The sharing of traditions is how I started this annual act to gratitude. Many years ago, a client that I had done a mural for her grandson’s bedroom left a package on my front porch with a few treats and a note of gratitude for the work I had done earlier that year. In the note she explained how each year she picks people that she is grateful for, because they made a difference in the life of her family and creates some treats and a note of Thanksgiving. I was so blessed by her kind gesture that I decided to create a similar tradition for our family.
Baking is something I enjoy, especially homemade breads! With so many cookies and candy snacks shared at the holidays, I decided to make a bread that would be a treat with a cup of coffee and possibly enjoyed as part of Christmas morning. As much as I enjoy the baking, I also love the story or history behind an heirloom recipe. After some research I came across Finish Pulla (Coffee Bread), it’s not overly sweet, holds its shape and is an amazing accompaniment to coffee or tea. The history behind it says that it was served at 3:00 in the afternoon for coffee break. Wives would bake it daily for their men to come in from their work for a break, it was hardy enough to tie them over till they came home for the evening meal.
Each December I bake a bread for those that we are grateful for, the list grows every year… Neighbors, friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, teachers etc… last year we baked and delivered 45 breads. Since I don’t have the time to bake for days on end, I usually make the dough ahead and keep it in the freezer, that way I just have to thaw and bake right before delivery. When my children were younger I would have them deliver the breads to our neighbors, they were know as the “Wilt elves”.
Finnish Pulla (Coffee Bread)
3/4 C milk
4 T butter
1/2 C sugar
1 t salt
1 1/4 t ground cardamom
3 1/2 C bread flour
2 t rapid or quick yeast
1 beaten egg for glazing; sugar, poppy seeds or sliced almonds for sprinkling on top before baking.
Place all ingredients in order into bread machine, choose dough method. The bread machine does the mixing and first risings, which saves my time in the kitchen. Once the dough is done, (can be frozen at this point), remove dough from maker cut in half and then each half into thirds. You now have enough dough for two loaves of bread. For each loaf roll the three pieces into thick snakes and braid them, pinching the ends under. Allow the dough to rise about a half hour. Then glaze with beaten egg and sprinkle sugar and poppy seeds or almonds on top. Bake in preheated 375* oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Don’t over bake or the bread will be dry.
Once the breads cool, I wrap in foil, tie a pretty ribbon and attach a little sticker note to the top.
Consider giving the gift of your own hand to let those special people in your life know how much you appreciate them and to wish them a Merry Christmas! Get your family involved in the process, it’s fun, you are spending time together and sharing from your heart.