Finnish Cardamom Bread (Nisu)

finnish cardamom bread nisu
Photo: Mikkel Vang
Prep Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs

Serve this rich braided sweet bread with salted butter, fruity jam, and lots of hot coffee. Spiced with cardamom and sprinkled with pearl sugar and almonds, it's a showstopper--just right for a weekend breakfast.


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for brushing

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope)

  • ¼ cup warm water (110 degrees)

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom

  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large yolk

  • 1 cup evaporated milk

  • 2 teaspoons whole milk

  • Pearl sugar and sliced almonds, for sprinkling


  1. Brush a large bowl with butter. In a small bowl, combine yeast and water. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cardamom, and salt.

  2. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat granulated sugar with egg on medium-high until pale and fluffy, 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add evaporated milk and yeast mixture and beat well. Switch to bread-hook attachment. Add flour mixture; mix until a shaggy dough forms. Continue to mix on medium-low, scraping sides of bowl and removing dough from hook a few times, until soft and pliable, 8 to 10 minutes. Mix in butter, 1 tablespoonat a time, until combined.Continue mixing until onlya sheen of butter slicks bowl.

  3. Transfer dough to a clean surface; knead a few times to form into a ball. Transfer to preparedlarge bowl; cover top with plastic wrap. (Dough can be made to this point and refrigerated up to 1 day.) Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes.

  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Punch down dough; divide into 4 equal pieces and cover with a clean towel. Remove one piece; roll into a 1-inch-thick, 18-inch-long rope. Repeat with remaining pieces.

  5. To make a 4-rope braid, lay ropes evenly side by side, then pinch at the top to connect. Take rope farthest to the right and cross it over second rope, so it is now the second rope. Take ropefarthest to the left and cross it over third rope, then take second rope and cross it over third.Repeat pattern to create a 12-inch-long loaf. Tuck ends and sides under; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm place until not quite doubled in size, 25 to 30 minutes.

  6. Whisk yolk and whole milk to combine. Brush loaf with egg wash; sprinkle with pearl sugarand almonds. Bake, rotating once, until evenly golden and a thermometer inserted in center registers between 205 degrees and 210 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely before slicing. Nisu is best the same day, but can be wrapped in plastic at room temperature up to 1 day.

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