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Grandma’s Finnish Biscuit

Grandma’s Finnish Biscuit

Grandma’s Finnish Biscuit

Finnish food gets a bad rap but there is plenty to love from the Scandinavian country, including this sweet, cardamom-scented breakfast loaf.
By Judith Klinger
Grandma’s Finnish Biscuit
“The worst food in the world.” – Jacques Chirac, former president of France, 2005
“I’ve been to Finland and I had to endure the Finnish diet…” – Silvio Berlusconi, 2001

Wait a minute…how can that be? Foraging for berries and mushrooms, a love of potatoes, pickled everything especially fish, sour rye bread, pea soup, lots of licorice and of course, cardamon. How could that be anything but delicious? This wouldn’t be the first time I thought Berlusconi might be mis-guided.

Granted half of the country is above the Arctic Circle, which cuts down on the growing season, but I was willing to bet there was still some good cooking going on.

It was time to dig around and find out what was going on in Finland.

The area that would become Finland had inhabitants dating back to around 9,000 BC, right after the last big Ice Age. Sweden annexed Finland in the 13th century, and it remained Swedish until 1809, so much of the culinary heritage is heavily intertwined with Swedish cooking. It also came under Russian rule for awhile, but not long enough to significantly influence the cuisine.

If anyone is going to survive that far north, they have to learn the basics of food preservation pretty quickly: salting, pickling, and curing meats and fish. I have to imagine freezing would have also been an easy way to preserve food.

Curious tidbits:

Traditionally, peas are eaten on Thursday. Those would be dried peas in a soup. Because Finland went along with the whole Catholic no meat on Fridays ban, they decided it was important to eat peas on Thursday. I know. Made no sense to me either, but after the third or fourth time I came across this info, I came to accept it. In time, you will too.

Finland is the number 2 consumer of candies in the world. Sweden is number 1. Seems that Sweden decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to only eat candy one day of the week. Saturdays became a free-for-all candy-heaven day. The Finns also like their licorice, sweet or salty, it just needs to be licorice. I have to say, I think you need to grow up with salty licorice to actually like the flavor. It’s very confusing to have salt and licorice on your tongue at the same time.

Potatoes are very, very important to the Finnish soul. Every Finnish blogger mentions potatoes, and dunking them into melted butter. What could possibly be bad about that? Sometimes the butter even has chopped chives.

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Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia

Yes, the Finns eat moose, reindeer and elk, but mostly they eat pork. And despite Finland’s proximity to the North Pole and Santa Claus, they would never, ever, eat Rudolph, Dancer or Prancer.

Finland consumes nearly half of the world’s cardamon. India consumes the other half. But think it about….there’s a few more people in India, which means those Finns really like their cardamon. When asked, “Why cardamon of all things? It’s crazy expensive and a pain in the neck to get the seeds out of the pods.” All fingers point to Vikings bringing the pods back from Constantinople and you know how those wacky Vikings love anything exotic and luxurious (like coffee and chocolate, which are also important to the Finnish soul.)

Speaking of cardamon, one of our favorite things to eat during ski season is ‘biscuit’. Our Finnish ski buddy Kevin makes his grandmother’s recipe for ‘biscuit’ (it’s really a braided loaf of sweet breakfast bread, but we’ve stopped trying to explain this to Kevin, and now we also call it biscuit. When Kevin bakes biscuit the entire hallway smells divine and we are on our best behavior for fear he won’t share with us!)


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Grandma’s Finnish Biscuit

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5 from 3 reviews

  • Author: Judith Klinger
  • Total Time: 2 hours 45 mins
  • Yield: 1 loaf 1x


Finnish food gets a bad rap but there is plenty to love from the Scandinavian country, including this sweet, cardamom-scented breakfast loaf.


  • Dry yeast, 2 pkgs
  • 2 cups + 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 1 quart milk
  • 4 eggs (including 1 egg for the egg wash on top of the loaf)
  • 23 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 tbl salt
  • 1013 cups of all purpose flour


  1. Combine the 2 packages of yeast, with ½ cup warm water, 1 tsp sugar and let it stand until double in volume.
  2. Melt ½ pound of butter in 1 quart of milk (do not boil), let cool.
  3. Combine 3 beaten eggs, 2-3 tsp ground cardamom, 1½ tbl salt, 2 cups sugar and the yeast mixture in a large bowl.
  4. Add the flour until the mixture thickens, kneading as you go, until it is no longer is sticky.
  5. Cover with a cloth, and let rise in a warm spot until double in size (about 1 hour).
  6. Divide the dough into 4 or 5 parts. Divide each part into thirds, roll and braid.
  7. Place in greased bread pans. Let rise again for approximately one hour.
  8. Coat top with whipped whole egg. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. (375 degrees and 60 minutes at 8000 feet)
  9. Best enjoyed toasted and buttered!
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Category: Baking
View Comments (3)
  • I’ve been making Finn Biscuit for many years having learned from my great grandmother who was from Finland. I in turn have taught my daughters how to make it, however, I am still the only one in the family who makes it on a continuous basis. My grandma and great grandma made it at least once a week and they made what my grandpa called Kruples. The hard cooked biscuit in small pieces. My daughter said she found the recipe and I had to take a look. This is how I make mine, except instead of braids, I made loafs. They’re easier to fit in the toaster.
    Thank you again for keeping tradition alive!!

  • My mother, though born in the U.S., was 100% Finnish, and every Christmas and Easter my grandmother would make Finn Biscuit. I have carried on the tradition, but instead of using the loaf pans like she did, I just braid them and bake on a cookie sheet because I prefer having more surface area on the top. We sprinkle sugar on top of the egg wash to give it a little extra sweet touch.

    I really wonder why we call it “biscuit”. It has never made sense to me, but that’s just what it has always been called in our family.

    • In Finland, it’s called pulla, never a bisquit, so your instincts are right on. You might also Google korvapuusti (slap on the face), which uses the pulla dough. You then roll it into a sheet in a rectangle shape, spread butter or margarine in a thin layer, add sugar/cinnamon mixture on top, and then roll it from the longer side. Then cut wedges off the roll, flatten each wedge from the skinny top, brush with egg and add pearl sugar, and bake. It’s a bit difficult to explain but thanks to the internet, I’m sure there are videos to watch. So glad you are still baking this Finnish delight.

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