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jarkkolaine

Time flies: I just noticed my most recent blog post so far here on The Fresh Loaf was published almost exactly a year ago! Many times, I have thought of writing something, but the work on my magazine Bread and the requests from my kids have taken all the time. Maybe it's all about priorities, or maybe I'm just not very good at keeping too many balls in the air at once.

Anyway, today I have something to share, so I thought it's time to stop the silence and write another post.

As you may know, roughly two years ago, I started my digital magazine, Bread, with the intention of creating something useful for the baking community. It has been a great adventure: I have had the privilege of interviewing and featuring many great bakers, some of them from the community here at The Fresh Loaf, others from other parts of the baking world. I have learned a lot about bread and publishing. My readers have found inspiration and information in the magazine's articles. 

But as I always like to keep adding the pressure and improving on what I have achieved so far, I have now set up a new goal for 2014: to turn BREAD into a printed magazine.

If that sounds interesting, check out my crowdfunding / pre-sale campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo

**

The photo for this post is from my most recent bake. It's a sourdough bread made with 50% bread flour and 50% Swiss Dark Flour from Shipton Mill -- and with a generous sprinkle of toasted and soaked walnuts. Delicious for a rainy and cold autumn day like today. 

This time, I posted the recipe on Shipton Mill's web site.

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jarkkolaine

In the beginning of the fall, I took my boys with me on a small trip to Vääksyn mylly, a small mill at about 150 kilometers from where I live. It's the mill of choice of Viipurilainen kotileipomo, the family run bakery I visited earlier this year (and featured in issue 2 of my magazine, Bread), and the owner of the mill is my friend on Facebook. 

The mill has a strong feel of old days. This is how buying flour must have been like in the past, I thought: friendly people asking you what kind of flour you had in mind, seeing where the flour comes from as you enter the shop. And apparently I'm not the only one impressed by what they do: when I said I had come from Helsinki, the mill's staff told me that it's not that far compared to some other customers. One customer had just visited from Lapland and brought big bags of flour with her. 

I bought 5 kilos of rye flour, 10 kg bread flour, some oats and "uutispuurojauho", a very coarse rye flour meant for porridge making and returned home eager to try the flours. 

I started by trying to make my regular white sourdough bread using the bread flour from the mill, and noticed that there was something very different about how the dough behaved. I knew the flour is strong in protein, but this was much stronger than I had expected. I worked the dough for a long time, until I got tired and gave up. Without a machine, making a dough with nothing but this flour seemed impossible. I think Dan Wing or Alan Scott talked about this in Bread Builders, saying that strong flour is not very good for sourdough bread... What surprised me however was that even a long autolyse didn't seem to help. 

After experimenting with different ratios of this bread flour and some organic white flour I had used before, I found a combination that works very well. Using just 200 grams of bread flour from Vääksy, 100 grams of coarse rye flour from the same mill, and 800 grams of the organic flour, I was able to create bread I really liked: 

At times, I was ready to give up, but I guess now I understand better than ever that if all flour is not created equal, and what is good for something (making dough with a mixer in this case) is not good for something else (mixing a dough by hand).

But at the same time, I'm still not quite sure about this: I had previously bought some of this same flour from a small local food shop near the mill and made bread with it quite succesfully, replacing only a small part of the flour with spelt... There could be differences in batches, or maybe some other factor in the environment or even my starter was affecting the results? 

--

The next step in my flour experiments came by surprise when I visited Eat & Joy Maatilatori, a local food market at the heart of Helsinki and found their flour mills! At the back of the store, I found a small room with about 10 different flour mills meant for home use. Next to the mills they have big bags of grains, a scale, and a note saying "feel free to use the mills to grind your own flour." I had found heaven!

So far, I have visited the shop twice, as it's always a bit of work to take my kids and go flour shopping in Helsinki. Last week, I bought some rye flour and full grain wheat from the shop. Here's the bread that came out of that visit. 50% of the flour used in the bread is stone ground wheat flour I milled myself at the shop and the remaining 50% regular organic white flour. It's quite dense but tastes delicious with a rather strong wheat flavor (it's amazing how much darker and more flavorful this bread is compared to bread I've made from regular, store bought full grain flour before).

 

I should really be experimenting with heat and oven improvements, but my head is bubbling with ideas for more flour experiments... Maybe next, I'll mill some more flour and try sifting it to a higher extraction level, or maybe I'll mix in some of the strong bread flour from Vääksyn mylly...

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jarkkolaine

This spring, in the preparation for the most recent issue of my online magazine, Bread, I sowed a handful of wheat seeds in a small metal tub on my balcony. As a fun experiment for the whole family (dad, mostly) to see if it’s possible to grow wheat on your balcony. It was. The wheat grew well, and throughout the summer, I watched the grass grow, make grains, and finally turn golden. 

Last week, it was finally harvest time!

My field was very small so I didn’t get nearly enough wheat for making flour for even a small loaf, not even for a small bun (I suppose had I ground the wheat berries it would have lead to something like two to three table spoons). But even if making flour was out of question, I wanted to use the wheat in some way. 

This summer, I have been mostly experimenting with yeast water and sandwich bread, but for this loaf, I knew I had to go back to my true love, sourdough.

After manually picking the wheat berries from the spikes, I put them in fresh tap water to soak overnight. At the same time, I also took my starter out of the refrigerator and refreshed it with my regular 100 grams of whole wheat flour and 100 grams of bread flour. As we ended up spending the whole Saturday in Helsinki, I refreshed the starter again in the morning and left to wait for my return.

In Helsinki, we visited a local food event, Herkkujen Suomi, which presented real food from small producers all over the country. I got to meet Teppo from Viipurilainen kotileipomo again and the owner of their (and mine) mill of choice, Vääksyn mylly, Kari Savola for the first time. And look at what we found at a museum stand!

I need to get one of these…

And Here's Teppo sharing samples of their bread:

 

When we came back in the evening, everything was ready for bread making. The wheat was very soft and the soaking water had turned somewhat yellow, so I decided to use the liquid for bread making too. I mixed 500 grams of bread flour from Vääksyn mylly, some 50 grams of very coarse rye flour (from Vääksyn mylly as well) and a total of 400 grams of water (including the water used for soaking the wheat) and left for a one-hour autolyse.

After the autolyse, I mixed in my wheat berries, worked the dough on the table for about five minutes and left for another half hour. Then, I came back to the dough, added 11 grams of salt and kneaded for a further 5 minutes. 

It was rather cool outside already, about 8-10 degrees Celsius, so I let the dough rise on the balcony. In the morning, I preshaped and then shaped the dough into one boule which I baked a couple of hours later using my Tartine Bread inspired cast iron pan + clay pot ”cooker”.

 

The bread is delicious, and some grains that have baked on the surface of the bread bring a very nice addition of a roasted nut like aroma. With this bread, I feel the grains got a treating worthy of the attention that went into growing them. 

Now, as the weather gets cool, then cold, I will be spending the winter thinking of where to go from here. My balcony isn’t getting any bigger, but maybe I could sacrifice some other crops in favor of cultivating some more wheat… Or I could try rye next?

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jarkkolaine

This week, I have been reading Sandor Katz's wonderful book, The Art of Fermentation. For most part, the book is not about bread, but as bread is mostly about fermentation, the book is helping me a lot in understanding what happens in the dough   and when growing yeasts.

Last night as I was reading the book again, I had a revelation: you can drink yeast water. And in fact, a lot of people are doing it already--they just have a different name for the drink!

Or what do you say? This recipe for fruit mead from The Art of Fermentation looks just like the one I used to start my yeast water (except that I used some black tea in it at first):

 Mead is honey wine. It can be flavored in infinite variations, and many of the fruits and other botanical flavorings you can add to it also serve as sources of yeasts and yeast nutritients.

[...]

My typical proportion, measuring by volume, is 1 part honey to 4 parts water. For a lighter mead (or if I'm adding a large amount of sweet fruit), I'll dilute each part honey with 5 to 6 parts water.

[...]

Thoroughly dissolve honey in water by vigorous stirring or shaking. Be persistent if necessary. Leave the vessel capped, or cover it to keep flies away; any covering, from a cloth to a tight-fitting lid, is okay. 

[...]

Stir or shake, vigorously and frequently, several times a day for a sustained couple of moments.

[...]

After a few days of frequent stirring, you will start finding the honey water with bubbles on the surface and an effervescent release when you stir. [...] Keep shaking and stirring a few more days and the bubbles will build into a formidable force.

 

...and so on. The instructions continue to explain how you can then further process the mead to get more alcohol and a more refined taste by aging the drink. 

From all of this,  I'm ready to equate yeast water = fresh mead.

Another revelation from this section of the book (to me) was that the purpose of the shaking is to get oxygen into the mix so that yeast cells can multiply.  

S. cerevisiae and many other yeasts, much like the cells of our bodies, are capable of both anaerobic fermentation and oxidative respiration. In the oxidative mode, yeasts grow and reprodue much more efficiently but do not produce alcohol. Vigorous stirring stimulates yeast proliferation by providing aeration.

 

I still don’t have all the answers, especially for the difference in bacteria between sourdough and yeast water, but this is getting interesting--and soon, I’m going to start a new batch of yeast water, this time with the idea of drinking most of it and baking only with the remains…

--- 

And then to my most recent bake, with sourdough and yeast water.

For a long time already, I have been baking most of the bread we eat at home, so when this summer we bought a toaster and my wife and kids started buying toast bread from the store, I knew I had to do something about this. Buying toast bread (of all things) was diluting all my credibility as a real bread home baker! ;)

I have been experimenting with different bread recipes for a while now, but wasn't satisfied until I finally found txfarmer’s recipes again. Although I had seen and admired them before, I had never gotten around to trying them before now. And I had never worked the dough for 40 minutes before either. Doing this, as suggested by the recipe, made all the difference!

The bread is soft, delicious and has a fine, sweet and a little sour taste that I enjoy. 

My older son says he likes it but still prefers the storebought with no taste at all… So, maybe next I’ll try to do this without any sourdough. Let’s see! 

I’m not going to rewrite the whole recipe here as you can get it from txfarmer's blog. But I made a few changes, which may or may not be interesting. So, here we go.

 The yeast water had been sitting in the fridge for about a week and gotten a lot of color from the fruit (peaches and grapes):

 

I used 100 grams of sourdough starter in one build (at 100 % hydration) and 200 grams of yeast water in two builds (100 % hydration) and reduced the amount of milk accordingly. Also, the original recipe used milk in the starter as well. I used water as yeast water comes with its own water… 

Final dough:

  • 100 g sourdough starter, refreshed about 8-10 hours before mixing the dough
  • 200 g yeast water starter (built in two steps during the same 8-10 hours)
  • 450 g bread flour
  • 60 g sugar
  • 50 g butter
  • 120 g egg whites
  • 6 g salt
  • 160 g milk 

I’m very happy with the results and will definitely be making some variation of this bread again. Next, with some darker grains, maybe a bit of rye or at least wholegrain wheat.

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jarkkolaine

After making my first yeast water bread, I discarded most of the yeast water, leaving about two table spoons, added a big handful of raisins and a table spoon of honey, and then filled the jar about two thirds with water. I’m not sure if this is how it’s usually done, but it worked very well: In a couple of days, the mixture had developed a very fruity and inviting smell with lots of bubbles.

I wanted to drink the liquid but resisted and started a new bread dough instead.

Following the lead of Ian and others, this time it was time to mix in some of my sourdough starter to play with the taste a bit. I was hoping to make a boule quite similar to the one I had made the first time (and usually love to make), but because of some mistakes in calculating the proportions of water and flour (I forgot to account for the water in the starter!), ended up with Ciabatta—which was actually good, as we were just about to leave on a two day trip to Tallinn, and Ciabatta makes delicious picnic sandwiches…

Anyhow, here’s the recipe. 

First build of YW starter: (evening)

  • 60 g Yeast water
  • 60 g White flour

Second build of YW starter: (about 8-10 hours after previous step, I forgot to time everything properly…)

  • All of the starter from previous step
  • 200 g Yeast water
  • 200 g White flour

Final dough: (About 4 hours later, in the afternoon)

  • 400 g YW starter (which at this point looked a lot like a regular poolish starter)
  • 100 g Sourdough starter (100% hydration, refreshed the night before)
  • 750 g Fine, rather white spelt flour
  • 700 g Water
  • 20 g Salt

The dough was quite wet, so I gave it an autolyse (it was only about 15 minutes, as I was itching to get my hands in the dough) and worked it for 20 minutes on the table.

After that, the dough rested for 4 stretch and folds at 30 minute intervals. Then I cut pieces of the dough and let them rest on a heavily floured couche for about an hour or so as the oven heated up. I baked the breads on a baking stone for 35 minutes.

...And here’s what came out from the oven:

I am very happy with the resulting flavor:  I can’t say I taste any of the fruit anymore, but it’s a little sweet, not really sour at all. And the boys liked it (filled with some salami, cheese, boiled eggs and cucumber):

Let’s see what happens next time, as the yeast is now feasting on some fresh fruit… (And looks and smells more and more like a drink! I might have to start making cider or something, soon ;))

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Before I saw this beautiful yeast water bread by  isand66, I had never heard about yeast water. Or if I had, I had completely ignored the topic, so new it felt to me at that time.

But when I started looking into the topic, I found that The Fresh Loaf is full of people making lovely loaves of bread with this method. And I wanted to join them.

So, after an evening of reading about YW, about a week ago, I mixed a big table spoon of black tea with a cup of water and a table spoon of honey and left to rest on my kitchen table.

For the next week, I shaked the mixture a couple of times a day and watched it ferment. I couldn't stop checking on the jar and smelling it to see if something was already happening!

In two days or so, the water started bubbling and after a few days more, it smelled like the Finnish May first drink, Sima. I suppose that would have been the perfect time to try the water, but as I was travelling (the yeast water travelled with me, naturally), so I didn't get a chance to try to bake with it until yesterday. 

Here's what the yeast water looked like just before I used it:

I was worried that the YW might be overripe, but the results were very good (for a first try, at least!). Here's the formula.

Starter:

  • 100 g Yeast water
  • 100 g White wheat flour

The starter was left to room temperature for about 24 hours. It was bubbling already at 12 hours, but I felt it could use some more time (and I was busy...), so I left it to ferment a bit longer.

In the morning of the bake day:

  • All of the starter above (200g)
  • 200 g Water
  • 200 g White wheat flour

Again, I left the mixture on my kitchen table and went out for the day. When we came back about six hours later, the dough looked ripe and full of life (lots of bubbles and about doubled in size), so I decided it was time to mix the dough. 

I aimed for a 75% hydration, and a quick calculation (in my head) gave me the following numbers:

  • All of the starter from previous step (600 grams, at 100% hydration)
  • 700 g flour (out of which 100 g was fine spelt flour and the rest was bread flour from Vääksyn mylly, a smallish mill near Lahti)
  • 450 g water
  • 20 g salt 

I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes and then added the salt just before finishing the kneading.

After two hours, I shaped the dough into two round loaves and left the rise for about two more hours. When I came back, I was surprised to see that the loaves had risen very fast, so I refrigirated them until the oven was ready and then baked in my cast iron pan (covered with a clay pot for half of the baking time).

Here's what came out of the oven:

 

 

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Every year, in the beginning of summer, my three brothers and I gather for a weekend at our parents' summer cottage to eat, relax, and create something together. As we all love to create things and try out new ideas, we usually end up creating something out of the ordinary.

This year, I suggested creating an oven using materials found in the nature and bake some bread in the oven. Although I have been reading The Bread Builders by Alan Scott and Dan Wing, I can't say I know much about ovens. Just that we need to collect heat in it and then try to keep that heat as well as the steam from the breads inside. That didn't stop us.

We dug a hole in the ground (had to stop when it started filling with water—we were too close to the lake). Then, we used small rocks  to build a small oven inside. Then we heated the oven.

As we were ready to put the bread in, we realized we hadn't planned for an oven door. There was an old wheelbarrow standing next to our oven, so we put it on top of the oven door to keep the heat inside. Not the best of choices, but it does look fun in the photo!

The first version lead to a loaf of bread that baked a bit unevenly, but rose nonetheless and tasted very good. 

I wasn't very happy with the big holes in the crumb, but I suspect this didn't have anything to do with the oven but rather the fact that I was a bit sloppy with the dough as most of my attention was in creating the oven. My 

Last weekend, we went back to the summer cottage, this time taking all of our families with us.

My son, Oiva, was excited about the oven and wanted to bake some bread in the oven, so we heated it up again. But before that, we did some improvements based on the previous weekend's results: we added another big rock on top of the oven to distribute more heat on every side of the bread being baked and changed the structure to be more oven-like with a door and all. After three loads of wood, we baked the first loaf.

This time, the results were very good, and the loaf of bread disappeared from the kitchen table in less than five minutes! The oven was really hot at the beginning, as you can see from the bottom of the loaf.

Right after taking the loaf out of the oven, I put in another. The heat left in the oven wasn't very strong, but after baking the second loaf for about two hours, out came a loaf that was well worth the effort. It didn't have much crust and it didn't rise quite as much as the first loaf, but tasted good, and everyone liked it too.

What more can a baker ask for? ...except, maybe, a real masonry oven...

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For about two months, I had had my sourdough starter sitting on the kitchen counter covered with a kitchen towel. Last week, when I finally found time to look at it again, it looked like a dry cracker cookie. 

I had no idea if I could still restore the starter or not, but I decided to give it a try.

I added some water to dilute the dried starter. When most of the starter had turned into a milk-like fluid, I removed the remaining pieces of dry dough and added just enough flour to get it back to the normal consistency of my starter (at 100% hydration, 50/50 full grain and all purpose flour). I then left the starter on the kitchen counter and waited. The next morning, the starter was full of life!

Just look at this before and after photo:

After a couple of days of daily feeding cycles, I finally had the time to try to bake something with the starter.

--

About two weeks ago, I visited Viipurilainen kotileipomo, a family run bakery in Lahti, about 100 kilometers from Vantaa where I live to meet with the bakers and see how they work on their full-grain rye bread (among other things). The four baking brothers I met that night where some of the friendliest people I have ever met, and their rye "limppu" is delicious! So, inspired by seeing them at work, although I didn't ask for their recipe, I decided to try my luck with creating my own version of this Finnish tradition called "ruislimppu." 

At about the same time as I started reviving my old wheat starter, I created a 100% rye starter by mixing a handful of dark rye flour and some water. I didn't write down the exact measurements but it resulted in a rather wet and sticky dough to start with. I fed the starter daily, slowly increasing the mass of the dough, until it felt really sour and light. Ready for use. That was the night before the bake. Last week's Saturday. 

On that night, I made the rye "limppu" dough by mixing the starter with about 1.5 kilograms of rye flour and 1 kilograms of water. As I don't know the amount of flour and water in the starter, I can't give exact figures. I will try to be more exact the next time I make this bread... I didn't knead the dough at this point, just mixed the ingredients to a consistent mass. 

On Sunday morning, I mixed in the salt and did a very brief kneading for the dough. The dough was quite wet and it was practically impossible to knead, so I didn't spend much time on it. At the same time, I also prepared a batch of my favorite dough for two loaves of Basic Country Bread from Tartine Bread. 

I was baking for most of the day, and here are the results. I'm pretty happy with them: even the rye limppu tastes right. The rye loaves could be a bit lighter (it's definitely denser and flatter than the one from Viipurilainen kotileipomo), but that's not necessarily a requirement: most of the time they look just like this when you buy them from Finnish grocery stores: dense and dark, but full of flavor (especially with a thick layer of real, creamy butter on top!).

Basic Country Bread:

 

Rye Limppu:

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Since I first got excited about bread, I have been dreaming of ways to use that love for bread for creating something worth sharing with the rest of the world. I have dreamed of opening my own bakery (not going to happen any time soon, but never say never). I have bought a bunch of domain names for starting a bread blog (such as BakerDad.com or 365breads.com to name two). But all the time, I wasn't quite sure what my thing should be. Well, I guess you can never be sure...

But today, after working on it since the beginning of January, I am very happy and proud of something I have created, and I'd love you to see it as well.

It's a free magazine on bread—called Bread, quite simply. 

The magazine comes in PDF format that you can download to your computer and consists of interviews, stories, and some tips and recipes. Plus photos of beautiful loaves of bread. But mostly, it is about the people who make great bread.

As the magazine unfolds in the next editions, my goal is to dig deep into specific areas of bread making with editions dedicated to topics such as fermentation, flour, heat, and so on—starting from flour in issue number 2. 

The first issue, which I published today, is an introduction to the journey, looking at the question of what bread really is all about: what makes it special, and how people fall in love with it. In making the magazine, I have approached this question through stories: I start by telling my own small story, and then move on to interviewing more advanced bakers.

Phil Agnew, a familiar face from The Fresh Loaf, tells about his relationship to bread.

Larry Lowary, a long time baker, is retired from active work but runs a small bakery on his backyard—as a hobby, he says. 

And what excites me the most, I even got the chance to interview my baking hero, Richard Bertinet

In addition to these baker interviews, there is an interview with Chris Young from the Real Bread Campaign and some beginner instructions for baking bread at home. 

If this sounds too much like an advertisement, I'm sorry! I will return to normal bread posts next time... :) But I'm very excited about this today, and it's free... So, take a look!

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jarkkolaine

My grandfather often tells the story of how during the war, when Helsinki was being bombed, his mother had to leave the pulla dough as the family fled to the nearby bomb shelter. After many hours, when they came back home, there was a surprise waiting for them: pulla dough all over the place -- apparently it had raised rather well!

Pulla, or Nisu as it's known in the United States (in old Finnish, nisu was the word for wheat, nowadays we call it vehnä) is the most common sweet bread in Finland and very popular with coffee -- so popular that it's also known as "kahvileipä", coffee bread.

In this recipe, which I wrote about a year ago, I have tried to combine some of the things I have learned about bread with the best of Finnish pulla.

Most pulla recipes tell you to start from the milk and then slowly add flour until the dough feels right. Because of this, the recipes are not that exact. I go the opposite way and start from flour. I also use less yeast and allow the dough to rest a bit longer. Other than that, this is very traditional pulla.

--

  • 500 g full milk
  • 8 g cardamom
  • 1 egg (shelled weight about 60 g)
  • 150 g sugar
  • 10 g salt
  • 800 g all-purpose flour
  • 11 g instant yeast
  • 180 g butter
     
  • For cinnamon rolls, you will also need additional cinnamon and sugar as well as a little melted butter. I didn't measure these, but I hope you can get the amounts by looking at the photos below...

Instructions:

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together.
     
  2. Heat the milk to 42 degrees celcius to wake up the instant yeast and pour over the dry ingredients. Add the egg.
     
  3. Mix the dough. I worked the dough for about 10 minutes by hand, using the technique taught by Richard Bertinet.
     
  4. Add the butter, at room temperature, and continue working the dough until everything is smooth and nice.
     
  5. Let the dough rest until it's almost doubled in size. I did a stretch and fold sequence after 45 minutes of rest and then let the dough rest for a total of 1.5 hours, or maybe a little more.
     
  6. To make buns, shape the dough into small balls and let them rest for about 45 minutes before baking. Just before putting them in the oven, coat with egg and some pearl sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes in 225 degrees Celcius.
     
  7. To make cinnamon rolls, use a rolling pin to form the dough into a rectangle with roughly the shape of a wide-screen television screen and thickness of about 5 millimeters or so. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
     
  8. Starting from the further wide end, roll towards yourself until you have a nice, tight roll.
     
  9. Using a sharp knife, cut the left side of the roll so that you have a clean corner at about a 45 degree angle. I like to eat the dough that was cut away, and so do my kids.

  10. Continue from there, cutting to the opposite direction at the same angle, until you reach the end of the roll and can eat some dough again. You should now have a bunch of nice triangles.
     
  11. Move your triangles on a baking sheet, the tip of the triangle pointing up. Gently press the top down with one finger and leave to rest for 45 minutes or so. 
     
  12. Bake the same way as the buns.

Fresh pulla is best enjoyed with a glass of cold milk.

And finally, here's my four-year-old's work of art. It has a lot of added sugar and butter!

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