Pulla: Finnish buns
Prep Time: 1 1/2-2 hours
Cook Time: 12-14 minutes
Keywords: bake bread butter flour milk
Ingredients (12 buns)
- 1 1/4 cup / 300 ml milk, lukewarm (see Note 1 below)
- 1 3/4 teaspoon / 5.6 g instant dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon crushed cardamom, obtained from cardamom seeds with the help of a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (use 1 1/2 teaspoon for a bolder cardamom flavor)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons / 25 g / 1 oz. sugar
- 3 1/2 oz. / 100 g white whole-wheat flour (see Note 2 below)
- 12 oz. / 340 g all-purpose flour (see Note 3 below), divided into three batches each weighing 3 1/2-oz. / 100 g, plus an additional 1 1/2 oz. / 42 g to be used when kneading the dough
- 4 tablespoons / 2 oz. / 56 g unsalted butter, very soft
- 1 small egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon of water (for glazing)
- A handful of blackberries, mashed with a sprinkling of sugar (optional, for the berry variation)
Note 1: I had some fresh whey (siero di latte) from making cheese when I made the rolls, so I used two tablespoons of it instead of the same amount of milk (and I used non-fat milk).
Note 2: I always add a certain amount of whole-wheat flour when the recipe calls only for white flour to increase the nutritional value of the bread without totally changing its nature.
Note 3: this is where you may see some variation, depending on whether you use some whole-wheat flour like I did and also on the type of all-purpose flour you choose. As mentioned in previous posts, I use King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour to make all my breads and this is a fact, not an advertisement.
Pour milk into a bowl and stir into it yeast, cardamom, salt and sugar. Stir in the whole-wheat flour and the first two batches of all-purpose flour. When the flour is well incorporated, add the butter and stir it in. Stir in the third batch of flour. Empty the bowl onto your working surface and knead until you have a homogeneous dough. Use the remaining flour to sprinkle your working surface as needed. The resulting dough is nice and soft, a bit tacky.
Clean and oil the bowl and place the dough in it. Cover it tightly and let the dough rise until doubled. The time necessary depends quite a bit on the room temperature. The first time it took almost 1 1/2 hour, while the second time an hour.
Place a rack in the middle and preheat oven to 425 F / 218 C. Place a half sheet pan (18 x 13 inches / 46 x 33 cm) in the oven.
Turn the dough onto the lightly floured working surface and cut it into 12 pieces each weighing 2 1/2 oz. / 70 g. I weigh the pieces to make sure they are all of about the same size.
Take a piece of dough, flatten it into a (rough) round, fold flaps towards the center (as if you were closing an envelope) all around to make a kind of parcel. Turn it so the seam is down, cup it with your hand, then move the hand in circles to make the surface of the bun tighter. Make sure the working surface is not floured, otherwise the ball of dough will slide when you try to make it go in circles.
If you need a visual aid to learn how to shape buns by rolling the dough with your hands, this post has a nice video.
Important: if you want to make the variation with blackberries, you need to do an extra step. After flattening the dough, distribute a teaspoon of the mashed blackberries on the middle. Then, fold the dough into a tight package and roll it as described above and as shown in the video. (See below for more details on the berry buns.)
Place shaped buns evenly spaced on a silicone baking mat that fits into the half sheet pan (or a piece of parchment paper of adequate size). A half sheet pan provides enough space for the buns to expand. Since you will move the baking mat onto the (hot) baking sheet currently in the oven, I recommend you put it on another baking sheet, turned upside-down, so the transfer will be an easy slide. Cover the buns and let them rise for 15 minutes.
Brush the surface of the buns with the beaten egg. Take out of the oven the hot baking sheet, move the silicone baking mat with the buns onto it, then put in the oven.
Bake buns for 12 minutes, then check them. If not yet nice and golden, bake another minute and check again. Repeat as needed. (My buns needed 13 minutes to bake to perfection.) Take the buns out of the oven and slide them onto a rack. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before tasting them.