Tuula's Pulla (Finnish coffee bread)

From Anita Stewart's Flavours of Canada column:

When I visited Malcolm Island Tuula Lewis was often baking many loaves of this delicious sweet bread for the local museum in Sointula. At the museum's open house, before I was even allowed into the collection of Malcolm Island memorabilia, I had to have a thick slice of this fabulous cardamom bread, spread with butter and wild blackberry jam...a cup of tea was also de rigeur. Like most good Scandinavian bakers she grinds her cardamom just before using it in a coffee grinder however, an old fashioned mortar and pestle will do.

The yeast puff:

¼ cup (60 mL) warm water

1 tsp (5 mL) granulated sugar

1 package / 1 tbsp (15 mL) active dry yeast

The Dough

1 cups (250 mL) granulated sugar

2 cups (500 mL) very hot water

½ cup (125 mL) warmed table cream (18%)

2 eggs, well beaten

1 tbsp (15 mL) ground black cardamom

2 tsps (10 mL) salt

½ cup (125 mL) melted butter

6 - 7 cups (1.5 - 1.75 L) all purpose flour

In a small bowl, stir the water and 1 tsp (5 mL) sugar together till sugar is dissolved; sprinkle with yeast. Let puff for 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, dissolve the sugar into the very hot water. Whisk in the cream, the beaten eggs, cardamom and the salt. Add the yeast mixture, stirring to combine. Add the melted butter, combining thoroughly.

Add the flour, a cupful at a time to ensuring that it is well blended after each addition. As you add the flour beat well. When the dough is dense and stiff, turn out onto a well-floured board and knead in any remaining flour. Knead for 5 - 7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the kitchen is warm, simply cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled. Otherwise transfer it to a well-oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until doubled.

Punch down and divide into four. Roll each piece of dough into a flat rectangle, about 10" (25 cm) long. Make two lengthwise cuts to within 1 " (2.5 cm) of the end of the rectangle. Braid the dough, pinching the loose ends tightly. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let rise a second time for about 50 to 60 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350'F oven for 25 - 30 minutes.

Makes 4 braids.

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