Posts Categorized: Bread

Everything’s bigger in Dallas


Dallas Pulla :: The Scandinavian Baker

Dallas Pulla

It was a revelation the day I discovered that seemingly unending varieties of Pulla exist across Scandinavia. With the slightest tweak to a recipe a flick of the wrist this simple, delicate bun transforms into an array of wonderful delights.

OK, this may sound a little over the top – but trust me, once you’ve been to Dallas (aka Flavour Town) you’ll never be able to Pulla yourself away (wow – that was corny even for me – but seriously *grabbing your arm with wild abandon* this is the stuff).

To start you’ll need the basic Pulla recipe found here. The only difference is when I have the time I like to let this dough slowly rise for as long as I can. Allow the dough to get started for half an hour or so and then whack it into the fridge for five or six hours or even overnight – the cold won’t stop the fermentation, just slow it.

When you’re ready to roll, let the dough warm up a little as it will be easier to handle.  While it’s warming up get started on the filling.

Dallas Pulla Ingredients :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry

250 grams of Quark cheese at room temperature

100 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup of caster sugar

1 egg

¼ cup of custard powder (or you can use plain cornflour with an extra dash of vanilla extract)

Dash of vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

An additional egg and dash of milk for egg wash


3/4 cup of icing sugar

Dash of warm water

Pearl sugar (optional)

Dallas Pulla Ingredients :: The Scandinavian Baker

Firstly make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature – it’s the same method as for a cheesecake, if the ingredients are too cold it’s more challenging to end up with smooth custard.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and beat together until well combined and smooth.

Roll out the dough into a large rectangle, at least 40cm wide by 30cm tall. Keep the thickness around a centimetre. Evenly spread the custard mixture over the dough leaving a clean edge of about 1.5 cm along the edge closest to you, reserving a quarter  of the mixture to top the buns at the end.

Dallas Pulla waiting to be baked :: The Scandinavian Baker

Brush the clean edge with a little warm water and gently roll the dough into a sausage and seal with the damp edge. Using a sawing action (to avoid squashing the rolls) cut the dough into 5cm lengths.

The buns will need to rise again before baking. Place the buns flat side down onto a baking tray with enough room to comfortably double in size and not touch. Spoon the extra custard on top of the buns and allow to rise in a warm place for at least 30 minutes.

While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 200c. Once ready gently brush with the egg wash and place into the oven. Bake for 20 mins and then increase the temperature by 10c for another 5-10 minutes and bake until golden.

Dallas Pulla :: The Scandinavian Baker

Remove the buns and allow to cool for 15 minutes while you prepare the icing.

Combine the icing sugar and water to make a smooth paste the consistency of honey. Liberally drizzle the icing over the buns while still warm. Sprinkle with pearl sugar. Wait as long as you can to resist trying one – I lasted about 3 minutes.


Dallas Pulla :: The Scandinavian Baker
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Hot Cross French Toast

Hot Cross French Toast :: The Scandinavian Baker

Good Friday was always a day when our family stuck with tradition – fish for dinner and buns for breakfast. Until the now near constant supply of hot cross buns became too much for me to resist, these pillowy sweet buns had only one day to shine.

These days of course, HCBs are so easy to get hold of they’ve become a weekly-shop staple according to the big retailers. So why not give them the reception they deserve with a twist this Easter.

This recipe makes enough for 2-3 people and will transform your buns into exquisitely light and fluffy pillows of Eastery goodness (too much? Um, no)

Hot Cross French Toast :: The Scandinavian Baker

Hot Cross French Toast

The Pantry

3 hot cross buns, cut in half (super delicious Hot Cross Bun recipe here)

300 mls of milk

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom

Pinch of salt flakes

Knob of unsalted butter for frying

Hot Cross French Toast :: The Scandinavian Baker
The Topping 

1 tablespoon of caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom

Hot Cross French Toast :: The Scandinavian Baker


Cut the buns in half and set aside. Gently beat the eggs until combined, add the milk and spices and stir to mix. Pour the mixture into a large shallow dish and place the buns cut side down. Allow the buns to sit for a few minutes, absorbing as much liquid as they can. Gently turn the buns to coat the other side.

Hot Cross French Toast :: The Scandinavian Baker
Once most of the mixture has been absorbed, heat a frying pan and gently melt the butter over a medium heat until frothy. Gently place the buns cut side down in to the pan and fry for a few minutes until golden. Turn and fry on the other side.

Hot Cross French Toast :: The Scandinavian Baker
Remove from the pan and allow to cool for a minute or so, while you mix the sugar and spices together. Sprinkle this mixture over the buns and serve with some fresh autumn or spring fruit.

Happy Easter x

October Sun Plum :: The Scandinavian Baker


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A classic loaf for all occasions

Finnish Pulla :: The Scandinavian Baker

This recipe for a simple tea loaf is based on the foundation of all Finnish Pulla recipes. From here you can add spices, jams, icing, custards or fruit to make endless varieties of this delightful afternoon tea staple;  but this original, lightly sweetened golden loaf is a simple delight to make and share with friends over a cup of tea, or more traditionally, ultra-strong black coffee.

You can start this in the morning ready for afternoon tea. If there is any left, day-old Pulla is ideal for Bread and Butter Pudding.

Rising Dough :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry 

250ml tepid milk
100 grams of raw caster sugar
2 packets of instant/dry yeast
1 egg
125 grams of soft unsalted butter
2 teaspoons of ground cardamom (plus a small amount of seeds, crushed roughly for texture and extra punch)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of salt
650 grams of plain flour

Use the dough hook tool on your mixer. Combine milk, sugar and yeast in your mixing bowl. Allow to activate for 5 minutes. Add the softened butter, egg, cardamom, cinnamon and salt and combine. With the mixer on low gradually add the flour until combined. Once the dough comes together you can kneed by hand until you reach a soft elastic dough, although I use the mixer to do this with equal results – approximately 5 minutes in my mixer.

Once smooth and elastic, allow to rest for a couple of hours until at least doubled in size.

Rising Pulla Dough :: The Scandinavian Baker

Divide the dough into three portions and roll into long sausages about 40 cm in length. Once you have the three lengths, place them side by side on your baking sheet and gently press the ends of the three together to join. Beginning with the left, gently plait the pieces of dough together, gently joining at the end. Once you’re finished fold the joins underneath the main loaf.

Finnish Pulla :: The Scandinavian Baker

Brush with beaten egg and dust with pearl sugar and set aside to rise for another 30 mins to rise. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Allow to cool and serve just warm. I love it with slightly salted butter, an extra dust of ground cardamom and a cup of the darkest Finnish coffee on the side.

Nothing beats a classic.

Finnish Pulla :: The Scandinavian Baker
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Almost Bread and Butter Pudding

Bun and Butter Pudding :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Crumb and the Restless

I think I’ve hit my limit. It’s hard to admit, but could five delicious bunly months almost be too much? Even the fact that there are two posts about this topic is astonishing in itself.

From the commencement of the 2014 season (in December 2013) at my local multi-national provedore, to the heady days of Easter and quick-fire discounting at the checkout I’ve had my share of Hot Cross Buns.

But it’s May and the buns have now returned to the little piece of heaven they’re baked in for another year… Except they haven’t.

My local is still stocking them 3ft high on entry. Even the competitor down the road has continued the supply, albeit sans cross and now labeled and fruity and convenient breakfast buns – but I see through their charade.

I’m beginning to suspect they have made the jump… to everyday food.

So why not take advantage? Why suffer when your heart’s desire is there for the taking – well, for me it’s beginning to feel a little stale (see what I did there). Sure I can stretch to four months, but now I need a break so I can experience the joy of devouring hot cross buns anew in the scorching heat of January next year.

So I’m farewelling the buns with the proper send-off they deserve – almost bread and butter pudding, with a twist.

Bun and Butter Pudding

Ingredients for Bun and Butter Pudding :: The Scandinavian Baker

I’m using the buns from my previous post, but this recipe works splendidly with slightly stale korvapuusti, pulla, brioche or your everyday sandwich bread.  A surprisingly stunning version can also be made with stale rye bread, molasses and cinnamon – deliciously peculiar.

The Pantry

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

¾ of a cup of caster sugar

600 mls of milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla

½ a teaspoon each of cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg

Pinch of salt

6 stale hot cross buns, split in two

25 grams of butter

Lingonberry or other jam of your choice

Bun and Butter Pudding :: The Scandinavian Baker

Beat the eggs and extra yolk with the sugar, salt and spices, but not too vigorously to avoid too many bubbles. Incorporate the milk and vanilla and set aside.

Split the buns in half and butter each side liberally and dot with the jam. Place the buns butter side up I to a baking dish.

Gently pour in the custard mixture covering the buns and allow to sit for 5 minutes to allow the buns to absorb some of the liquid.

Bun and Butter Pudding :: The Scandinavian Baker

Place the baking dish into a larger baking tin filled with enough hot water to reach two thirds of the way up the dish.

Bake at 160c for 40-45 minutes until the custard is set and the buns a burnished gold.

Best served warm, but is equally delicious cold the next day for a sneaky mid-morning snack.

If you like things a little zesty, grate some lemon zest in to the custard mix before baking for a surprising addition.

Oh and happy May-ster?

Bun and Butter Pudding :: The Scandinavian Baker

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Hot Cross Panic

Hot Cross Buns :: The Scandinavian Baker

The week leading up to Good Friday stirs a animalistic panic somewhere deep in my subconscious.

It’s the fear that I’ve squandered the weeks of plenty, where Hot Cross Buns were stacked 6ft high at the entrance to every supermarket.

The (now four) months of bunly-goodness have quickly come to an end and caught all of us by surprise. All we have left on the holiday food horizon are Anzac biscuits and then we’re cast adrift on a barren sea until the return of fruit mince pies in October.

Candied Peel :: The Scandinavian Baker

As you know a big part of my motivation for baking arose from an enduring desire to eat tasty baked treats I couldn’t find in bakeries at home.  And while the buns are plentiful for a quarter of the year here, I found myself living in Finland where the mention of a Hot Cross Bun evoked a reaction of perplexed staring, as if I’d strung three unrelated words together. (You’d think the Finns could relate to that).

While I’m not taking the credit for introducing HCBs to Central Finland…  this recipe clearly contributed to something…

Ingredients for Hot Cross Buns :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry

700 grams of plain flour, sifted
55 grams of (¼ cup) raw caster sugar
2 packets of dried yeast (14 gm)
1 teaspoon of allspice, cinnamon, cardamom and ground ginger
1 teaspoon of salt
250 grams of (1½ cups) sultanas
100 grams of candied mixed peel
Rind of one lemon
300 mls of milk
100 grams of unsalted butter
1 egg

Spice :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Glaze
55 gm (¼ cup) caster sugar
¼ tsp mixed spice

The Crosses
50 g flour
¼ cup water

Spices :: The Scandinavian Baker

Combine the flour, sugar, yeast, spices, sultanas, mixed peel and sea salt in a large mixing bowl.

Gently warm the milk and butter over a low heat until butter melts and mixture is tepid – don’t let it get too hot as this will kill the yeast. Add the egg to milk mixture and whisk to combine.

Make a well in the centre of flour mixture, add the milk mixture all at once and stir. You can either kneed by hand for 10 minutes if you’re feeling virtuous or mix on speed 2 for 5 mins in your stand mixer.

Leave the dough in the bowl to rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until at least doubled in size.

Hot Cross Buns :: The Scandinavian Baker

This dough is fairly forgiving and I like to let it rise longer up to 90 mins to give a lighter texture.

Knock back the dough and cut into 16 equal pieces. Gently knead each piece into a ball, place each into a lightly greased 22cm-square cake pan – just touching one another. Cover with a tea towel and stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size.

The Crosses

Preheat oven to 220C.

Combine 50 grams of flour and ¼ cup water and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle. Pipe lines down each row to form crosses.

Bake at 220C for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 200C and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden. (They’re ready when they sound hollow when tapped).

The Glaze

While the buns are still hot combine spices and sugar with ¼ cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Brush glaze over still hot buns, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Hot Cross Buns :: The Scandinavian Baker

These buns are delicious with lashings of salty butter and sweet lingonberry jam.

Enjoy and rest easy that the annual bun panic can now be quietened in your restless subconscious.

Hyvää Pääsiäistä  – Happy Easter

Hot Cross Buns :: The Scandinavian Baker

Jam, cream and austerity

Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker

For a long time I thought nothing could beat the classic Finnish Pulla. The somewhere between light and dense, cardamom laced, delicately sweet ubiquitous bread that is a staple in Finnish households, and eaten daily by me when in Finland.

Once I’d lived in Scandinavia, however, I discovered a smorgasbord of delightful variations, some appearing only once a year. And as you know I’m somewhat obsessed with holiday food – I was sold.

Enter the Laskiaispulla – the pulla for Shrove Tuesday. Push those common pancakes aside – Lent has a new King. Also known as Semla in Swedish, vastlakukkel in Estonian or fastelavnsbolle in Danish and Norwegian this little bun loved across the still icy Spring shores of the Baltic.

What better way to toast the season of going without than by stuffing your face with a jam and cream filled taste explosion.

The recipe below is for half the usual batch – even I can’t devour 32 buns, but if you’ve got a big group of hungry pilgrims popping around to feast one last time before Easter by all means double it.

Ingredients for Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry

1 packet of instant yeast
1/2 a cup of Milk – warmed to body temperature
1/2 cup of golden caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 egg
50 grams of unsalted butter – softened
3 cups of plain flour – sifted
2 teaspoons of ground cardamom

Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker

For Decoration

Flaked or ground almonds – or a combination
Pearl sugar
Extra egg for glaze


Lingonberry Jam
Cream – for whipping
icing sugar

Combine the yeast, sugar, salt, cardamom, milk, butter and beaten egg in your mixing bowl. Using the standard mixing blade switch on and gradually add 1 cup of flour until the mixture in smooth. Switch to the dough hook and incorporate the rest of the flour.

Kneed in your mixer for 5 minutes or turn out onto a floured surface and knead by had for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Cover and allow to rise for up to two hours  or until at least doubled in size.

Once risen turn out and divide into 16 equal portions. Gently roll each portion into a ball and place on a lined baking tray to rise again.

While waiting, make a list of thing you think you should give up for Lent… (not compulsory – the dough will still rise if you skip this step)

Gently brush the risen dough with an egg wash and sprinkle the almonds or pearl sugar onto the rolls.

Bake at 190c for12-15 minutes until lightly golden. Ding – rolls become buns. Allow the buns to cool before adorning with the jam and cream.

Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker

To Serve

Slice the top of each bun and spread a layer of jam on the bottom half, top with cream and pop the top back on. Dust with icing sugar and you’ve a got a perfect last supper on your hands.

Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker


A delicious alternative is to fill the buns with almond paste – this can be made by processing blanched almonds,  a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar and a dash of cream until it comes together to form a paste. It’s worth a try.

These buns are hard to put down; cute, perfectly proportioned and undeniably moreish – I’ve eaten three just writing this post.

A solemn and hungry Lent to all.

Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker
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A pie by any other name

Karelian Pies

The Karelian pie is everywhere and – by my observation – eaten at all times of the day. It even holds Traditional Specialty Guaranteed status in the EU. That’s a big deal!

I like to imagine weather-hardened Finns in far eastern Karelia (now divided and split between Russia) toiling on their frost-gripped land with a couple of karjalanpiirakat stowed away beneath their fur-lined coats for a wholesome meal between felling trees, chopping wood and herding reindeer.

These tasty savoury pies became a staple for us in living in Finland. We seriously ate them all the time. Sometimes for dinner with beer air-chilled from our balcony – and that was enough.

Karelian Pies

To the horror of our onlooking relatives the traditional Finnish way of eating them was pushed aside for the traditional Australian way: covered in tomato sauce. It’s seriously good, despite the protests.

In times past the dough was made with just rye flour, but as tastes and access to food evolved the addition of wheat flour created a softer texture to the end result. I’ve also learnt that pies were also filled with a milled flour mixture called talkkuna, consisting of roasted barley, rye, oat and pea flour.

All variations are delicious, and while the two main filling these days are rice or potato the options are endless. I’ve even considered making a sweet variety – despite the protests.

I like these pies reheated in a pan with a little butter and then covered in tomato sauce, but if you’re more of a traditionalist they should be served with sliced boiled eggs or Finnish egg butter, a combination of mashed boiled eggs and butter that can be spread over the pies before devouring.

Spanish short grained rice

The Pantry

100 grams of rye flour

75 grams plain flour

15 grams of butter, melted

100 ml water

1/2 teaspoon of salt

The Filling

100 grams of short grain rice (risotto or paella rice works perfectly)

350 ml of water

500ml of milk

1/2 tablespoon of salt

The Glaze

20 grams of butter

75 ml of milk

The Topping

6 hard boiled eggs

2 tablespoons of salt reduced butter

Begin by making the savoury rice porridge. Place the rice, salt and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until the rice has absorbed almost all the water. Add the milk and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the rice is tender and the mixture is like a thick rice pudding. Once cooked, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Don’t panic if you sample the rice porridge and it tastes like sea water. In the end the salt balance is perfect for the whole pie. It’s a baking miracle.

Rye pastry

The dough takes hardly any time at all. Mix all ingredients together with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead gently a few times to bring it together, and it’s done.

Divide the dough in to eight even pieces and roll into balls. The dough is quite delicate and the rye flour can make it dry our so I place all the balls into a shallow bowl of rye flour to coat and wait their turn before rolling out.

When your filling is cool/warm you can begin.

Karelian Pies

Roll out each ball into a circle 12 cm across, dusting with extra flour if needed.

Place a heaped dessertspoon full of rice mixture into the centre of the dough sheet.

Fold the edges of the dough over towards the mixture leaving the centre exposed and then crimp or pinch the edges into a wavy pattern – you’ll get better with practice – trust me.

Bake at 200c for 20-25 minutes. You’ll know when they’re ready by the burnished gold the rice pudding develops and the darker hue to the rye pastry.

Once they’re cooked you’ll need to glaze them – or actually soak them in the butter and milk mixture to prevent the rye pastry from becoming teeth-shatteringly hard.

Heat the butter and milk until they combine then brush the mixture liberally over the pastry. Don’t be afraid to really soak them, the pastry will absorb the mixture and reward you with a soft and delicate result.

Serve warm or cold or reheated in a pan or even a microwave – these things can take anything. To make the egg butter: roughly mash the eggs and combine with the softened butter. Spread this tasty mixture atop the pies and devour.

Karelian Pie and salad

On consumption

The Finn: Munch munch…

The Baker: Munch

The Finn: Good job

The Baker: Thanks – are they just like Mummo (Finnish Grandmother) used to make?

The Finn: Umm… I don’t know, I think she used to buy them from the supermarket

The Baker: …right then…

I love the history of food like this. The fuel of our ancestors still relevant today and still celebrated daily as a tasty piece of living Finnish culture – found in supermarkets and kitchens across the land.

Long live the Karjalan Piirakka!

Map of Finland including Karelia

Map of Finland including Karelia (late 1800s).


Slapped ears, buttery eyes and rosy cheeks


There’s nothing quite like a slapped ear in Finland, I’ll be honest. They’re everywhere. Old people with slapped ears, children, students, and tourists… the Finns are dishing them out to anyone who asks and some who don’t. It’s a national pass time.

I’m talking about Korvapuusti – Finnish cinnamon and cardamom buns. Translation – slapped ears.

Korvapuusti are just one of copious varieties of Finnish Pulla – sweet yeast-risen pastries that make their appearance throughout the day at breakfast, morning tea, afternoon tea, supper and late night snacks, both in the dead of winter or under the white night sky of summer. Rolled into a shape that resembles a slapped ear, they’re as Finnish as Sauna and a must-try when you visit.

While every family has a recipe, they’re so popular and essential to the day that they’re baked on a massive scale at bakeries across the country and sold in supermarkets.

I worked briefly in a bakery in Finland – at two actually; one small bakery in a picture-perfect neighbouring village and in a much larger industrial bakery in the next city over. Both were filled with the unmistakeable and comforting smell of Pulla baking away to be ready for the morning. Stepping from the snow outside into the warm sugary-smelling bakery was the best part of the night. (Cleaning the industrial frozen pizza conveyer belt was not the best part – although both smells were unmistakeable).

The Finn has grown up on these things – made of course by loving tradition-trained, sleigh-riding Finnish aunts (both related and acquired), so when I first got out the rolling pin the pressure was high.

The recipe below helped me tackle the traditional taste. It takes a bit of time, but mostly for raising the dough. Cooking, like life feels slower in Finland – there’s lot of time to kill on dark 23 hour long nights, hence the seemingly endless variations for Pulla – and births in August…

I’ve made two varieties from the same dough. Firstly Korvapuusti and secondly Voi-silma ( butter eye).

Cardamom seeds

Cardamom seeds

The Pantry 

250ml tepid milk
100 grams of raw caster sugar
2 packets of instant/dry yeast
1 egg
125 grams of soft unsalted butter
2 teaspoons of ground cardamom (plus a small amount of seeds, crushed roughly for texture and extra punch)
1 teaspoon of salt
650 grams of plain flour (Spelt flour also works really well and will give a slightly more dense result)

The Filling

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
25 grams of caster sugar
50 grams of butter

25 grams of caster sugar
50 grams of butter

NOTE: If you’re only making Korvapuusti, then combine all the filling ingredients (100g butter/50g sugar).  Leave out the cinnamon if just making Voi-silma.

Use the dough hook tool on your mixer. Combine milk, sugar and yeast in your mixing bowl. Allow to activate for 5 minutes. Add the softened butter, egg, cardamom and salt and combine. With the mixer on low gradually add the flour until combined. Once the dough comes together you can kneed by hand until you reach a soft elastic dough, although I use the mixer to do this with equal results – approximately 5 minutes in my mixer.

Once smooth and elastic, allow to rest for a couple of hours until at least doubled in size.

To make the filling I break with tradition here – mix the cinnamon and butter into a paste. You’ll use this later on to spread across the rolled out dough.

Divide the dough into four portions. Here you can decide what to do; two for korvapuusti and two for voi-silma, or keep all four for the ear slap.

Pulla rising


Pre heat your oven to 180c degrees.

Roll the dough into two rectangles, (30x25cm, 3-5mm thick). Spread an even portion of the dark spiced butter across the dough and sprinkle with some of the sugar. Roll into a sausage and set aside. Repeat.

Line the dough sausages up and cut them on the diagonal. You want to end up with v shaped pieces with the point about 2cm across. Place the pieces point side up on a baking tray and press down on the point with your finger – almost through to the tray. Brush with beaten egg and dust with sugar. Set these tasty ears aside to rise for another 30 mins to rise and then bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Voi-silma pulla


Take your remaining dough and divide further in to four pieces each – eight in total. Roll each piece in to a golf ball size and place on a baking tray to rise for 30 minutes. (These make super-tasty plain Pulla as well). In the meantime, take the remaining butter and sugar and mix together to form a paste.

Once risen, gently press a hole into each bun and place or pipe a teaspoonful of the filling into each one and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Voila! Two decidedly tasty varieties of Pulla. Serve them warm with coffee for a classic Finnish experience. They’re sure to put a rose in every cheek… (wait, that’s vegemite)

Finnish morning tea

This recipe is based on one from Tessa Kiros, a cook whose recipes I love; also with a heart in two places.

Forests and fruit stands

Blueberry pie

Each time we return to Finland, the Finn and I have the same routine. Once we’re settled and showered and partially recovered from what is possibly the longest distance you can travel in a day, we set out for a walk.

Usually it’s in the forest – which is not as unusual as its sounds. Finland is a small place; small cities, towns and villages dotted between lakes – none very far from its own patch of forest.  It’s the perfect antidote to jet-lag and ensures for a great night’s sleep and usually delicious hand-foraged dinner.

The last time we visited, we stayed in Helsinki overnight instead of travelling to family.  While the city is small, we weren’t up to trekking to the outskirts to find dinner, so it was down to the water’s edge and Kauppatori – the stunning harbour side market. This was the last place we visited before we left Finland and moved home, so it felt right to make it the first port of call.

For weeks the Finn had been describing how this would be the first stop – drop off the travel bags and pick up the bags filled with fresh local berries. That’s exactly how it happened; perched on the water’s edge, sun in our eyes, berries in our bellies (crazy oversized 1 litre beer can in our hands – yikes).

Kauppatori fruit stands

There’s no shortage of fresh berries in Finland during the summer. They’re everywhere at town square markets and street-side fruit stands across every town. The smell is intoxicating and the trade bustling.

Too late for the market, I once bought frozen berries to our cousin’s house for dinner and was dutifully mocked. If the fruit stand is closed, simply step outside and look down into a forest filled with blueberries. In parts the entire forest floor is covered with them. No kidding – it’s kind of like Narnia.

Forest floor and blueberries

Forest floor and blueberries

Mustikkapiirakka – Blueberry Pie

This pie screams Finland to me. My sister-in-law makes a seriously great version, and the one below does a pretty good job replicating it. It’s not your traditional type of pie; it’s open-faced and uses dough for a base rather than a pastry. You won’t be disappointed.

The Pantry

1 pack instant yeast
1/4 cup of warm water
1 egg
1/2 cup of raw caster sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of lukewarm milk
1/2 cup or approx 115g of softened butter
3 1/4 cups of Spelt flour (regular plain flour is also fine)

The Filling

3-4 cups of blueberries (frozen is fine – but allow to get to room temperature)
1/2 cup of sugar
1 heaped tablespoon of corn flour

Into your mixing bowl place the yeast and warm water and allow to sit for a few minutes until it activates. Add the egg, milk, sugar and salt and switch on to mix. (I used my cake batter blade initially, as the mix is very wet, then swapped to the dough hook to finish).  Add 2 cups of the flour and mix until smooth. Add the rest of the flour and knead until smooth and elastic. It’s going to be soft. Try not to over mix, it should come together easily.

That’s it – leave the dough to rise until doubled in size – 1-2 hours or so depending on the temperature.

Place the berries and sugar into a bowl and allow to macerate while the dough is rising.

Turn on the oven and pre-heat to 190c.

When the dough has risen, turn it into a lamington pan (shallow rectangular pan 25cm wide) and press it out to fit.

Blueberry pie

Take the berries and sprinkle over the corn flour and mix. Pour the berry mixture onto the dough and press down gently. If your berries have lost a lot of juice, allow a little to go in, but don’t over soak it. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, the straight into the oven. The baking time for this can vary a lot depending on your berries, your oven, the whim of the pastry, so give it 25 minutes and check the progress – adding 5-10 minutes as you go (mine took almost 40). The dough should be risen and golden around the edges and the blueberries jammy and bubbling.

Allow to cool and set further before serving straight from the pan in large squares, to weary travellers from faraway lands.

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24 hours to Denmark


When I was a boy I often dreamt of the day when I’d visit Sweden. Something about that majestic Scandinavian kingdom captured my imagination and filled me with wonder. Fur-lined hats and snow covered streets. Reindeer, sleigh bells, rosy-cheeked beautiful people, northern lights, the royal family, (home of IKEA, ABBA); and as an adult, the design, the furniture, the food and the tall rosy-cheeked beautiful people, IKEA, the ABBA MUSEUM!

In fact I knew very little about Sweden or much about any Scandinavian country, other than one day I would visit and discover for myself the wonders of the north.

Somewhere deep in the braches of our family tree there is a throwback to Sweden, a distant great-great-great grandfather or so the story goes. You can see it in my cousins, tall, blonde, cheek-boned and blue eyed. I missed out on the blue eyes and my hair has darked from the childhood blond it once was, but for sure there is something lingering there. The other side of the family hails from Ireland, with a decent spattering of red hair in the mix which has to be a throwback to the Viking invaders – well that’s how the story goes.

But, the fact is, even though I’ve visited Scandinavia many times, I’m yet to make it to Sweden.

Finland, check, Norway, check, Iceland, check… Sweden… well… if you count Arlanda international airport a couple of times…

Then, one night dancing to an ABBA remix at a 70s themed disco revival night at the local club district (no judgement), I met and fell in love with a Finn.

We regularly zipped back to Finland to visit the family; relocated and set up house, studied the impossible language (which I adore, and The Finn thinks sounds not dissimilar to a machine gun) got married, and was welcomed into a new Finnish family. And that’s when it happened. I was home. And I was Scandinavian. It might not be the land of my forebears, but something in the light, water, forests and people in Finland got under my skin.

But the allure of Sweden has never ebbed. More on that later.

So this leads me to 24 hours to Denmark.

This is my culinary journey through Scandinavia. I’m a baker from way back, (since I won the blue ribbon for my apple tea cake at age six) and adore the tastes and smells of bread, cakes and pastries from across the world. When my local bakeries didn’t offer what I was after I set about teaching myself how to recreate the extraordinary delights in the bakers windows of Europe.

Danish Pastries

Danish pastries are my weakness. I love them, always have. My Dad and I used to frequent our local Hot Bread store on Saturday mornings to buy said hot bread; usually a Vienna loaf or similar, scorched a little on the crust. We’d eat it piled high with paper thin slices of pastrami from the deli next door and I couldn’t imagine a better lunch at the age of eight. Pastries would also be bought for afternoon tea (or the ride home) – always apricot for me.

Since then my tastes have somewhat evolved to enjoy more complex fillings like the ones below, although give me a good apricot jam filled pastry at a market and I’m liable to lose a sense of what’s appropriate to say in public while eating it. (More on that later)

Don’t be put off by the time this recipe takes. The length of time needed is to let the dough very slowly prove in the fridge before the magic really happens. It takes barely five minutes to slap it all together in the first step and then go about your business or whip up a loaf of Finnish rye bread while you wait.

This recipe comes via a Brit from a Finn. It’s based on Nigella Lawson’s recipe, which is based on one from accomplished commentator on all things Finnish and edible, Beatrice Ojakangas.

You can certainly use ricotta cheese, custard or almond as the filling, but I love the tang of sour morello cherries (although not really Scandinavian) balanced with a simple pastry cream.

A colleague of mine hailing from Denmark tells me that fruit is not a common filling for the ubiquitous Viennebrot, and also these pastries are never called a Danish in Denmark. The translation is Viennese Bread, hailing from Vienna, but what the hey. They bake em , we eat em.


The Pantry

You’ll need to begin this recipe the day before, but don’t panic, it’ll be done before you can say Lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas.

60 ml warm water

125 ml milk, at room temperature

1 large egg, at room temperature

350g plain white flour

1 sachet (approx 7g) rapid yeast

1 teaspoon salt

25g golden sugar

250g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Optional: I’m obsessed with cardamom, so if you want to spice up your mix a little and give it a Finnish twist add a teaspoon of ground cardamom or some crushed seeds to the dry mixture. This is totally not traditional, but delightful nonetheless.

Tools: Jug, large bowl, food processor, spatula, cling film, sense of adventure.

Pour the water, milk and egg into a jug and mix until combined.

Place the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the food processor and pulse to mix for a second or two. Add the cold butter and pulse again until the butter is cut up and mixed in a little. Don’t over mix. It should be chunky.

Empty mix into a large bowl and add all the liquid at once. Fold the mixture together briefly to make a gooey, lumpy dough. Cover with cling film and pop it into the fridge for 24 hours, or longer if you need to.


The Pastry

When you’re ready to transform your goo into pastry remove from the fridge and let it get to room temp. NOTE: if you live anywhere remotely hot (like me) then keep it a bit cooler than room temp and it will be much easier to handle.

Flour your bench (this is essential) and roll, stretch, flatten the pastry as best you can into a square (50cm x 50cm). Fold the dough into thirds like you would a letter and roll out again to a square.

I do this a few times, but if your pastry is getting really gooey stop here. Fold it up into a rectangle again and cut in half. Wrap each square in cling film, then pop straight back into the fridge while you make your filling.

The Filling

Sour Cherry and Custard

1 jar of sour morello cherries

500ml milk

6 egg yolks

Vanilla bean or 1tsp extract

¾ cup of caster sugar

50g cornflour

Egg glaze

1 egg

Dash of milk

Sugar glaze

100g icing sugar

1-2 tbsp of water

Scald milk and vanilla in a saucepan. Beat egg yolks, sugar and corn flour together in a bowl until well combined and ribbony-thick. Pour in hot milk and whisk until smooth. NOTE: pop a tea town under your bowl to stop it flying out from under you and frightening the cat. Return mixture to the wiped out saucepan and gradually heat until it has thickened and come to a boil. Beat for 1 minute and then pour into a bowl. To prevent a skin forming cover with cling film and press down to touch the custard. Allow to cool.

To make your Danish take the dough and roll out to a 50cm square again. Cut into roughly 6 even pieces. In the centre of each piece pipe or spoon in a dollop of custard (about a tablespoonful) and place 5 or 6 cherries into the custard.

Take opposite corners of the pastry and pinch together. Do all four if you like or stick with two for a longer looking result.  Place onto a baking tray and let rise until doubled in size.

Once rested and risen, brush with an egg glaze.

Bake at 180c for 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Once cooked, allow to cool a bit then drizzle with sugar glaze.

Try to not eat all six.