Cardamom Bread (Pulla)

One of my favorite places in Kansas City is City Market. It is the best way to spend a Saturday morning – I love wandering around the aisles of fruit and vegetables, herbs and flowers, munching on pistachio baklava. The large throngs of people milling about and the street musicians playing for tips make it a busy, happy kind of noisy.

I have some items I always get, like a new flavor of loose-leaf tea for my father, a major tea addict. The hummus the Al-Habashi Mart sells is magically a thousand times more delicious than normal store bought hummus, and their fresh baked pita bread is just warm enough to make the plastic bags sweat slightly.

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One of my favorite stands is the bulk spices booth. A cheerful but take-no-shit man runs it (Seriously, someone tried to bag their own spices while we were there, and he yelled at them and threw their spices on the ground.) and it has some beautiful, unique spices for very reasonable prices. One of these is cardamom – I had considered buying it before to make this very cardamom bread, but in the grocery store, a small jar was a whopping $13. At this spice booth? Three dollars for a generous scoop. Not bad for what Wikipedia calls “the third most expensive spice in the world by weight.”

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So, Monday night, I made (finally!) made cardamom bread, and it was delicious. It is pillowy soft, dense in the best way. The cardamom is not overwhelming, but more of a perfume, permeating the bread. The sugar lends a sweet crunch, nestling in the crevices of the braid. It was perfect still warm from the oven, with a slick of butter melting on it, or cold with steaming coffee the next morning. I imagine it would make for some fantastic French toast or bread pudding, if you can make it last that long. Invite me over if you do.

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Cardamom Bread

Adapted from Saveur

Makes two loaves

1 ⅓ cups milk, heated to 115°

⅔ cup sugar

3-4 tsp. ground cardamom

2 ¼-oz. packages active dry yeast

3 eggs, lightly beaten

6 ½ cups flour

1 tsp. kosher salt

5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes, at room temperature

1 tbsp. heavy cream

1 egg yolk

Coarse sugar

In a large mixing bowl, stir together milk, sugar, 2 or 3 teaspoons cardamom (depending on how strong of a cardamom flavor you would like) and yeast. Let sit 10 minutes until slightly foamy.

Stir in eggs, then salt and flour, one cup at a time. When the dough begins to hold together enough to knead, transfer to a flat surface knead the dough until no longer sticky and holds together in a smooth round, adding flour as needed. Begin kneading in butter, chunk by chunk, again adding flour as needed. When the butter is fully incorporated, return to a clean, greased bowl and let rise, covered, for an hour until doubled in size.

At an hour, punch down, then re-cover and let rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375˚, and transfer to a flat surface. Divide in half; set aside one half. Divide remaining dough into thirds, and roll into long ropes. (About 16”) Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pinch the one side of the ends together. Braid a simple braid, as you would with hair. If you wish, you can leave it straight, or wrap it around to make a circle. Repeat with other half of dough. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.

In a small cup, beat egg yolk, heavy cream, and 1 tsp cardamom. Brush mixture over the loaf, and sprinkle coarse sugar on top. Bake loaves separately for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Eat immediately. (Okay, maybe wait a few minutes to avoid burns.)