The Fresh Loaf

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Finnish NISU aka: Pulla

Jimme's picture

Finnish NISU aka: Pulla

NISUNISU3 recent loaves of Finnish Nisu.


Nisu is the old Finnish word for wheat and this bread.  Modern Finns call it Pulla, the reason I call it Nisu is my family came to the US in the early 1900's and called it Nisu at that time and it stuck.



browndog's picture

Handsome loaves. What more can you tell us about them?

Jimme's picture

Nisu is a cardamom flavored sweet bread.

A slice with coffee after supper or anytime of day with coffee is traditional. It is also very tasty when toasted.

There was always a loaf of Nisu in my grandparents farm house. Always.

We recently visited the family farm in the UP of Michigan and I was disappointed at the terrible Nisu that was available. The grocery store version didn't even have cardamom. I asked around and found a home baker that makes it so I bought 2 loaves. It was only marginallly better than the grocery store. When I got home I had to make some from Beatrice Ojakangas' tried and true recipe. It turned out as good as I remember.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I remember it as Nisua. Nisua and Thimbleberry Jam. An upper peninsula tradition. I've known the main spice to be mace which might explain the differences.
Mini O

KipperCat's picture

It makes a very pretty bread.

I'd love to see the recipe.

browndog's picture

I'd love the recipe too.

zolablue's picture

Very interesting bread and beautiful. I love cardamom. Please let us know how you make it.

Jimme's picture

With the author's permission, here is the recipe as it appears in "The Finnish Cookbook" by Beatrice Ojakangas:

Pulla Yeast Coffee Bread

 Do not expect pulla to be light and fluffy; it is a moist rich coffee bread.  It is served without butter and is a delight when it is hot.  The Finnish housewife usually bakes on Saturday so there will be fresh pulla for Sunday morning coffee. 

A straight braid is the standard form for pulla, but the braided pulla dough is often shaped into a wreath for special occasions such as name days, birthdays, anniversaries, or other honor celebrations.  (In Finland, one's "name day" or saint's day-the day that bears the name of the saint after whom one is named-is celebrated by adults instead of the birthday.  Children, however, do celebrate birthdays.) 

Note:  Observe carefully the order of combining the ingredients.  The melted butter is added after about half of the flour.

1 package active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

2 cups mik, scalded and cooled to lukewarm

1 cup (or less) sugar

1 teaspoon salt

7-8 whole cardamom pods, seeded and crushed (about 1 teaspoon)

4 eggs, beaten

8-9 cups sifted white flour

1/2 cup melted butter


1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds (optional)

1/2 cup crushed lump sugar (optional)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Stir in the milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs, and enough flour to make a batter (about 2 cups).  Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Add about 3 cups of the flour and beat well; the dough should be quite smooth and glossy in appearance.  Add the melted butter and stir in well.  Beat again until the dough looks glossy.  Stir in the remaining flour until a stiff dough forms.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and cover with an inverted mixing bowl.  Let the dough rest 15 minutes.  Knead until smooth and satiny.  Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, turn the dough to grease the top, cover lightly, and let rise in a warm place (about 85 degrees) until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).  Punch down and let rise again until almost doubled (about 30 minutes).

Turn out again onto a slightly floured board, divide into 3 parts, then divide each of these parts into 3.  Shape each into a strip about 16 inches long by rolling the dough between the palms and the board.  Braid the 3 strips together into a straight loaf, pinch the ends together, and tuck under.  Repeat for teh second and third loaves.  Lift the braids onto lightly greased baking sheets.  Let rise for about 20 minutes (the braids should be puffy but not doubled in size).

Glaze the loaves by brushing with the beaten egg, and if you wish, sprinkle with the crushed sugar and the almonds.

Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees) 25 to 30 minutes.  Do not overbake or the loaves will be too dry.  Remove from the oven when a light golden-brown.  Makes 3 braids.  Slice to serve. 

idiotbaker's picture

Ever work some whole wheat flour into this?  I don't have white flour in the house so thought I would ask. Thanks.

KipperCat's picture

Thank you!  Some day I hope to bake this for my Finnish aunt.

G-man's picture

My grandmother on my mother's side is Finnish. She lived in the midwest I believe, but moved with my grandfather when his family moved out to Astoria, Oregon, and bought farmland up and down the Washington coast. My grandfather's family is Swedish.

We have get togethers and reunions occasionally. Most of these are informal, during Midsommarfest usually, but every couple years we'll get together as a family, generally a couple days before Christmas (around midwinter/yule) while my grandparents were still around, though now it is less frequent and the date varies a lot based on availability. Nisu is one of my favorite parts of these get togethers, followed pretty closely by Scandinavian ribbon cookies. I'm very happy you posted this recipe. Thank you.

Skibum's picture

My family always called this pulla.  My recipe was hand written by my mother and passed down from my grandmother.  It is exactly the same at the recipe posted here so is most autentic and makes a wonderful coffee bread!  This is not a difficult recipe even for beginning bakers.


Spring has Sprung's picture
Spring has Sprung

Help me please. I do not have a lot of experience with sweet doughs, never before braided anything. This is so gorgeous and a dear friend misses this bread from her childhood. I want to master this as a gift to her. But this dough was SOOOO rubbery/it retracted terribly. Did I add too much flour (I scooped). Why is this so difficult to shape? In the end it turned out gorgeous, but I will not readily make a dough that is THIS difficult. Thanks for any suggestions.

jl's picture
jl (not verified)

And so does letting it rest. Don't try to roll out every strand to the final length all at once. Do a little bit at a time and let the strand rest while you're rolling out others. Then lengthen each one some more.