Pullapitko (Four-Braid Pulla / Nisu)
What’s a pullapitko, you might ask? Well, a “pulla” (or nisu) is a Finnish cardamom flavoured sweet bread. “Pitko” is the Finnish term for braided or plaited loaf. Thus, a pullapitko is a braided pulla.
Caution: If you’re Finnish, please skip to the last paragraph of the introduction. Otherwise, you may feel disheartened or perhaps even disturbed…
The original recipe I used called for cardamom as its sole spice, but I substituted nearly half of the cardamom with nutmeg–*gasp!* You see, I underestimated the total yield (i.e., seeds) of the cardamom pods I had on hand. As a consequence, I later discovered that the cardamom seeds I manually extracted wasn’t sufficient. So, being mindful of the unique flavours imparted by cardamom, the deficiency of cardamom was replaced by pre-ground nutmeg.
Digression alert (but relevant)!
Since the inception of my baking hobby (approx. three months ago), my breads and pastries have been baked in a rather compact convection microwave oven. Unfortunately, this limited the size and quantity of my baked goods… until an idea struck my head like a bolt of lightning zapping a rooster cocka-dooda-doodaling atop of a barn roof on a stormy day. I thought to myself, “Hey, would it be possible to use the microwave plate (i.e., built-in ceramic tray) as a baking stone?”
I just had to find out.
(This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.)
The primary objectives for the pullapitko are the following:
Adapted from a blog post on the website The Fresh Loaf, the following adjustments were made to the original recipe:
Additionally, if available, I’ve included brand names of the food products I used; please see the tables below. Disclaimer: This isn’t an endorsement. I’m simply indicating the names of the branded products used in my baking experiment.
Yield: 1 pullapitko (loaf) + baked scraps
Total Prep Time: N/A
Total Bake Time: 50 + 35 minutes
|All-purpose flour / Plain flour / Type 55 flour, Unbleached||1000 g||Top Budget|
|Cardamom seeds, Ground||< 5 g|
|Ground nutmeg||5 g|
|Caster sugar||188 g||SIS|
|Duck egg, Whole, Room temp.||88 g|
|Whole milk / Full cream milk, Lukewarm||< 560 g||Dutch Mill|
|Mineral water, Room temp.||65 g||Evian|
|Unsalted butter, Cubed, Room temp.||200 g||Elle & Vire|
|Salted butter, Cubed, Room temp.||25 g||Emborg|
|Duck egg, Yolk, Beaten, Room temp.||N/A|
|Mineral water||15 g||Evian|
|Blanched almonds, Sliced||N/A|
|All-purpose flour / Plain flour / Type 55 flour, Unbleached, Enriched||N/A||Gold Medal|
|Extra virgin olive oil||N/A||Campagna|
|Convection microwave oven, Refrigerator, Mechanical fan, Trays, Sheet pans, Parchment paper, Plastic wrap, Spatulas, Whisk, Strainer, Bowls, Mixing bowls, Mortar, Pestle, Pitcher, Measuring cups, Graduated cylinder (Measuring spoons), Mechanical kitchen scale, Ruler, Paring knife, Chinese chef’s knife, Kitchen scissor, Spoons, Fork, Pastry Brush, Skewer, Toothpick, Cooling racks, Cutting board|
Warning: Do not attempt my “recipe” (i.e., experiment) without considering the following; variations in room temperature, humidity, altitude, food products, kitchen utensils and equipment, techniques and methods, amongst other factors, will influence the outcome of your baked goods.
Before I began, I measured, prepared, and organized my ingredients and kitchen equipment. This includes: 1) extracting the seeds from the cardamom pods; 2) grinding the cardamom seeds with a mortar and pestle; 3) heating the milk in the microwave oven on high for a total of fifty seconds; 4) lining an inverted tray (as an oven peel) with parchment paper.
Step 1: Personally speaking, a good morning begins with bread–either eating, preparing, or baking it. Some of you may agree, while others may think I’m koo-koo over bread… Heck yes, I am!
Without further digression, the following materials were assembled: type 55 French flour, instant yeast, salt, caster sugar, pre-ground nutmeg, freshly ground cardamom, strainer, and mixing bowl.
Step 2: After sifting the said dry ingredients, I discarded the entrapped remainders, most of which were papery flakes of the cardamom pods. (This is reason that the cardamom amount is noted as less than five grams in the recipe list.)
Step 3: Next, I whisked the dry ingredients until they were well blended.
Step 4: Shortly afterwards, the wet ingredients were retrieved: lukewarm milk, mineral water, and eggs.
Step 5: Using my fingers, I created a small well in the centre of the dry ingredients, then poured the eggs, water, and half of the milk, in that order, into the said well.
Thereafter, the contents of the mixing bowl were hand mixed. As I expected, the mixture was overly dry, as shown above.
Step 6: In small increments, I poured the other half of the milk into the mixing bowl and mixed the dough by hand and a plastic spatula.
Relying on my intuition, as soon as I felt the dough was properly hydrated, I ceased all actions pertinent to the dough. (The dough was rather wet and sticky.)
Subsequently, I sealed the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, then let the dough rest at room temperature for twenty-five minutes.
Step 7: In the meantime, I cleaned the work surface (i.e., my desk top), prepared hot tea, and consumed French bread for breakfast.
Note: Ingesting hot tea and French bread isn’t fundamental nor required in the preparation of pullapitko. Despite that, I fully endorse it.
Step 8: Upon the completion of the dough’s rest period, I began to lightly knead the dough. This was done by repeatedly stretching and folding the dough onto itself.
Step 9: Kneaded for a span of a minute or so, I then transferred the dough from the mixing bowl to the work surface. Shortly afterwards, I gently stretched the dough outwards, then laid cubes of soften butter onto the dough.
“Uh-oh… I think that’s too much butter.”
Step 10: “Oh, phew!”
I spouted a breath of relief after successfully encasing the butter with dough.
Step 11: If I may, let me be summarize the following kneading and resting process:
Implement French kneading method for five minutes. Stop. Rest dough for five minutes. Stop. Plead with dough to not misbehave. Stop. Resume kneading until dough is smooth and elastic.
Note: The dough was sticky, shaggy, and oily from the oozing butter, especially during the initial phase of kneading. Thus, it may be more advisable to knead and incorporate smaller portions of butter into the dough at a single time.
Further, bits and pieces of dough flung into the air and landed on the work surface, nearby wall, floor, and lastly myself.
Step 12: After being kneaded for a total of fifty-five minutes, I conducted the windowpane test (hooray, it passed!), then oiled a large mixing bowl with extra virgin olive oil.
Note: A special thanks goes out to my brother. I woke him up and asked him to take the photo above. Suffice it to say, he begrudgingly obliged.
Step 13: Ecstatic with my results so far, I shaped the dough into a ball and placed it top-side-down into the mixing bowl. Promptly thereafter, I cautiously flipped the dough top-side up. (The purpose of this procedure is to evenly coat the dough with oil. Why? To minimize excess sticking and the risk of tearing, of course.)
Following that, I placed an inverted tray atop the mixing bowl and let the dough rest (i.e., bulk ferment) at room temperature for one hour and forty minutes.
Moreover, I conducted the “poke test” at forty-five minutes and again at one hour, fifteen minutes during the rest period.
To perform the poke test: With a finger, gently poke one centimeter (0.4 in) into the dough. If the dimple speedily fills back in half-way then continues to fill in slowly thereafter, the dough may proceed to the next step. On the other hand, if the dimple fills in quickly but completely, the dough must ferment for a longer period. However, if the dimple does not fill back in at all, the dough has over-fermented and must be baked as soon as possible.
Contrary to what I’ve described above, my gut instincts urged me to further ferment the dough after performing the poke test (on both occasions), despite that the dough’s dimple didn’t fill back in, at least not immediately. In all likelihood, this was prompted by the dough’s unusually cold surface temperature.
Step 14: Expanded 1.5x its original size, I squelched my conflicted feelings and decided that the dough was ready for pre-shaping.
Step 15: Accordingly, I cautiously pried the dough onto the flour-dusted work surface.
Note: The work surface was dusted with all-purpose flour (i.e., leftover flour from previous bakes).
Step 16: Business letter fold.
After shaping the dough into a rough square, I folded one-third of the dough onto itself, then again with the other end of the dough. Once completed, I pinched the widest seam closed by repeatedly hitting the edge of the dough with the heel of my palm.
Step 17: Without mercy or a grain of pity, I then butchered the dough into four large portions.
Step 18: Dusting the work surface and dough with all-purpose flour as needed, I rolled and lengthened each dough portion by rocking them back and forth with my palms, against the countertop.
Once elongated to what I felt was the appropriate size (i.e., long but not overstretched), the ends of the dough portions were removed to ensure that they were equal in length.
Note: In retrospect, I should have patted the gas out of the dough. In not doing so, the elongated dough rolls became visibly creased or wrinkled.
Step 19: Implementing the four-braid technique as displayed in this YouTube video, I braided the strands into an arched or happy dough.
Note: The loaf was shaped into a “U” to fit inside my convection microwave oven. In addition to that, it makes the dough seem jolly!
Step 20: With great delicacy, I lifted the braided dough and set it upon the parchment lined tray (i.e., oven peel substitute).
Hastily, I then preheated the convection microwave oven at 220°C / 428°F (for a total of thirty-three minutes), prepared the egg wash, applied the egg wash to the braided dough with a pastry brush, then let the braided dough proof (ferment).
Step 21: In the meantime, I gathered scraps of leftover dough and, on a whim, braided and arbitrarily pieced them together.
Neat, isn’t it?
Nonetheless, the conjoined scraps were placed into the refrigerator to chill (at 3°C / 37.4°F).
Step 22: Three minutes prior to being placed into the oven, the braided dough was applied with a second coating of egg wash, then sprinkled with almond slices.
Step 23: Carefully, and I mean carefully, I transferred the braided dough onto the microwave plate, serving as a baking stone. This was done by tugging and dragging the parchment paper (where the dough sat upon) into the oven.
Subsequently, the braided dough was baked at 180°C / 356°F for a total of fifty minutes.
Step 24: Originally, I had intended to bake the braided dough for thirty-five minutes. However, I decided against it and settled on forty minutes.
When forty minutes had elapsed, I conducted the “toothpick test” by inserting and withdrawing a wooden skewer from the centre of the loaf. Since moist crumbs did not attach to the skewer, I removed the pullapitko from the oven.
But something happened… From the furthest back of my mind, my subconsciousness hollered a warning. Suddenly, my nose detected a subtle but foreign smell emanating from the loaf. Curious, I picked up and sniffed the used skewer–I cringed. It was pungently yeasty.
Without sparing a moment, I returned the loaf to the oven and baked it for another five minutes before conducting the “skewer smell test” again.
*Sniffs skewer* “Nope, still too yeasty!”
After the pullapitko was baked for an additional five minutes, I repeated the skewer smell test. Indeed, the skewer smelled less yeasty, but I was still unsatisfied. However, I chose not to further bake the pullapitko, as the crust was beginning to darken in excess.
Alas, hoping for the best, I set the loaf on a rack for over two hours, accompanied by a blowing fan to aid in its cooling.
Step 25: Laid before me was a pile of used kitchen equipment in need of rigorous scrubbing and washing. I didn’t mind, though… I was overjoyed with what I had accomplished.
Step 26: Oh, I nearly forgot…
While cooling the pullapitko, the scraps were removed from the refrigerator, applied with egg wash, then baked in the preheated oven at 190°C / 374°F for thirty-five continuous minutes atop of an inverted tray lined with parchment paper (rather than directly on the microwave plate). What resulted was the above–a lustrous pot of mutated wheat stalks!
After an hour of being baked, the crust of the pullapitko was rather firm and crumbly. In comparison, the crumb was very tender and slightly moist, thus lending to a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. In terms of odour, the loaf emitted a faint yeasty smell, enshrouded by a modest spicy aroma. When chewed upon, the taste buds registered subtle sweetness and moderate butteriness.
After a day of being baked, the crust of the pullapitko had softened to a significant extent. The crumb, in contrast, was dryer, contributing to a gummier mouthfeel. Although the taste of butteriness had slightly reduced in intensity, the yeasty odour of the loaf was eliminated, replaced by a more noticeably spicy and buttery aroma.
Note: The pullapitko was stored at room temperature.
Despite that the lumps of the pullapitko weren’t as billowy as I wanted, I’m still very satisfied with my results. However, if I were to improve the flavour, I’d add more freshly ground cardamom and use cultured butter with a stronger tang.
Further… YIPPEEE, it worked! Uncertain of what to expect, the microwave plate didn’t do a poor job as a baking stone. What I should have done differently, however, was preheat the oven for a longer duration–perhaps forty-minutes at minimum. I suggest this because the bottom of the pullapitko was rather soft.
Nonetheless, I’m one step closer to baking hearth breads…
As always, farewell and happy baking! :)