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  1. Wednesday, December 30, 2009

    Vetebröd (Swedish Cardamom Bread)

    My Swedish grandmother was a great cook. One thing she always served was vetebröd, which our family always called bulle. Vetebröd is a traditional sweet Swedish sweet yeast bread that is often flavored with 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.” Bulle means “bun” and my grandmother generally made buns, but my mom and I like to do the braided loaf version of this bread at the holidays.

    Photo of sliced vetebrod, Swedish cardamom sweet yeast bread

    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 took some step-by-step photos for you, shown below. Swedish sweet breads like 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.

    Photos of bread dough being prepped to be made into a braided loaf

    Step-by-step pictures for creating a beautiful braided loaf of bread

    Finished step-by-step photo for creating a braided loaf of bread

    What braided bread should look like coming out of the oven

    Finished product - final photo of braided loaf of Swedish sweet yeast bread

    Vetebröd | Braided Swedish Cardamom Bread
    • 2½ cups milk
    • 2 cakes compressed yeast OR 2 packets active dry yeast OR 4½ tsp. active dry yeast
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 8 cups sifted flour
    • 1 cup melted butter
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 20 cardamom pods (or 3 tsp ground cardamom, which is what I use)
    • 1 egg, slightly beaten
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • ⅓ cup finely blanched almonds
    1. Scald milk and cool to luke warm. Crumble yeast in bowl: add ½ cup of the luke warm milk and stir until yeast is dissolved. Add remaining milk and ¼ c sugar. Beat in 3 C flour and continue beating until smooth. Cover and set aside to rise until double in bulk, ¾ - 1 hour. (I make this recipe in my stand mixer.)
    2. Add remaining sugar, cooled melted butter and salt. If using cardamom pods, break open pods and remove the tiny seeds, then crush the seeds thoroughly. Add cardamom (the freshly-ground stuff or the 3 teaspoons ground cardamom) and 4½ C flour to yeast mixture. Place remaining ½ C flour on board or pastry cloth for kneading.
    3. Turn out dough and knead until smooth and elastic. Note: I put all 5 cups of flour in step 2 and then let my Kitchen-Aid do the kneading with the dough hook attachment.
    4. Place kneaded dough in greased bowl. Cover with cloth and let rise until double in bulk, ¾ - 1 hour.
    5. Cut into even size pieces and roll into balls. Place on un-greased cookie sheet. Brush with egg and sprinkle with ¼ c sugar (Swedish pearl sugar is the best) and almonds (if using). Let rise until double in bulk, 30-40 mins. Bake in moderately hot oven, 400ºF for 12-15 minutes. If you want to make the braided loaf, keep reading the directions below. When cooking it as a loaf, bake the bread at 350º F for 20-30 minutes, until the top of the bread is very browned.
    7. 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 ¼" or so). The thinner the dough at this stage the more evenly the bread will cook.
    8. Score two lines to divide the rectangle into thirds (the lines should be 12", the length of the loaf...does that make sense? See photos above). These score lines are guides and should not be very deep. Cut lines perpendicular to your score lines starting at the score line cutting out to the edge (see pictures). 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!).
    9. 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 probably should have rolled my dough thinner than pictured above...although the bread still came out great!)
    10. 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 cover the loaf with foil. This keeps the outside from getting to dark and it cooks beautifully.


    It’s traditional to bake the bread topped with pearl sugar and/or almonds, but our family likes to make a vanilla glaze to drizzle over the top.

    Braided loaf of Swedish sweet yeast bread drizzled with vanilla glaze

    Slice of braided Swedish sweet yeast bread

    Vanilla Glaze
    • 1¼ cups sifted powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (depending on the flavor you like or are in the mood for)
    • Milk or half-and-half or light cream
    • Salt (a couple pinches)
    1. Put powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Add vanilla/almond extract and salt, then pour in a bit of the milk (or cream or half-and-half), probably 2 teaspoons or so, just a quick swig. Whisk well. A little bit of fluid goes a long way, but add more one teaspoon at a time if needed to get the frosting to a drizzling consistency.
    2. I double this recipe to cover four 12″ loaves.


    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.

    Also, after visiting Sweden in 2018, my mom, sister-in-law and I figured out a new way to make cardamom buns. Click here to see the recipe and instructions.