Nisu (Finnish Coffee Bread)

If you love the warm spice of cardamom then this is the treat for you. This marvelous bread is delicious right out of the oven or toasted the next morning for an extra special breakfast treat. Nisu is an absolute must in my family for Christmas morning!

The Recipe

by volume                                                             by weight

dough:

1 tablespoon yeast                                       9 grams yeast

2 tablespoons warm water                      30 grams warm water

1 cup warm milk                                             240 grams milk

1/2 cup sugar                                                  99 grams sugar

4 tablespoons soft butter                        56 grams soft butter

1 teaspoon salt                                              4 grams salt

2 teaspoons cardamom                           4 grams cardamom

1 large egg                                                       68 grams egg

3½ cups all purpose flour                        420 grams all purpose flour

 

egg wash:

1 large egg yolk                                             18 grams egg yolk

2 tablespoons milk                                     30 grams milk

 

glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar                              125 grams powdered sugar

1 tablespoon water                                    15 grams water

 

Directions

Mix the yeast, water, half of the milk, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Let this proof for 10 minutes. It should be foamy and smell yeasty.

Add the remaining milk and sugar, the egg, and the cardamom. Add the flour and mix until a rough dough forms.

Knead the dough until smooth and elastic. This will take about 10 minutes. It is tempting to add more flour because the dough is sticky but this will make the final product dry. Use a rubber spatula to clear the dough from the hook and the sides of the bowl every few minutes. Kneading with a machine is the best way to go but this dough CAN be kneaded by hand.

Finally, knead in the butter. The dough will be springy and elastic.

Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and let it rise until it is doubled in size. This will take about an hour depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape gently in to an oblong.

Cut lengthwise into 3 equal pieces.

Roll each piece gently into a rope. It will not be possible to roll the ropes completely smooth and even. That’s ok. Just do the best you can.

Braid the three ropes together and tuck the ends under.

Place the braid on parchment paper on a sheet pan. Beat the egg yolk and milk together until smooth. Brush the braid with the egg wash and let it rise for about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350F. Brush the braid again with egg wash and place in the oven. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the braid is deep, golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Mix the powdered sugar and the water together to make a smooth glaze. Brush the top of the nisu with the glaze and then allow the braid to cool completely.

If you must cut this nisu before it is completely cool (this ALWAYS happens at my house!), be sure to use a serrated knife.

 

Alternatives

Nisu bread is distinctive for it’s cardamom flavor and aroma. I like it fairly strong but if you prefer a less intense flavor you can reduce the amount of cardamom to suit your taste.

These braids are also lovely sprinkled with toasted nuts. I love sliced almonds. Sprinkle the nuts on as soon as you glaze the nisu so that the nuts will stick to the top. I sprinkle the nuts down the center of the braid where there is more glaze to adhere to.

This recipe makes 1 large or 2 small braided loaves. These can also be made as individual rounds. Smaller shapes will take a bit less time to bake depending on size.

This bread is best on the day it is made but will keep well wrapped for another day. After that, toast or bread pudding are the best options!

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