf, make your own.  Pour 1/2 cup of sugar into a skillet over medium-low heat.  Stir in just enough water to clump the sugar together.  Cook the sugar clumps until you can pick them up easily with a spoon. 

homemade pearl sugar in a skillet with a spoon

Once the bread is proved, brush the dough with a lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle generously with the pearl sugar.  Don’t forget to do this to the mini loaf, if you made one.

sprinkling pearl sugar on proved pulla bread

Bake the loaf at 375 F for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 300 F and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  The bread is done when it has an internal temperature of at least 190 F.  If it’s getting too dark during the baking, cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil.  The mini loaf will bake faster, so keep an eye on it.

baked pulla bread on a cookie sheet

Let the pulla bread cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving with a hot cup of coffee.  Enjoy!

loaf of pulla bread cooling on a wire rack

Pro Tips for Making Pulla

  • Be sure to use bread flour and not all-purpose flour when making yeast breads.  The additional gluten in bread flour gives the bread strength to rise higher and makes it more chewy.  All-purpose flour will not give you the same results.
  • Use fast-action yeast instead of active dry.  Active dry yeast must be dissolved in warm water and sugar and let stand until foamy before you can add it to the bread dough, slowing down the process.  Fast-action doesn’t require this step.
  • Help the dough rise more quickly by placing it in a steamy oven.  This is a handy tip, especially during the cold winter months.  Place the bowl of dough on the middle rack of a cold oven, and put a pan of boiling water on the rack below the dough.  Keep the oven door shut to trap the warm steam in the oven.
  • Don’t stretch the strands of dough when you’re braiding the loaf.  This will make the loaf skinnier at one end than the other.
  • Don’t have pearl sugar?  Make your own.  Put 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in a large skillet, add 1 tablespoon of water, and stir until the sugar forms clumps.  Add water 1/4 teaspoon at a time if not all the sugar clumped.  Set the pan over medium-low heat and stir frequently until the sugar clumps have dried out and you can pick them up easily with a spoon.  They will continue to harden as they cool.
  • Place an extra cookie sheet under the loaf while it’s baking.  The air trapped between the two cookie sheets insulates the bottom, keeping it from browning too quickly.
  • Use a thermometer to check when your bread is done baking.  The loaf should be a rich golden brown and have an internal temperature of 190 F.
  • Let the bread cool completely before serving.  Freshly baked bread is full of steam, and needs time for the inside to cool down and harden.  Cutting it too soon means a gummy, doughy bread.

a piece of pulla on a plate

Our Go-To Kitchen Tools for Finnish Pulla Bread

Satisfy your sweet tooth with these other sweet breads.

A loaf of challah bread being torn apart sliced vánočka with a cup of hot cocoa kanellangd cut open

  • Challah Bread: a gloriously fluffy Jewish bread perfect for Easter, Sabbath, or any occasion.
  • Vánočka: this Czech Christmas bread is a beautiful braided loaf with a flaky texture.
  • Kanellängd: a light and fluffy Swedish cinnamon bread topped with orange zest and icing.

Did you make this pulla recipe?  Please leave a star rating below the recipe to share how you enjoyed it.

Print
loaf of pulla bread on a cooling rack with a cup of coffee

Pulla: Finnish Cardamom Bread


  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: 20 slices 1x

Description

Pulla, a soft and fluffy cardamom bread recipe from Finland, is easy to make without a bread machine or mixer.  This authentic sweet treat tastes great with coffee on a cold day!  This beautiful braided loaf will disappear quickly among family and friends.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon whole milk (250 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (32g)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (75g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons fine salt (10g)
  • 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
  • 5 cups bread flour (600g)
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons pearl sugar

Instructions

Making the Dough (45 min + 1 1/2 hrs proving)

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then pour in the milk and stir until the mixture reaches 115 F.  Remove from the heat.
  2. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and add the milk mixture, sugar, cardamom, and salt.  Whisk until well combined, then sprinkle in the yeast and whisk again.
  3. Gradually mix in the flour with your hand until a soft, somewhat sticky dough has formed.
  4. Knead the dough briefly in the bowl, then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is no longer so sticky and is smooth and elastic.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly buttered bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Place the dough in a warm place and let it prove until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Shaping the Loaf (25 min + 30 min proving)

  1. Line a large, light-colored metal cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Punch down the dough, then divide it into 4 equal pieces, using a kitchen scale for accuracy.  Each piece should weigh approximately 243g.
  3. Roll each piece of dough into a rope 2 feet long.  Be sure not to use a floured surface during this step.  If the dough isn’t rolling easily, let it rest for a few minutes, then come back to it.
  4. Place the four strands side by side and join them together at the top.
  5. Plait the dough in a four-strand braid.  Think of the strands of being numbered from 1 to 4, from left to right.  Bring 4 over 3, then bring 2 over 1.  Cross the new strand 2 over strand 3.  Repeat this sequence until the whole loaf is plaited.
  6. Tuck the ends of the plait underneath the loaf and transfer it to the prepared cookie sheet.  Place the tray inside a large, clean garbage bag and tuck the ends underneath the tray to seal.
  7. Let the braided loaf prove for about 30 minutes, until the dough springs back quickly when gently prodded with a fingertip.
  8. About 10 minutes before the dough has finished proving, preheat the oven to 375 F.

Decorating the Loaf (5 min + 20 min baking)

  1. Brush the loaf with the lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
  2. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 300 F and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Cover the loaf with a piece of aluminum foil once it is nicely browned.  The bread is done when it has an internal temperature of 190 F.
  3. Let the bread cool completely on a wire rack before eating.

Notes

  • Make this recipe perfectly the first time.  Just scroll up to see our step-by-step photo instructions and read our pro tips for this recipe.
  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this pulla bread would be greatly appreciated.
  • 👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Finnish

Keywords: cardamom bread, pulla bread, finnish recipes

Recipe Card powered by

4 thoughts on “Pulla: Finnish Cardamom Bread

  1. I like the 4 stranded braid! It tastes good with black coffee. The pearl sugar adds a bit of sweetness to the pulla bread. It smelled really good when it was baking. I prefer to eat it with butter. This bread is a bit chewy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.