Finnish Cardamom Bread

     Tonight is not so cold as last night and it isn't raining, but I am very cold. I'm sitting here with 2 sweatshirts/hoodies on! So I am thinking I'll bake some bread. But not just any breads - I'm thinking of a Finnish cardamom bread. It's sweet, moist (if not baked too long) and perfect with a big glass of cold milk. I know, cold and drinking cold milk? But yesss! Milk goes good with everything, and I wouldn't dream of anything else with fresh bread. I love to bake in winter not only for the food, but to warm the kitchen and because the aromas are heavenly. Don't you agree? If you have a favorite bread recipe, please share it with us!

                                                  Finnish Cardamom Bread
I got this recipe from a friend whose family came from Finland. Her dad, who lives in the Northeast, built his own sauna from 12 different kinds of wood. While I haven't actually tried the sauna, I have seen it and it is very nice. A dressing room, sitting area and the sauna itself. It is some feet from their house, so in a cold, snowy winter there is a bracing walk to and from the moist heat of the sauna. Maybe they have a loaf of bread waiting for them when finished in the sauna room.

          1 pkg instant dry yeast
          1/4c warm water
          1c milk - scald and cool to lukewarm
          1/2c sugar
          1/2tsp salt
          1/2tsp ground cardamom
          2 eggs
          4-41/2c all-purpose or bread flour.
          1/4c melted butter

     Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add the milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs and about 1c flour. Beat until dough is smooth. Add another 1c flour and stir, then add the melted butter. Beat again until the dough has a glossy appearance. Add 2c flour and stir in until a stiff dough forms.  * While the directions are to knead bread at this point, I make mine in my mixer.*  Use paddle attachment and mix until dough is smooth and satiny.  Allow to rise in a warm place and in a  lightly greased bowl until doubled in bulk. Punch down and allow to rise a second time. This second rising will take approximately 1/2 the time of the first rising.
* Original recipe calls for bread to be divided into 3 sections and braided. I am too lazy to do this, so I bake it in a regular bread pan.*   Place dough in greased bread pan and allow to rise to slightly above top of pan.
Bake in a 400 degree oven about 25-30 minutes. WATCH bread carefully in a pan - top tend to brown and look done before bread really is done. This is a bread you DO NOT want to bake too long or it dries out very quickly. But if not baked long enough, bread is too doughy in the center. I test bottom pan with a finger dipped in water - listen to how water sizzles: if it just sizzles, bake about 5 minutes longer and check again. If it sort of pops and spits bread should be done.  I should say that it is easier to get right consistently if you make the braids.
     One more thing: original recipe calls for glazing bread with a beaten egg, then topping with 1/4c chopped almonds and 1/4c sugar. I do not like this version, so I do not add it. It does look nice on the braids, however. I understand this was made for special occasions, which means the braids would be the way to go. I just like it as a breakfast bread, so my version suites me fine.
Makes 1 5x9 loaf

This is a picture of my Pineapple Sage taken a few days ago - before the rain. I always have these growing because the are so pretty late into the fall. Until frost, actually. The rain (another 5 inches!-unbelievable) has made it look a bit ragged, but it still has color.

I need to get my groceries for Thanksgiving tomorrow. I have a turkey, my mom is making a ham and for my vegetarian son and his girlfriend I'll make some vegetarian "chicken" patties. With this will be mashed potatoes, a sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, corn, rolls, and salad. Desert is to be pie, probably pumpkin and a spiced apple cake with ice cream. My oldest son and his wife may be bringing a new friend of theirs. I have not met him yet, but he is from Ivory Coast and is suffering terrible from the Illinois cold (the poor guy really doesn't know what central Illinois winters can be like). While we don't always get lots of snow, we do get rain and ice.. and snow. It can be in the 60's or it can be below zero. Anything goes!