Friday, 27 June 2014

Trial and Error: Finnish Pulla

Following a recipe should be straight-forward and easy, but when you're faced with foreign ingredients - or in my case ingredients that you can't find anywhere - you have to have the ability to adapt. In which case, this is probably not even "Finnish" Pulla, although it could be a new sweet dessert bread for you to discover nonetheless. The Scandinavian treat, similar to a cinnamon swirl you can buy in any bakery or local supermarket, was hard to gather ingredients for so instead I took it in my own direction while still following the written instructions. However, sometimes things don't go to plan... So, for trial and error's sake, I'm going to show you the recipe and some personal notes which I think could've made it even better!

PULLA (FINNISH DESSERT BREAD)
Recipe from The Kinfolk Table

Makes 16 pulla

Ingredients for the dough:
50g fresh yeast
500ml whole milk, warmed to 35ºC
7 cups plain flour, plus additional for dusting
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1tbsp cardamom seeds
1tsp salt
170g unsalted butter, softened

Ingredients for the filling:
255g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1tbsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp freshly ground cardamom

Ingredients for the topping:
1 large egg, beaten
Pearl sugar

For the dough:
Stir the yeast and milk together in a large bowl until the yeast is completely dissolved. Stir in the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt and mix until combined. Mix in the butter. Knead the dough until elastic and slightly sticky, about 15 minutes by hand, 8 minutes with a dough hook. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a dish towel, and allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.

For the filling and baking:
Meanwhile, combine the butter, granulated sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in a medium bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.
Lightly dust a clean, dry work-surface with flour. Turn the risen dough out and, with a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a 20-by-16-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, reaching all the way to the edges, then, beginning with a long side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Cut the cylinder into 16 triangles. Pick up the top point of the triangle and fold it towards the centre. Press the point tightly into the centre.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and arrange 8 pulla on each sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Cover them with a clean dish towel and allow them to rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour for their second rise.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200ºC). Brush the pulla with beaten egg and sprinkle them with pearl sugar. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and caramelised. Serve warm.

Here are my personal gripes with the recipe. I couldn't for the life of me find ground cardamom anywhere, nor the pearl sugar. I did open up some green cardamom pods and crushed up the seeds, however - I know this is a traditional ingredient in pulla but it was too strong for my British (bland) taste! I also only used one 7g packet of dry yeast as it's more concentrated than fresh yeast - here I think was part of my downfall. The dough ended up being really dense and didn't rise well enough to bake, so when I got round to baking them they turned out rather heavy. I also think there is way more butter involved than necessary. Sure, they taste delicious, but I used almost 500g butter altogether - that's a heart attack waiting the happen! I think the filling could easily benefit with just being sugar and cinnamon, like a cinnamon swirl.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I really want to get them right eventually. They may not end up authentic Scandinavian cuisine but I think trial and error helps you to find what you like in a recipe.

These are my proposed adaptations to the recipe which I will be trying in the future:
- Leaving cardamom out of the recipe altogether
- Cooking the dough from frozen
- Using dry yeast as dry and not mixed in with lukewarm milk
- Using less filling
- Trying the recipe with croissant dough
- Cutting smaller triangles
- Chilling before cooking
- Sprinkling the dough with just cinnamon sugar

I'm interested to know what you guys think of this recipe!
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