#0037: First Frost
Updated: Jun 2, 2020
I arrived home in the dark last night.
A thousand stars hung silently in the cloudless sky above the cottage.
The frosty lawn crunched beneath my feet, moonlight reflected in icy droplets clinging to the fallen leaves like a handful of diamonds scattered over velvet.
A single, pale pink rose, frozen to its core, twinkled faintly in the dark knot of tendrils which twist and curl along the picket fence.
Fingers of ice crept across the windows, unfurling in elaborate patterns like the bracken of early summer, holding the cottage in a tight embrace in the darkness.
Winter is coming.
It's time to get warm.
Nothing makes the house feel cosy quite like a blazing log fire and an oven full of baking.
This time of year, my go-to bake is my take on a Finnish pullapitko, or sweet braided cardamom bread. The smell of cardamom, toasted almond and freshly baked bread will warm up even the chilliest of days.
Start by shelling thirty or so cardamom pods until you have about 4g of seeds, then grind them with a pestle and mortar.
Then, stir 7g of dried yeast into 50g of lukewarm water, and leave it for ten minutes or so, until it bubbles.
Using a stand mixer with a balloon whisk set to a slow to medium speed, combined the yeast mixture and ground cardamom with 100g of sugar, a good pinch of salt, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, two egg yolks, 250g of lukewarm whole milk, and 100g of room temperature butter, allowing plenty of air to get into the mixture.
With the mixer still running, add 700g of strong white bread flour, a spoonful at a time. As the mixture thickens, switch out the whisk attachment for a mixing paddle until a workable dough has formed, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead the dough until it springs back when prodded. Once you're happy with your dough, place it in a large bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave it in a warm place to prove for an hour or so.
Once proved, the dough will have more or less doubled in size. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, divide it into three equal sized pieces, and roll them into sausage shapes, about thirty centimetres long.
Pinch the strands together at one end, and braid them, pinching the loose ends together when you're done, and tucking them under the loaf. Transfer your braid to a baking sheet lined with baking paper, and leave it to prove for another forty-five minutes.
Once proved, gently brush your loaf with a beaten egg, and sprinkle with caster sugar and a handful of flaked almonds, before baking it in a pre-heated fan oven at about 180°C for about thirty five to forty minutes, until the egg wash has turned golden brown.
Once baked, remove your loaf from the oven, transfer it to a wire rack, and leave it to cool.
Then pour a coffee and enjoy your pullapitko torn into chunks or sliced and toasted.
Just the thing to get you warmed up and ready for a day out enjoying the first frost.