Finnish nisua bread or braid is a slightly sweet coffee bread made with crushed cardamom seeds. Finnish households welcomed family and friends into their home with a cup of coffee and some sort of sweet pastry or bread.
Growing up in Ohio my Finnish mother always made nisua at Christmas and Easter. It was our favorite tradition and we welcomed the great smells coming from the kitchen as she baked several loaves each holiday.
Although I use the short-cut method with the Hot Roll mix to save time, I have continued baking this bread for my own family and friends. I think I might be the only one left to continue this tradition amongst my siblings and cousins.
Left over nisua can be re-baked and dusted with cinnamon sugar to produce a toasted biscuit which is named “korppu”. We called them skorpers and dunked them in coffee or milk.
Here is a recipe for your family to try:
Nisua. (2 long or 3 short braids or 3 round loaves)
2 pkg. dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 and 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 and 1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 and 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom (10-15 seeds, peeled and smashed)
7-8 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup melted, unsalted butter
In a mixer bowl, sprinkle yeast into warm water. Let stand a few minutes and stir to blend. Stir in milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add 3 more cups of flour and beat again until smooth. Stir in melted butter. Now add in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough which can be handled, at least 2 more cups. Cover and let rise 15 min. Turn out onto floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (5 min). Place into greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (1 hour or more). Punch down. Return to bowl, cover and let rise again until double (30-45 min). Turn out again onto slightly floured board and divide into 2 or 3 portions. Divide each portion into thirds, roll each between your palms into about 12 in. Length. Braid together and make a circle. Place each circle into greased 8 or 9 in cake pans. Braids can be laid straight (no circle) onto greased cookie sheet (2 to a sheet). Cover and let rise again 30-45 min. Bake 375 degrees for 20-25 min. Watch carefully.
Optional: brush lightly with a slightly beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar just before baking.
Short cut recipe:
One box Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix with yeast packet
1 Egg slightly beaten
1 cup hot water
1 T. White sugar
2 T. Soft butter
3 cardamom seeds, peeled and crushed
In mixer bowl, place hot roll mix, yeast packet, sugar, butter, egg and water. Mix with a dough hook until dough forms. Dump onto slightly floured board and knead 5 min. Let rest for 5 min. and divide into 3 sections. Roll between palms into three strands and braid. Form into circle and place into 8 or 9 in. greased cake pan. Cover and let raise in preheated 200 degree oven that is shut off. Bake 375 degrees for 18 to 20 min. Watch closely. Cool 15 min. and invert pan to remove and cool completely.