My great-grandmother was a master Finnish baker and whenever I make this delicious coffee table bread, I think of her. It is egg-y, a little sweet, a little savory from the cardamom and a hit with most guests.
Now I make this with my kids and can’t make it through a holiday season without one or two batches. You can braid them into loaves, whip up a wreath, or make knotted rolls. All are delicious served warm with a little butter and lingonberry (or raspberry) jam. And it makes the most delicious french toast the next day.
PS – This recipe won a blue ribbon at the Oregon State Fair in 2004!
makes 2 medium loaves
1 cup milk
¼ cup warm water (110 °)
1 (¼ ounce) package active dry yeast
½ cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked or ground cardamom
2 eggs, beaten
5 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp white sugar, or rae/pearl sugar if you have it
Heat the milk in the microwave for 1 minute. Let cool until lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and a pinch of sugar. Let prove for 5 minutes. When yeasty water is a little bubbly and you can smell the yeast, stir in the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, 2 eggs, and mix well.
Add 2 cups of flour to make a batter and stir with a spoon or spatula until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add 2 more cups of the flour and mix well; the dough should be smooth and glossy in appearance. Add the melted butter, and stir well. Stir again until the dough looks glossy << I transfer to the stand mixer at this point and use the dough hook on level 2 or 3. Add in any remaining flour until the dough is stiff but not dry.
Let rest for 10 minutes. Knead the dough until smooth and satiny (5-10 mins). Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, and turn the dough to grease the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel or saran wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled.
Turn out on to a floured surface, and divide into 2 parts. Divide each half into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a 12-16 inch strip. Braid 3 strips into a loaf or shape into a wreath. You should get 2 medium braided loaves. Gently lift the braids onto greased baking sheets. Pre-heat your oven to 400° While the dough rises a second time. Let rise for only 20 minutes.
Brush each loaf with egg wash and sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes. Check often because the bottom burns easily. A fully baked loaf should sound hollow when you thump the side of it.
NOTE: Cardamom isn’t very easy to find where we live, but it is essential for this recipe. You can use the powdered kind from the grocery if that is all you can get a hold of, but freshly cracked green cardamom is much better. I buy whole pods online and peel/crack them myself. We love cardamom and add it to all kinds of things around here. If you try it, you just might get hooked, too! Here’s some helpful info: https://www.spiceography.com/cooking-with-cardamom/