Nissu is a Finnish bread that is usually a soft, braided loaf spiced with cardamom and sometimes including dried fruit. Cardamom is expensive, but worth it, especially if you make extra bread for friends and neighbors and you can use the spice in savory meat dishes as well.
Mom's recipe that our family has enjoyed for decades is a simple version with a soft texture, light cardamom flavor, and it's basted with coffee and then topped with icing and maraschino cherries (optional) after baking.
This year I made four smaller loaves using the same recipe that usually makes two long ones, and found it the perfect amount to give to our neighbors who are families of two.
Here's the recipe:
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 T yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
2 beaten eggs
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or the crushed seeds from four pods)
up to 3 1/4 cups flour to make a soft dough
Coffee baste: 1/4 cup coffee combined with 2T sugar
Icing: 1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream mixed with 1 cup confectionery sugar
Warm the 1/2 cup of milk in a saucepan until just steaming. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, sugar, and salt until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Cool to lukewarm (so you don't harm your yeast). Combine milk mixture with 1 T yeast that has been dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water. Add the beaten eggs, cardamom, and the flour a little at a time until you have a soft dough that isn't so sticky you can't knead it, but is still very soft. Too much flour will reduce the softness of the bread.
Knead bread and allow it to rise. (If you've never made a yeast bread before, you may like reading my first blog post on making bread that covers the steps in more detail.) Braid into two loaves. I separate the dough into six equal parts, roll them into strips on the counter, and braid them loosely. Allow to rise slightly in loaf form, at least while the oven preheats or until visibly increased in size just slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes or until golden brown. Don't over-bake.
|Braided loaves ready to go in the oven.|
Transfer to cooling racks and baste two or three times with sweet coffee. Frost with icing while still warm. The icing tends to drip and make a mess on the counter, I like to put kitchen towels under the cooling racks that can then be soaked in the sink for a little while and thrown in the washing machine, rather than having to scrape and scrub the counter after the bread is glazed. Growing up we put maraschino cherry halves along the bread, but I've started omitting them when I gift the bread because it travels better.
I know we're past the Christmas season - but Nissu is a wonderful treat with coffee or tea any time!
|Finished Nissu cooling on the racks!|