My Swedish grandmother was a great cook. One thing she always served was vetebröd, which our family calls bulle. Vetebröd is a traditional sweet Swedish yeast bread that has a very unique ingredient – cardamom. Every time I smell this cardamom bread I think of my grandma. This is definitely one of my strongest “memory foods.”
While this isn’t a traditional Christmas food, I only ever get around to making it at Christmastime. Cate LOVES it and calls it the “yummy bread.”
So, on to the recipe! I actually took some step-by-step photos for you. Vetebröd can be baked in many different shapes. The recipe I have calls for simple buns, but braiding the bread is how my mom and I like to bake it. Because I love you all soooo much, I decided to share our family’s special way of braiding the loaf. It’s a great little trick.
– 2 1/2 cups milk
– 2 cakes compressed yeast OR 2 packets active dry yeast OR 4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
– 1 cup sugar
– 8 cups sifted flour
– 1 cup melted butter
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 20 cardamom pods (or 3 tsp ground cardamom, which is what I use)
– 1 egg, slightly beaten
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1/3 cup finely blanched almonds
1. Scald milk and cool to luke warm. Crumble yeast in bowl: add 1/2 cup luke warm milk and stir until yeast is dissolved. Add remaining milk and 1/4 c sugar. Beat in 3 C flour and continue beating until smooth. Cover and set aside to rise until double in bulk, 3/4 – 1 hour.
2. Add reamining sugar, cooled melted butter and salt. Break open cardamom pods – remove tiny seeds and crush thoroughly. Add cardamom and 4 1/2 C flour to yeast mixture. Place remaining 1/2 C flour on board or pastry cloth for kneading.
3. Turn out dough and knead until smooth and elastic. (I actually put all 5 cups of flour in step 2 and then let my Kitchen-Aid do the kneading with the dough hook attachment.) Place in greased bowl. Cover with cloth and let rise until double in bulk, 3/4 – 1 hour.
4. Cut into even size pieces and roll into balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with egg and sprinkle with 1/4 c sugar (rock sugar is really yummy) and almonds. Let rise until double in bulk, 30-40 mins. Bake in moderately hot oven (400 degrees F) 12-15 minutes. (If you do the braid that I describe below, cook at 350 degrees for nearly 30 minutes, when the top is as dark as you want it, cover with foil until bread is done cooking.)
How to make the braided loaf: (you can also do pretty buns – see links at the bottom of the post for more info)
Once the dough is ready to cut into pieces in step 4, you can instead roll out the dough to make a braid. This recipe will make four 12″ braided loaves. Divide the dough into fours and form into a round, even ball. Smoosh the ball down into a rectangular-type shape (as best you can). Roll out to a large rectangle 12″ long and as wide as you can get it, rolling the dough pretty thin (maybe 1/4″ or so). The thinner the dough at this stage the better it will cook.
Score two lines to divide the rectangle into thirds (the lines should be 12″, the length of the loaf…does that make sense?). These score lines are guides and should not be very deep. Cut lines perpendicular to your score starting at the score line cutting out to the edge (see picture). Make cuts appx. 1 inch apart. The cuts should be made down both sides, should line up and be even in number. (Am I making sense? Thank goodness for pictures!).
Begin your braid at one end. Fold the pieces across to the opposite score line and angled down to the next level of cut pieces. I sort of smoosh the piece down so it stays in place. Once you’ve braided all the pieces, tuck the last two pieces under each other (pictured) so you have a nice finished end. (Please note – I should have rolled my dough thinner than pictured here…although the bread still came out.)
When I used to make this, I would just divide the dough in two and make two braids (what you see in the pictures) – but that made for a thicker braid and the outside would cook before the inside. I have since started dividing it into four braids, which is easier to roll out thin and cooks more evenly. Follow instructions in Step 4 above for prepping to bake (including rising again). You can cook two braids per cookie sheet – the sheets are 12″ wide, so the braid fits cross-wise. If you do have thicker braids that seem to be cooking too quickly on the outside, about halfway through the total bake time of ~30 minutes, cover the loaf with foil. This keeps the outside from getting to dark and it cooks beautifully.
While baking the bread topped with sugar and almonds is good…vanilla glaze is my favorite way to eat it. I mean, seriously, doesn’t that look AWESOME?
– 1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
– 1 tsp light corn syrup
– 1/2 tsp vanilla
– Milk or half-and-half or light cream
Mix sugar, syrup and vanilla together. Stir in enough milk/half-and-half/light cream to make drizzling consistency (a little goes a long way!).
I double this recipe to cover all four of my 12″ loaves that yield from the recipe above.
I’m not sharing this recipe because it’s an easy one. I’m sharing it because I love it and is special to me. It takes some time, but it is not difficult and so delicious. Eating this soft, yummy bread straight out of the oven is the best. But to replicate the effect the following day, I just zap my bulle in the microwave for 10-15 seconds…mmmmmmmmmm….
Click here to see how I make this bread into buns, which is another delicious way to enjoy them!
This link and this link will will take you to recipes for Swedish cinnamon buns (a little different than this recipe, but I’m sure still tasty). Both of these recipes illustrate how to make the dough into pretty buns. This is a great way to cook vetebröd, my grandma usually made these types of buns.