Nisu (Pulla)

Makes 4-to-5 1lb 2oz loaves

If you don’t know what nisu is, it’s a sweet breakfast bread from Finland. When it is fresh, and still warm from the oven, nothing is better that a slice or two with cold butter and a good cup of coffee.

Paul’s Bakery in Maynard has long been gone; there is no place close by to get really good freshly baked Nisu, so I was really excited to be invited to join a few of the Ladies of Kaleva to learn how to make this delicious Finnish bread from scratch.

Have left over nisu dough? Whip up a batch of these delicious Finish cinnamon buns called Korvapuusti


* pre-ground seeds are too fine, they should be semi course. Buy whole seeds and grind them in a coffee grinder. Debra’s Natural Gourmet in West Concord is a great place to find the perfect cardamom. For those of us that don’t know, cardamom can come in pods, that look like large seeds, so make sure you buy cardamom seeds and not pods!

** proof regular dry yeast in ¼ cup warm water + a pinch of sugar. If using Instant, or Rapid Rise yeast, there is no need to proof, it can be added directly along with the flour. King Arthur SAF Gold Instant Yeast is the best yeast to use for nisu. It is made specifically for making sweet breads such as nisu.

  • Exact measurements are not important
  • Step One – making the dough
    • In an electric mixer with a dough hook, mix together eggs, sugar, salt and cardamom
    • Mix in 2-to-3 cups of flour and some of the milk
    • As you continue to add flour and milk, add in the yeast and melted butter too, until you have 1-to-2 cups of flour left
    • note: you may not need all 10 cups of flour; amount needed varies on the temperature and humidity
    • Keep adding flour until the dough gets to a handling consistency, but is still slightly sticky ← the sides of the mixing bowl should be cleaning themselves, and there should be just a tad of dough still sticking to the bottom of the bowl. The dough will start “climbing” up the dough hook as it gets close to being done. This doesn’t have to be exact, the more ready it is in the mixer, then less flour you need to knead in later. It’s this final hand kneading step where you can adjust the final dough
    • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and add flour a little at a time, kneading until it becomes smooth with a slight stickiness
    • When you think you’re done, knead it some more anyway
  • Step Two – letting the dough rise
    • Form dough into a ball and put into a greased bowl, then turn the dough over so that the greased surface is exposed
    • Cover with a clean cloth and let it rise until double in volume. Do not rush this rise, be patient and let it rise. This will take approximately 2 hours in a proofing drawer, but as much as 4 if left on the counter
    • Testing for if done rising: If you stick a finger in the dough, your finger imprint should stay there
    • Once done rising, punch it down and let it rise again; this 2nd rise typically does not take as long as the first, maybe 30-60 minutes
    • After the 2nd rise, you need to weigh out the loaves; each loaf should weigh approximately 1lb 2oz. This is best done using a dough cutter
  • Step Three – braiding the dough
    • This is much like braiding hair
    • Divide the dough into 3 equal sections
    • Roll each section out to be long and thin, approximately the diameter of a nickel-to-quarter
    • Pinch together the three strands of dough at one end
    • Braid the strands, tucking the ends in when done and pinching them tight
    • Using your thumb, starting at one end of the loaf and working down to the other end, punch down in center where the braid comes together; this will keep the braids from separating during baking
    • Let braided loaves rise ½ way, not double, before continue to the next step…the baking!
  • Step Four – baking the nisu
    • Preheat oven to 350° F
    • Bake loaves for 25-30 minutes
    • Remove from baking sheet and place on a cooling rack
    • Brush with sweetened black coffee and sprinkle with sparking (or pearl) sugar

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