A unique but classic Finnish bread with a sweet flavor that makes a wonderful holiday gift! It takes about 4 hours to make, so allow yourself plenty of time. Feel free to add raisins or any chopped dried fruits if you would like.
1Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Let cool until lukewarm.
2Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, 4 eggs, and enough flour to make a batter (approximately 2 cups). Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic.
3Add about 3 cups of the flour and beat well; the dough should be smooth and glossy in appearance. Add the melted butter or margarine, and stir well. Beat again until the dough looks glossy. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is stiff.
4Turn out of bowl onto a floured surface, cover with an inverted mixing bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes. Knead the dough until smooth and satiny.
5Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, and turn the dough to grease the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel.
6Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled.
7Turn out again on to a floured surface, and divide into 3 parts. Divide each third into 3 again. Roll each piece into a 12 to 16 inch strip.
8Roll each piece into a 12 to 16 inch strip. Braid 3 strips into a loaf. You should get 3 large braided loaves. Lift the braids onto greased baking sheets. Let rise for 20 minutes.
9Brush each loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
10Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes. Check occasionally because the bottom burns easily.