Grandma Venni's Nisu
Oh do I have fond memories of nisu. My Grandmother ALWAYS had some at her place. When I was young I would have it with maito(milk) and now with coffee. You can dry slices of it in the oven sprinkled with cinnamon sugar which we call korppu. You can eat the korrpu either dipped in coffee or soaked in a bowl of hot milk as a delicious breakfast or night-time snack.
Nisu is a somewhat dense sweet bread flavoured with cardamom seed. I remember as a child going into my basement with my visiting grandmother to look for a hammer to smash a small handful of cardamom seeds wrapped in a clean tea towel.
Here's her recipe:
10 or so cardamom seeds (smashed)*
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/3 cup milk (scalded then cooled till warm)**
3 eggs (beaten)
3 T butter ***
5 or so cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 t salt
2 t yeast
1 egg (beaten)
1 t water
* Cardamom is like any spice, if looses potency as it ages. Therefore if you know you have good fresh cardamom, use a bit less, if it's getting old, use a bit more. My Grandmother never fussed, she'd dump some in her hand and say "that's about right." I specifically say "smashed" and not ground. If you grind it in a coffee/spice grinder, take it easy. You'd be rewarded if you used a pestle and mortar and ground it rough.
** To scald your mild heat it in a sauce pan over high heat till you see bubble/froth developing around the edge, then remove. Stir continuously so you don't burn the bottom.
*** Please, use real butter. Not margarine.
- Scald mild and allow to cool to warm.
- Warm mixing bowl with hot tap water. Add warm water and yeast to bowl. Wait till yeast becomes active (about 5 min).
- Add sugar, cardamom, salt and warm scalded milk. Stir to dissolve sugar.
- Add eggs.
- Now add 1 to 2 cups of the flour to form a batter. Beat until dough looks smooth and glossy.
- Cover with clean tea towel and wait 15 min.
- Now add butter and beat again to incorporate.
- Stir in remaining flour till a semi stiff dough forms. Dough should be slightly sticky at this point and still stick to your hands.
- Knead dough with small amounts of flour added to your hands and board until it no longer sticks to your hands.
- Knead until smooth and elastic.
- Allow to rise in a greased bowl till double in volume. Approximately 1 hour.
- Punch down removing any air bubbles and allow to rise again until almost doubled. Approximately 30 minutes.
- Turn out onto counter and divide in two, then divide each two into three equal sized pieces.
- Roll each piece out to about 16 to 24 inches. Braid the 3 pieces together and tuck the ends under. Repeat for other loaf.
- Gently lift each loaf onto a parchmin covered baking sheet, or a greased baking sheet. Should you use the greased sheet do not use butter as it has a tendency to burn at high temps.
- Allow to rise till almost double. About 30 minutes.
- Brush each loaf with the glaze and sprinkle with sugar.
Preheat oven to 450 and move rack to middle of oven.
When loaves go in turn oven to 400, bake 15 minutes.
Turn oven to 350, bake 15 more minutes.