Cardamom Bread

We didn’t eat much in the way of wonderful food growing up. I remember a lot of fish sticks and bologna sandwiches and frozen peas.  Not that I fault anyone – there just wasn’t much wonderful food available at supermarkets in the 80’s.  But I do have a handful of food memories that have stuck with me over the years, and not surprisingly, they are the things that people in my life put energy and love into making.

I think of my aunt Kitty’s homemade spaghetti sauce with garlic and olives (probably deep-down the basis for my own marinara recipe). The calzones that my dad would stuff with perfectly minced onions, grated zucchini, and cheeses.  And my all-time favorite, a fragrant, braided, cardamom-spiced bread, which we would wait for as patiently as we could as it rose beneath a kitchen towel on the stove top.

This recipe for cardamom bread is adapted from Saveur magazine.  It is absolutely delicious spread with sweet cream butter and enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea. 

Cardamom Bread

Cardamom Bread (Pulla):

3/4 C. milk, warmed to 115 degrees

1 packet yeast (.25 oz.)

1/3 C. PLUS 1 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. cardamom

3 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

1 C. whole wheat pastry flour

1 & 1/2 to 2 C. AP flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

For brushing the loaf before baking:

1 Tbsp. heavy cream

1 egg yolk

good pinch of cardamom

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine milk, sugar, 2 tsp. cardamom, and yeast; stir together and let sit until foamy, 10 minutes. Add eggs and butter and mix to combine. Add the whole wheat flour, 1 & 1/2 cups of the AP flour, and the salt. Mix until a dough forms.  Add additional AP flour as necessary, a little at a time, until the dough comes together but is still moist. Too much flour makes for a very dry loaf.

Knead dough until smooth, again adding as little additional flour as possible, approximately 8 minutes. If using a mixer, replace paddle with hook attachment and knead dough on medium speed for 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Punch down the dough, cover again with plastic wrap, and let sit until fully risen, another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Transfer dough to a work surface and divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll each portion out on your work surface to create a 16” rope. Attach the three ropes together at one end and braid together to form a loaf, connecting the ropes again at the bottom. Transfer to a parchment–lined baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel and let sit until slightly puffed up, about 25 minutes.

Whisk together remaining cardamom, cream, and egg yolk in a small bowl and brush carefully onto the loaf. Sprinkle with sugar (coarse sugar is best) and bake for 20–25 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped and bottom of loaf should be golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container to retain freshness.

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