If you would ask me about three things that are omnipresent in Sweden, I would say: trees, IKEA “Färgrik” mugs and kanelbullar.
These famous swedish cinnamon buns – full of spice and not too sweet – can be found in each and every bakery and café … and each of them serves them in a slightly different way: Different sizes, different ways of twisting, rolling or knotting, different toppings (shaved almonds, pearl sugar…).
Indeed, the kanelbulle is so important for Swedish culture that since 1999 a whole day (4th of October) – Kanelbullens Dag – is devoted to this pastry! Why?!
Kanelbullar are the quintessence of Swedish fika.
Fika could be easily translated as coffee break … but this does not yet explain the importance of fika in Swedish culture. Fika is a philosophy, an institution. Companies have fika breaks in the afternoon and sometimes in the morning as well (Förmiddagsfika). And it is not unlikely that you don’t meet with friends for a beer on saturday night, but for a mug of coffee and a bulle around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. No wonder that Swedes are amongst the leaders of worldwide coffee consumption – together with all their other scandinavian relatives. They drink f.ex. twice as much coffee as US Americans!
If you order coffee in a café, you usually get handed over a mug and are directed to a side board where you can help yourself with coffee kept warm on a hot plate, refill included.
To be honest, I didn’t became especially fond of swedish coffee … but the more of its sweet companions! And it was only after a few days when I recognized those other buns sprinkled with black dots that often lay next to the cinnamon buns. “Kardemumma” I read .. this was quite obvious. I was a bit sceptic judging the amount of black dots. I sank my teeth into one of the freckled buns … and I loved it!
Back home I headed towards my favourite swedish food blog, Johannas kokblog, a food blog that perfectly works without photographs. Instead the recipes are beautifully illustrated by Johanna. Here I found (of course) a recipe for swedish kanelbullar and kardemummabullar. And I deeply recommend to turn to these illustrations when it comes to fold, roll and twist the dough – so much more comprehensive than words! … Still the shaping of my buns needs some more exercise …
Don’t be afraid of the amount of cardamom in the recipe. I was – as I was when I bit into my first kardemummabulle in Sweden – but it turned out to be just the right amount! There’s only one precondition for a joyful fika with homemade kardemummabullar – you have to be into cardamom!
dough: 250 ml milk, 1 envelope dry active yeast, 60 g brown sugar, 420 g flour, 1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds, ¼ teaspoon salt, 70 g butter (room temperature)
filling: 60 g butter (room temperature), 30 g brown sugar, 1½ teaspoons whole cardamom seeds (+ optional: ½ teaspoon cinnamon)
topping: 25 g brown sugar, 25 g water + 1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
dough: Heat milk until it is lukewarm. Add yeast to the milk and stir until yeast has dissolved. Crush the cardamom seeds with mortar and pestle. (You can do this seperately for dough, filling and topping, or all at once. You get a finer result if you pestle the cardamom with some sugar.) Mix together flour, sugar, cardamom and salt. Add milk-yeast-mixture to it. Add in the butter in small cubes. Knead well for about 5-10 minutes. Cover dough and and let it rise at a warm place for at least 40 minutes.
filling: Mix all ingredients for the filling to an even cream.
forming: Roll out dough into a big retangle. Spread filling onto the whole dough so that it covers the entire area. Mark three equal shaped parts with the back of a knife. Fold left side to the middle, than right side. Slice the new retangle into 15-20 equal sized slices. Cut each of them lengthwise again, but not up to the top. Twist each strand a few times outwards, and roll them into a bun (So difficult to explain! You have to watch the illustrations of Johanna.). Repeat with all slices. Place buns on a baking sheet, cover wit a kitchen towel and let them rise for about 30 minutes. Bake them in the oven at 225°C for 8-10 minutes.
topping: Heat water and sugar until sugar has dissolved. Put syrup aside. Crush and mix cardamom and sugar with mortar and pestle. Brush baked buns with syrup and sprinkle with cardamom sugar.