Much of the world just finished celebrating Easter. Many countries have a version of traditional Easter breads. These are often very rich breads – using much butter and eggs for super soft textured breads. This Finnish version is no different. This recipe is Karelian in origin. Karelia has been hard fought land over centuries between Sweden, Russia and Finland. It is currently shared with it partially under Russian rule and the other part belongs to Finland. Two forms of the Karelian language exists, Russian Karelian and Finnish Karelian.
In 1617, much of Karelia was ceded to Sweden but conflicts arose between the Karelian’s and the Swedes and thus began a mass exodus to Russia. Since then, Finland and Russia have fought many wars over Karelia. When Finland lost much of Karelia to Russia in 1939, all of the population had to be resettled into Finland. Vyborg, one of the largest formerly Finnish Karelian cities was lost to Russia but the cuisine was moved to Finland. I’ve already made Vyborg Pretzels here. Let’s make another Karelian recipe!
This recipe is another Finnish one adapted from Anja Hill’s The Cuisine of Finland book. As I was going back and forth from the recipe to the kitchen, I forgot to add an extra cup of milk after the first rise. When I realized it, it was way too late as the bread was in the middle of its final rise. I went ahead and baked it. The bread still tasted good, although a bit yeasty. I have indicated below where the extra cup of milk should have been added. No time to redo it, since I was still able to enjoy the bread, I am presenting it anyway as such.
Karelian Easter Bread
Prep Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 1 loaf
- 2 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons water
- 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 7 cups bread flour
- 1 cup melted unsalted butter
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 3 tablespoons chopped candied orange
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (I used lime)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped sliced almonds
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
In a small bowl, combine 2 cups of the milk and water. Heat in a microwave or saucepan until lukewarm (110 – 115 F). Sprinkle yeast on top and leave for 5 minutes, until foamy.
Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer. Add 1 3/4 cups of the flour and blend until smooth.Cover with a kitchen towel. Leave for about 45 minutes, until risen.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add to risen flour-yeast mixture. Add salt, cardamom, orange, lemon zest, raisins and almonds. Mix well. Add butter. Mix well. An extra cup of milk should have been added at this point.
Add the remaining flour a little at a time. Using a dough hook, knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes.
Place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with greased plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Place in a greased bundt pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise until the dough has risen to the top, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a high bundt pan with non stick spray. Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown. Leave in pan for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Meanwhile make the icing by mixing the sugar and the water. Mix until thoroughly combined. Pour over bread.
Let cool completely before slicing and serving.
Notes: Traditionally, this is baked in a Russian kulich pan.