Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Swedish Cinnamon Buns

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of the Lenten season. For us Catholics, it is an opportunity for fasting, prayer, reflection, and reconciliation in order to strengthen our relationship with God. Everyone knows Lent is coming because McDonald's and all the other fast food places will suddenly be heavily adverting their various fried fish sandwiches because, on Fridays in Lent, us poor Catholics must abstain from meat. With a Filet-o-Fish in one hand and a Shamrock Shake in the other, we Catholics are ready for Lent!

I've been trying to talk about Lent with my kids with the hopes that we might just some small sacrifice to perform together as a family. In the past, we have typically done something food-related. We gave up cheese for a couple years but that actually proved to be extremely difficult and we almost always ended up making one to many exceptions. We also tried abstaining from meat for the entirety of Lent, but Paul almost had a nervous breakdown so we had to quit that. I decided to conduct a Lenten-themed interview with my two eldest children in order to devise an appropriate Lenten resolution for our family.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Do you know what Ash Wednesday is?

Emma: No.
Matthew: Ash Wednesday is supposed to be a day that we get ready for Jesus and pray a lot.

What also happens?

Matthew: No Alleluias and no glorias.

What do we get on our foreheads?

Matthew: Ashes.
Emma: I don't know.

What is Lent?

Emma: I don't know.
Matthew: It's supposed to be where we celebrate about Jesus died. And we celebrate that he does the body and blood on the Last Supper.

Typically during Lent, our family gives something up. Can you think of something that you can do without for 40 days?

Emma: Water or food.
Matthew: Or Sweets!

Two years ago, we gave up cheese for all of Lent.

Matthew: Why? Cheese is not a sweet.

Right, because we were giving up cheese not sweets. Do you want to give up cheese again?

Both: NO!

Why don't you want to give up cheese?

Emma: Because I like cheese too much.
Matthew: Because that's what God told us to do.
Emma: Mommy, can I have a slice of cheese?

Ok. So we're getting off track here. Do you guys want to give up TV? No TV for 40 days. 

Emma: No.
Matthew: How about sweets?
Emma: Yes. Sweets!

If we give up sweets, that means no candy, no desserts, no ice cream, no sugary breakfasts...

Matthew: And no cupcakes.
Matthew: I said NO cupcakes Emma because those are sweets!
Emma: I KNOW that Matthew.
Matthew: We gave it up.
Emma: I have a good idea, we should give up Cupcakes Mommy!

So, it appears that sugar will be off the table with the exception of Emma's birthday. That pretty much eliminates any and all baking for me, so I wanted to make one, last treat before placing a big ol' piece of packing tape around my sugar jars for the next 40 days. I have had this recipe for Swedish Cinnamon Buns pinned for a while mainly for two reasons:

Reason #1: I cannot resist any baked good that contains Cardamom
Reason #2: I wanted to learn how to shape these pretty buns! They are so gorgeous!

This recipe is made by making up a basic sweet dough. First, you scald the milk and simultaneously melt the butter. Mix your dry ingredients together (including some fresh-ground cardamom!), then slowly incorporate your cooled milk mixture and egg and knead until smooth, elastic, and just a bit tacky. Let rise one hour and make a cinnamon paste while you wait. Roll the dough out, spread with the cinnamon paste - which takes a bit of patience - and then fold in half and cut the dough into strips. Now, I watched a YouTube video because I am a very visual learner but I can assure you that the shaping is super easy. You take each cut strip and twist it a few times before snaking it around one end of it to form a little rosette. Tuck the ends under, seal them, and then place on your baking sheet. Quick, easy, and beautiful!

These babies tasted best slightly warm from the oven. They are airy and light in texture, reminiscent of a croissant and are not nearly as sweet as their more well known cousin, the cinnamon roll. The cardamom in the dough is just subtle enough that it adds a hint of mystery flavor, certainly making its presence known to the diner but not in such an aggressive way that its identity is readily determined. I would have probably preferred a little more cardamom, but I know that a lot of people are scared of it (including my husband) so the amount called for in the recipe is probably just perfect for most people. A bit of orange zest added to the dough would be a wonderful addition. One of these buns enjoyed in the morning sunshine with a hot mug of coffee was the perfect way to begin the last day before Lent. Goodbye, sweet baked confections. See you in 40 days.

Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar)
adapted from Treats

For the Dough:
1 cup whole milk
3 1/2 ounces (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 large egg
4 cups (500 grams) bread flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 packet (1/4 ounce or 7 grams) instant yeast

For the Filling:
3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (60 grams) unsalted butter, soft

For the Egg Glaze:
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons coarse sugar

Place the milk and butter into a saucepan over low heat and cook until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to around 115 degrees (have patience!) and then mix in the egg.

Place the flour, cardamom, sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer attached with the dough hook and mix together.  Add the instant yeast and mix thoroughly.  With the mixer running slowsly, add the liquid mixture and then increase the speed to medium and mix to form a rough dough. The dough will appear sticky at first, but keep kneading it with the mixer and it will eventually come together and form a smooth, tacky but not sticky dough. It will take a good 7-10 minutes. When the dough feels smooth, elastic, and air when pressed, it is done kneading.

Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place somewhere warm and allow to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Line two baking trays with parchment paper and set aside. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, flatten into a rough rectangle and then roll out until approximately 10" x 14" in dimension.  For the filling, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and butter together to form a smooth paste. Using a spatula or spoon spread the filling evenly across the dough. I found a small spatula to work the best. Be patient and careful not to tear the dough!

Fold the dough in half lengthwise and cut in half crosswise. Cut each half into nine strips. Working with one strip at a time, twist the entire strip a few times to give it a bit of a spiral appearance. Then, with your left hand holding one end, use your other hand to gently snake the strand around the left end, forming a rosette shape. Tuck the ends other and pinch to seal. Transfer to the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough. If my words are not making any sense, watch this YouTube video. It's very helpful.

Roll the dough along the long edge into a sausage. Using a serrated knife or dental floss cut into twelve rounds. Place onto the prepared baking trays and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow to rise until almost doubled, about 45-60 minutes.

Whilst proving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When ready to bake brush the buns with a little beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar, then bake in the preheated oven for about 20-22 minutes or until golden brown. Best served warm.


  1. 1) Those look delicious.
    2) I told Luke we were going to Mass tomorrow to get ashes. He asked "Then we do ring around the rosey?" Ashes, ashes, we all fall down...I guess it makes sense!

  2. In Sweden, we eat Selma on Fat Tuesday selma is kind of like a cream puff but so much better. The cinnamon roll holiday doesn't come until May I think.