My Grandma Wallin was a wonderful cook. A reluctant American, she never stopped eating and cooking like a Swede, despite living in the United States for the last 45-plus years of her life. Many of my memories of her are centered around food. Amazing ham for Christmas Eve dinner, rice pudding with a hidden almond for dessert. Swedish meatballs for Sunday dinners. Despite all these food memories, my strongest by far is of cardamom bread. Officially called "vetebrod," our family calls Swedish cardamom bread "bulle," which means "roll" or "bun" in Swedish. Grandma Wallin served bulle pretty much every time we saw her. They looked like cinnamon rolls but were flavored with cardamom. Every time I taste cardamom, no matter what dish it is in, I immediately think of my grandma and her bulle.
My mom has continued the tradition of making bulle, especially at Christmastime. While the little rolled buns remind me of my grandmother, the beautiful braided version of the bread reminds me of my mom and Christmas. Since I've been married and have started a family of my own, I always make bulle on Christmas Eve so we can have it Christmas morning. Like my mother, I braid the dough.
I was thinking about my grandmother's version of the bread the other day, so I gave my mom a call to find out how Grandma Wallin made her bulle. My mom started to describe the process for making the braid. I stopped her and said, "Yeah, I know how to do that. That's how I've always done it. How did she make the buns?" My mom laughed and said, "She switched to the buns when she was older. My memories of her bulle are of the braids!" While we both had the same Grandma Wallin bulle memories, it was funny to us that the shape of her bread was so different in our minds.
As I write this, I have a batch of bulle baking, the familiar scent filling our home. I am delighted that my daughters love bulle as much as I do. I look forward to teaching them how to make the bread and then watching them one day make it for their own children. It remains to be seen what shape of bulle they will associate with me and ultimately make themselves!