My Grandma’s Finnish Coffee Bread

That’s my grandma, Marmumu_makes_coffeebread1y (Rautiainen) Smeds, in the 1960s photo at left, pouring out batter onto a floured tabletop, a step in the process of making one of her staples, Finnish coffee bread.

Her recipe was one she learned as a girl back in northern Finland. Its formal name there is pulla. It is quite similar to the Jewish holiday favorite, challah, but the Finnish version can easily be distinguished as soon as one takes a bite and inhales the marvelous aroma of its main spice, cardamom. Pulla is a sweet braided glazed eggbread. It leans so much in the direction of a dessert that some people might argue it’s a pastry rather than a bread.

When I say it was one of Grandma’s staples, I really mean staple. Grandma made a batch (three loaves) two or three times a week for decades on end. We all enjoyed it, of course. So did anyone who dropped by. But Grandma ate plenty of it herself. She came about as close as a person could to eating it every day of her life. Whenever there was a day she did not eat it, it was seldom from choice, but from some sort of logistical challenge such as being aboard an ocean liner as a seventeen-year-old immigrant and temporarily having no access to a kitchen of her own.

They say too much butter, white flour, and sugar isn’t good for you. Pish tosh. When butter and white flour and sugar come in the form of my grandma’s coffee bread, they become a reason to live. Sure worked with her, anyway. Grandma survived to age 108. She was extraordinarily healthy right up until the end.

This is a way of saying, if calories scare you, stay away from the stuff.

But if you enjoy making life worthwhile, click on the link here, check out the recipe, and start baking.





My Grandma’s Finnish Coffee Bread — 2 Comments