Finnish Braided Wheat Bread

This sweet bread from Finland is delicious sliced and toasted with plum marmalade and cheeses, like cottage cheese, brie, or aged cheese. Perfect for the holidays or just a comfortable weekend at home.

Recipes by Elizabeth Johansson + Photos by Susanna Blåvarg

The smörgåsbord tradition originated in Sweden in the 16th century and has since become a holiday custom across the Nordics. “Smörgåsbord” means “sandwich table,” but has come to mean a buffet with a variety of hot and cold dishes, desserts, and spirits, like schnapps, brännvin, and akvavit. These recipes make for a contemporary smörgåsbord with traditional Nordic winter flavors.


You will need:
2 ounces yeast
31⁄2 ounces butter
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds, ground in a mortar
1 cup rye flakes
6 to 7 cups wheat flour 1 egg for brushing
rye flakes to sprinkle on top

  1. Heat the oven to 390°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Crumble the yeast in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the milk. Heat until 98°F.
  4. Pour the liquid over the yeast. Mix in sugar, salt, and eggs.
  5. Add cardamom, rye flakes, and a bit of the flour at a time to make a smooth dough (save a little flour for the baking).
  6. Let dough rise under a towel for about 30 minutes.
  7. Halve the dough and cut each half into 14 pieces.
  8. With the dough from one half, shape 12 of the pieces into rolls, 1⁄8 -inch thick and 12 inches long. Roll the last 2 pieces into one round ball.
  9. Stick 3 rolls together lengthwise 4 times, so that you have 4 dough pieces with 3 strands each. Place the pieces in an overlapping cross (like in the picture). Next place 4 of the strands so that they overlap counter-clockwise, and then overlap the ends clockwise.
  10. Place the round ball on the prepared baking sheet. Place the braided dough cross on top and tuck in the edges.
  11. Repeat steps 8, 9, and 10 with the remaining dough to make a second loaf.
  12. Cover with both loaves with a towel, and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  13. Whisk the egg with a fork. Brush the breads with egg and sprinkle with rye flakes.
  14. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the bread for the last few minutes, and take it out when it has a nice golden brown color.