The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cardamom Braid

Terrell's picture

Cardamom Braid

Greetings, bakers!

It's been a pretty good week in Portland. After months of being out of work, I have two jobs, seem to be on track for a third and I'm pretty sure at least one of those will continue post-Christmas. I know it's just seasonal work, but I'm really feeling like this Portland experiment has just taken a decided turn for the better. To celebrate, I decided to do a sweet bread this week. Thumbing through the Point of Departure, the bread book I've been baking my way through, I came across a recipe for a Cardamom Braid. That fit the sweet bread criteria and seemed appropriate for the seasonal nature of the new job. My brother married a woman who is half Swedish and cardamom braid is mandatory at their Christmas morning celebrations. She won't open a present until the braid is sliced and ready to eat. It's always delicious so I decided to see how close this recipe would be to theirs. Turns out, it's not quite the same. Lydia's version is flatter and sweeter, probably uses a softer dough and more sugar. I also seem to remember a bright yellow color, possibly saffron, that this one doesn't have. And my crust was way browner, partly my fault from letting it bake a few minutes too long, but also inherent in the recipe. Hers is barely golden and very soft, definitely not the crispy crust I got. On the other hand, the taste of my loaf was excellent, slightly sweet with a spicy cardamom flavor. I also liked the moist, chewy texture. I'm thinking next time a lower oven temperature, a slightly softer dough and brushing with something other than milk might get me exactly what I want.

Cardamom Braid from The Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Cook Book
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups all purpose flour (I substituted white whole wheat flour here with excellent results)
  • small amounts of milk and sugar for brushing and sprinkling

In a large bowl combine one cup of all-purpose flour, the yeast and the cardamom. In a small saucepan heat the milk, sugar, butter and salt until warm, stirring frequently to melt the butter. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Add the egg. Beat the mixture well for several minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough. (I used almost all of the two cups but I think I will back that off slightly next time.) Turn out onto a floured surface and knead till smooth, about 5 or 6 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning once to coat and let rise, covered, until double, about an hour and a half.

Braided    Risen

When double, punch down and divide in thirds. Let rest while you prepare a pan. I use two nested jelly roll pans lined with parchment paper but you can grease if you prefer. Roll each third into a 16-inch rope and place about one inch apart on prepared pan. Braid loosely, pinching the ends together and tucking them under. Cover and let rise until double, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375. (Next time, I'll try it at 325, I think.) Brush with milk and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar. (I plan to look for some decorative sugar for this step.) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. (I got distracted and let it go almost 30 which was too long.) Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.


I'm looking forward to making this for Christmas morning with the great-nephews. I think it will be a hit. Any of you Scandahoovians out there want to give me tips for making this perfect?



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Beautiful!  I can almost catch the aroma!

What was that tip with the sugar?  I think sprinkle first with castor sugar tipping off any excess and then dust with powdered, after a brushing of saltfree butter.

Terrell's picture

Salt free butter does seem like a better choice for brushing. I hadn't thought of powdered sugar. I'll have to try that.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

it was just a thought...  like the milk idea too...  lets the crust sparkle.   Lets bake one of each and have a blind test.  I volunteer but have no jam.  Raspberry?   With a sekt/orange afternoon.  :)

pmccool's picture

Congratulations on landing the jobs, Terrell.  I hope that at least one of them does become long term.

Mmmmm, cardamom!  What a fragrance and flavor!  Excellent choice and and excellent execution.


Terrell's picture

Thanks, Paul.

krisnr's picture

Your bread looks gorgeous!

My 84 year old dad and I have come up with our personalized favorite recipe. Cardamom Coffeebread from the Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas. We use lots of cracked cardamom (white pods-- not ground cardamom) in both the bread and the glaze. The cracked seed will pop in your mouth and give your tongue a burst of flavor. Instead of the egg/milk wash we wait until after baking and brush on a mix of 4T. melted butter, cracked cardamom, white sugar and demerara sugar. I usually sprinkle a bit more demerara on top afterwards, but I have a wicked sweet tooth. Although it isn't as pretty, we usually shape these into 16 bollar (large rolls, using a sheet pan). With all of the flavor/sugar it doesn't really need a jam-- but Lingonberry would be my choice. Happy baking, happy new jobs!


Terrell's picture

That sounds delicious and more like the braid my sister-in-law (well, ex sister-in-law) serves. Hers is definitely coffee cakish. Is yours a yeast bread? The topping sounds awesome. I'll have to try the cracked cardamom.

krisnr's picture

It is a yeast bread, with a can of evaporated milk and 4 eggs... If you google "ojakangas cardamom bread recipe" there is a google books site with the recipe. I think there is less chance of the 'soapy' taste when you use cracked cardamom. Since we tend to use a lot of it, it works well for us. If you want to try the rolls, I use a scraper to wedge the round of dough into 16 pieces and then just sort of half flip them into a roll, rather than rolling the dough out, etc.  It makes really big rolls-- just the way Dad likes them  :) , but we don't seem to get too many complaints from anyone else. Rolls or braid, there are plenty of traps for the glaze.  Kris

Julie J's picture
Julie J


I haven't been online for a while and thought I could answer you by answering the email asking about any Scandahoovians out there, but I don't know if you got the message, so I renewed my password on this site and have posted my mother inlaw's recipe for the cardamom bread!  It was already on the fresh loaf site anyway!  She takes and divides this dough into 3 parts and uses 2 parts to make the braids and the 3rd part to make the buns.  You can also dress them up by putting the pearl sugar (which I like better), than regular white sugar!  The Finns use sliced almonds on their braids too! 

I have been making this for years and I love the taste of the cardamom bread a lot too...when I first started making the braids I was having so much trouble with the braids burning too, that is why I make the buns now!  Cardamom bread burns really easily and you have to watch it burns on the bottom a lot faster than you can get it to brown on the top or get done and be moist! I used to bake at 350 and 375, but now I use 400 to get the top really brown fast, and the bottom doesn't burn if I bake them quickly!  If I do braids, I try to do a smaller braid that will brown faster at 400 and not get too dry or too burnt!  I also put my oven rack on the top rack! 

I know the Swedes make a saffron bread but I haven't tasted one yet...I don't think the Finns use saffron.

That Scandinavian Baking book by Beatrice O. listed above has a lot of cardamom braids and I think some saffron too, by Swedes, Finns,and Norweigans.  I have the book too. 

Take care and let me know how it turns out!

Julie J





My Finnish Mother Inlaw's recipe! It is really good!

Finnish Cardamom Buns (Pulla)


4 tsp. active dry yeast

2 ½ cups milk, heated to lukewarm

1 tbsp. crushed cardamom (not ground cardamom **)

1 stick butter, very soft

1 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

Approx. 7 ½ cups flour

1 egg for the pulla, beaten (plus 1 later for brushing the pulla)


Heat milk in pan on stove to lukewarm. Pour milk into large bread bowl and stir in the yeast. Let sit for about 7 minutes to proof. Add all ingredients except the flour and butter and stir well. Stir in about 3 or 4 cups of flour, then add the softened butter and mix it pretty well into mixture. Add the rest of the flour (you will probably have to use your hands to mix and knead it now). Knead for about 10 minutes. Cover bowl with lid or dish towel and let rise in a sunny & warm place for about 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Lightly flour table and remove pulla with a dough scraper to the table. I cut it into 2 pieces to make it easier to handle, and cover half of the dough with dish towel to keep moist. Roll one piece into a log shape and cut pieces off with the dough scraper and roll into a ball, maybe a little bigger than a golf ball. I put about 12 pieces on a jelly roll pan that has either been greased or has parchment paper on it. Parchment works better. Cover with dish towel and let sit at least 15 minutes to rise again before baking it. The other pans will sit longer than that, but it is okay! Use other dough the same way, and cover for 15 min.

About 5 minutes before baking, get some cold butter out of the fridge and 1 egg. Beat egg in a small bowl and you will need a pastry brush and white sugar too. Take your thumb and make an indentation in each pulla bun on the first pan. Put a small piece of cold butter into center of each bun. Brush each bun with beaten egg and then take a small amount of white sugar and sprinkle on top of buns. Try not to get too much sugar on bottom of pan because the pulla will get black, burnt sugar rings!

Pulla burns easily, so watch it carefully! I bake them at 400 degrees and bake for about 12 to 14 minutes. I preheat my oven for about 20 minutes too. Pulla likes a really hot oven. I also put my oven rack on the highest level.

For Stale Pulla: Take pulla and fry in butter in the frying pan until browned. Let cool enough to spread with strawberry jam and top with whipped cream! Yum!

** I bring home crushed cardamom from Finland, and you can only buy whole pods of cardamom or ground cardamom in the U.S. You can make it with ground cardamom, but I don't think you will get the same bite of flavor with the ground that you do with the crushed cardamom. You bite into the seeds and get a nice burst of flavor with the crushed cardamom. You can order cardamom seeds online without the green pod, and crush them in a coffee grinder until they have a sand-like consistency. The crushed cardamom feels like sand. I've tried taking the green pod off the whole pod of cardamom and it was such a task, that I would order the seeds online! Enjoy!   Everyone loves this recipe!

Julie J






Terrell's picture

Thanks Julie. I will have to try your recipe. I used up the rest of my loaf as morning toast with butter and jam and it has been fab. I can't wait to try some other cardamom bread variations.

I finally figured out that my niece had a copy of her mom's recipe and it is more like Kris' coffee cake (above). Oddly enough, it's not cardamom at all, it's saffron all the way, although it has a cardamom variation.

Thanks for answering!


Julie J's picture
Julie J

Hi Terrell,

I was wondering why you didn't ask for a recipe from your relatives!!!

Anyway, try mine sometime too...everyone loves this recipe too!  I also like an eggwash a lot better too...I noticed that yours did not have the eggwash on it, and to me, it is so much better with the eggwash on it and gives it a much shinier and prettier appearance, and tastes much better too!  I know some of the bakers like the cardamom bread better without the eggwash, but I don't!

Good luck with your Christmas breads!

Julie J

bunnybud's picture

Made this braid and loved it BUT added some high quality cocoa powder and it was AWESOME!  Just a thought...