Sweden! Land of Vikings, ABBA, and delicious baked goods. Honestly, have you seen all their biscuits? What about the cakes? And the cinnamon buns? HAVE YOU SEEN THE CINNAMON BUNS? Recently, I promised to bake for my group at university, and I decided to try my hand at kanelbullar, the traditional Swedish cinnamon buns.
The Scandinavians take their coffee breaks very seriously – in Swedish, the word for sitting down and having a coffee together is fika. You know, this word always makes me giggle like a teenager, because it sounds like the German word ficken – you can Google that, or just use your imagination…!
In my first year of university, I was lucky enough to live with a beautiful little Swede called Malin, who introduced me to the idea that fika is not just “going for a coffee”, it includes some kind of sweet treat and most probably some fresh gossip. If you want to investigate further, the website Try Swedish has a nice little article. They also have lots of other fun information if you’re fascinated by all things Scandinavian.
As for this recipe, it comes from a book that I got in IKEA called, surprisingly enough, Fika. I love this book! I got it about a year ago and in Germany, so I’ve no idea if they still have it in store – but there are some copies available on Amazon. And honestly, there seem to be millions of Scandinavian cookery books floating around at the moment, and they all look pretty great. Do you have any yourself? Have you got any favourite recipes? I’d love to hear about them!
This book is beautiful and has wonderful pictures on the ingredients pages, like this one:
And talking of ingredients…
For the pastry:
2 42g cubes of fresh yeast (I couldn’t find this, so I used dried yeast following this conversion table)
1kg wheat flour
200g softened butter
2 fresh eggs (free range or organic, please)1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cardamom (I skipped this because I bought the pods and then found out you can’t grind cardamom by hand with a pestle and mortar… so unless you have a spice grinder, buy it ready-ground!)
For the filling:
100g softened butter
2.5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons water
1 fresh egg
1 pinch of salt
You can also decorate these with some chunky sugar crystals if you can find them
This recipe makes around forty (that’s right, forty) cinnamon buns, so make sure you’ve cleared plenty of space in the kitchen. It also takes a long time because the dough has to proof twice, so be warned.
First off, you need to warm up the milk and dissolve the yeast in it (in a big bowl, preferably). I did this in stages, warming half a cup of milk at a time (for a minute or so in the microwave). It took some stirring, tutting, and muttering under my breath before it would all dissolve, but keep faith, it will happen eventually.
Then sieve in the flour and mix them, trying not to bash the dough around too much. It will be quite dry still at this stage.
Now for the rest of the dough ingredients – put them all in! Now the dough needs kneading. The recipe says to use the dough hook on your mixer. I don’t have that, so I decided to knead by hand, which honestly I don’t really know how to do. The dough is really sticky, so you need a floured surface, and I just tried to squeeze and stretch and generally move it about. You are aiming for something “smooth”, which I think I managed after about 12 minutes or so. My hands were so so covered in dough. Don’t think there’s any way to avoid that.
Put the dough back into a bowl, chuck a tea towel over it, and leave it for thirty minutes to proof. It should double in size according to the book, although my dough definitely didn’t. Any master bakers know why that might be?
Anyway, lest you think you have time to relax, let’s get cracking on the filling. In a smaller bowl, rub all the ingredients together with your hands. They should combine pretty easily, and you may just want to eat it with a spoon. Resist!
Once the dough has proofed, reflour your surface, hands, and rolling pin, and take a deep breath. Give it a knead for good measure, then divide it into two. Roll each half out into a big rectangle. Try and get it reasonably thin and even, then spread out the cinnamon filling with a knife or the back of a spoon.
Roll it up! You’ll have two big rolls, and you need to cut them into slices. The recipe says 2-3 centimetres across, but this is what I did, and some of them ended up pretty huge – I’d go for 1-2cm. Please report back to me!
These should be looking a bit like cinnamon rolls now. Line a baking tray (or probably a few baking trays) with baking paper, and set out the rolls. Leave some space for them to spread. They should be swirl side up, if you see what I’m saying. Cover them with tea towels and leave them for another twenty minutes to half an hour.
Get the oven on at 250°C, and it should have warmed up by the time the cinnamon buns are ready. Again mine, er, didn’t. In fact, I don’t think they got any bigger at all? Anyone have any suggestions as to why that might be?
Beat the egg with the salt and water and brush it onto the buns before they go into the oven. They’ll take about seven minutes, so make sure you watch them like a hawk.