Finnish Pulla

1 cup Milk
1 tbsp Active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water(about 110 deg F)
1/2 cup Sugar
1 tsp Crushed cardamom seeds(from about 7 pods)
1 tsp Salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
4 1/2 to 5 cups All purpose flour (unbleached)
1 stick Unsalted butter, melted

For Glaze
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk

For topping
Sliced almonds
Pearl sugar

Put the milk in a small saucepan and scald it(heat it until a ring of small bubbles is visible around the sides of the pan). Remove the pan from the heat and cool the milk to a room temperature of between 105 deg F and 115 deg F.

In a large bowl, whisk the yeast into the warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until the yeast has dissolved and is creamy. Whisk in the milk, sugar, cardamom, salt and eggs. Switch to a wooden spoon, add 2 cups of flour, and beat the mixture until smooth. Beat in the butter and add as much additional flour, 1/2 cup at a time, as you can until the dough is stiff but not dry.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball. Place it in a lightly greased bowl, turn it around in the bowl to grease the top, and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it doubles in bulk, 45 minutes to 1 hour. You can use the method for raising the dough in winter which is given in my layered rolls recipe.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside

Turn the dough out onto the oiled surface and knead it lightly and briefly, just to deflate it and release the air. Divide the dough into thirds and roll each third into a rope of about 36 inches long. Braid the three strands(refer my challah recipe), braiding as far down to the bottom of the strands as you can. lift the long braid onto the parchment-lined pan, shaping it into a circle as you place it on the pan. Snip about 1 inch of dough off each end of the braid and fuse the ends together, pressing ans pinching them (if necessary) to fit.

Cover the wreath with a kitchen towel and allow it to rise at room temperature until it is puffy but not doubled, about 45 minutes.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 deg F(190 deg C).

Brush the egg glaze over the bread. Sprinkle the wreath with sliced almonds and pearl sugar.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden, taking care not to over bake the wreath. Transfer the loaf to a rack to cool at room temperature before cutting.

The bread will keep for a day at room temperature, lightly covered with plastic. If you want to keep the bread longer, wrap it air tight ans freeze it for upto 1 month. Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.