Despite its popularity, the sweet bun (pulla) is relatively new to Finland, due to the historical lack of wheat cultivation. In the 19th century, wheat buns were first baked for key festivals. As coffee become more common in the late 19th century, pulla was offered to guests and during holidays such as Christmas. The use of bought flour made pulla expensive, which meant that it only became widespread in the 1950s.Christmas bun dough, like the normal version, includes milk or water, yeast, sugar, salt, wheat flour, butter, and typically egg. The buns are normally seasoned with cardamom, but the Christmas version uses saffron. Expensive saffron once made pulla seem more festive, and gave it a beautiful yellow colour. Saffron buns are thought to originate in Sweden, where similar buns (lussekatter) are served on 13 December, St. Lucy’s day. Christmas buns are baked in various shapes and sizes, such as the bun wreath.
Get the ingredients for the dough ready at room temperature in good time. Heat the milk/water to hand temperature and add the saffron. Beat the eggs, sugar, salt, cardamom and crumbled yeast together. Add the milk. Whisk 5 dl of flour into the dough. Add 8 dl of flour and knead the dough with your hands to get air into it. This will enhance the glutination of the flour. Add the soft butter/margarine and the rest of the flour and knead until it comes away from your hands completely.
Leave to rise for one hour at room temperature. Cut the dough into 8 pieces of the same size and shape each piece into long strands. Form two long loafs by plaiting together four strands of dough. Bend both loaves into a semi-circular shape. Place each on a baking sheet.Leave to rise on a baking sheet until ready for the oven. Glaze with yolk and sprinkle coarse sugar and almond flakes on top. Bake the plaited buns in a preheated oven (225°C) for 12 minutes. You can also make small buns with the same dough; bake them at 250°C for 8 minutes. When the buns are cool, cut off the ends and combine them into a round shape.