Category Archives: baking

Nisu: The Pics or It Didn’t Happen Edition

First note, I mixed the dough up in my KitchenAid, but the final kneading was done by hand before transferring the dough back to the mixer bowl and covering with a damp towel and some clingwrap to rise.  This is pre-rising:

I didn’t take a photo after rising, but these are the finished loaves just before going into the oven (I made a smaller batch because my oven doesn’t have room to bake three loaves at once.  Also, I ran out of flour.):

Also, aren’t you impressed that I can do this in a kitchen this size?  There’s one other counter surface on the other side of the sink, but that’s it.

And here’s the finished product after cooling and sitting in a paper bag overnight:

Slice using a good, sharp bread knife (I like my Wüsthof Classic) so that you can go as thin as possible.

UPDATE: I showed this to my mom, and her comment on the just-braided loaves was that she was always amazed at how much easier this is when you make the strands that you’re braiding pretty thin.  I had to point out that I did make them thin, they just puffed up again in the time that it took me to grab the camera and take that photo.  Really, these things don’t need a second rising.  Just cut and braid quickly and toss them in the oven.

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No More Knitting Tonight. I’m Making Nisu Instead.

I did cast on for Hazel the Humpback Whale with some scrap yarn to see if my thought that a provisional cast on was really best to make her snout close up cleanly, and it worked out pretty well. (Sorry for the really terrible lighting. It gets very dark here very early and I live in a 90 year old building with fewer outlets and lights than I’d like.)

But now, I’m baking bread and no one can stop me. Nisu is a Finnish sweet bread, and the recipe that I use has been in my family since before they immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s.  The matriarch of the family made it more precise over the years (she was a huge fan of improvements in cooking technology, and lived through a lot of change in her long life), so the recipe that she wrote down for my mother is pretty easy for the modern cook to execute.  I copied it down for myself when I moved into my own place, and here I present it for your edification and amusement.

Grandma Anna’s Coffee Bread (Nisu) – makes 3 braids

  • 2 packages yeast
  • 1/4 C very warm water
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C shortening
  • large pinch salt
  • 1 C hot scaled milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • 5 to 5 1/2 C flour
  • melted butter
  • sugar

Scald milk and soften yeast in very warm water.

Combine sugar, shortening, salt and milk in a large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. Stir in eggs unbeaten, softened yeast, and cardamom. Add flour gradually to form a stiff dough. Knead until smooth (5-8 minutes) on a lightly floured surface. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Using a large, sharp knife, divide the dough into 9 or 12 equal parts and make 3 braids of 3 or 4 strands each.  (This recipe doesn’t need a second rising.  It will rise again as you cut and braid, and you’ll be fighting the clock as it is.  The loaves inevitably end up crooked because of this, but I’ve even seen this effect in professional bakery loaves, so I don’t let it concern me.)  Bake at 350º F for about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and immediately brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.  (I like to really cake on the sugar.  It’s not traditional, but it works!)

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