The most typically Finnish pastry is pulla, a yeasted sweet bread that comes in various shapes: small round buns, swirly cinnamon rolls, and braided loaves and knots. The dough has plenty of cardamom in it and the rolls are often topped with slivered almonds or pearl sugar for some sweet crunch. The smell of cardamom and yeast that fills our apartment when the dough is rising instantly takes me back to childhood – that is the fragrance of a true home in my mind. This time I decided to fill my rolls with almonds and walnuts instead of the usual cinnamon, but the shape is traditional – it resembles an ear, and accordingly the Finnish word for cinnamon rolls literally means “a slap on the ear” (korvapuusti).
I added a few pinches of saffron in the dough for a yellow hue. Saffron is usually only used on special occasions, in Christmas and Easter baking, and I have to admit that I actually prefer my pulla without the taste of saffron.
I placed the dough in the fridge after the first rising, and let it come to room temperature on the next day before shaping the rolls. I think that the slow second rising really made a difference, since this was definitely one of the best pulla batches I’ve ever baked – the dough was soft and pliable, very easy to work with and nice and tender after baking.
The Pulla Dough (makes 12 almond rolls):
- 3 dl warm soy milk
- 25 grams fresh yeast
- 3 and 1/3 dl wheat flour
- 3 dl whole spelt flour
- 1 dl raw cane sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 50 grams coconut oil, warmed until liquid
- 1/2 dl canola oil
- (a few pinches of saffron threads, finely ground – optional)
I heated the soy milk to 37 degrees Celsius, as warm as my hand. Then I diluted the yeast and the sugar in the water, and then added the salt, saffron, and cardamom. Now, I poured in the wheat flour, and stirred briskly with a wooden fork for about 3 minutes. I added the coconut oil and the spelt flour, and kneaded for a few minutes.
Now I added the canola oil and kneaded it in the dough, then placed it on the working surface and kept on kneading until the dough was smooth and didn’t stick to my hands any more. I let it rise, covered and in a warm, draftless place (which in this case was our oven) for a few hours, until it had just about tripled in size, then shaped it back to a round log again and returned in the bowl, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it slowly rise in the fridge overnight.
In the morning I removed the bowl from the fridge and let the dough come to room temperature for a few hours. Then I rolled it out with a rolling pin into a rectangular sheet a bit less than one centimeter thick.
- 3/4 dl or 5 tablespoons almonds
- 3/4 dl or 5 tablespoons walnuts
- 1/2 dl muscovado (whole cane) sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
- 50 grams margarine, softened
I just mixed the almonds, the walnuts, and the sugars in our mini food processor until they were coarsely ground together. I spread the margarine on the dough sheet and sprinkled with the filling mixture.
The Shaping of the Rolls:
Now I rolled up the dough sheet tightly into a log, starting from the longer side:
I used an unserrated knife and sloping cuts to cut it into triangular pieces, like so:
I placed the rolls on a baking sheet, the wider side downwards, and pressed down the centers with my fingers, so that the cut sides bulged out:
Now I placed the baking sheets in a warm place, covered them with a kitchen towel, and set the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Now the dough got to have a third rising for about 40 minutes, until the rolls had almost doubled in size.
- 1/2 dl water
- 1 tablespoon plain soy yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon syrup of choice
- pearl sugar and chopped almonds
I whisked the water, soy yoghurt and syrup together, and just before baking I brushed the rolls with the mixture, and sprinkled with almonds and pearl sugar.
Finally, I baked the rolls on the middle rack of our oven for 10 minutes, until nicely browned over the top.