Bake Cinnamon Buns Like A Swede

By Melissa McEwen in Food on Dec 23, 2014 4:30PM

If you think Swedish cinnamon buns are the icing-covered monstrosities at Ann Sather’s, you’re sadly missing out. Sweden’s cinnamon buns, known as kanelbullar, are far more delicious in more complex and subtle ways completely missing from American imitations. The main differences are:

Cardamom- Yes, they are cinnamon buns, but most Swedish recipes call for an absurd amount of fragrant cardamom as well.
Less sugar- much of flavor in the kanelbullar comes from great butter and high-quality spices, so less sugar is needed
No icing- Too much sugar also drowns out the butter and spice flavors and in American buns this often comes from icing. Swedes opt for little crystals of what’s known as pearl sugar instead, which looks suspiciously like pretzel salt.

2014_12_cinnamon2.png I’m not totally knocking the American buns, which are good in their own way if done right, but the Swedish kanelbullar are delicious on a whole different level.

The pearl sugar and cardamom can present an obstacle, as cardamom is often sold in pods here and pearl sugar simply doesn’t exist in most American grocery stores. I suggest heading to your local spice shop and pick up either high quality ground cardamom or the seeds to grind at home. I get mine at Epic Spices. It goes without saying that good-quality cinnamon will make a difference as well. The pearl sugar can be acquired online or at the Swedish-American Museum. The Lars' Own one also has a simple recipe with cup measurements and only two rises if this one is too complicated for you.

Swedish recipes also usually use fresh yeast, which is hard to find in the US, so I’ve provided both measurements.

The other obstacle is that Swedish recipes often use grams rather than volume measurements. If you haven’t baked by grams, now is a good time to start. It is actually so much easier and you can pick up a decent baking scale for $10 these days. Imagine- you don’t have to worry about washing out your cup measurement between ingredients or dealing with little spoons. Just dump stuff in, reset the scale, and dump more stuff in. It’s so easy you’ll wonder why you didn’t convert before.

Plus it gives you the ability to scale the recipe to your needs. For example when I made this recipe last, I bought fresh ground flour at Baker Miller that was an awkward amount- 460 grams, which is roughly 3 and a half cups. If you are using whole wheat flour like this, you’ll get nicer looking buns if you just use this type of flour for the first rising and use regular flour for the second, but I used all whole wheat and I thought they were great.

Grams allowed me to create multiplication factors for every ingredient based on my limiting ingredient. I’ve provided them here in parentheses if you want to use this method. Just multiply them by the grams of flour you want to use. For example for the first rising the amount of milk for 450 grams of flour you use is 460 * .25 which equals 115 grams.

This recipe is translated and localized from Andreas Ivarsson’s Perfect Cinnamon Buns

Pre-Dough
125 grams of water (.25)
125 grams of milk (.25)
20 grams of fresh yeast (.04) or 10 grams of dry yeast (.02)
250 grams of flour (.5)

If using dry yeast, heat up the water and milk until it’s lukewarm and dissolve the yeast in it.

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and place in a warm spot to rise for an hour. I suggest turning on your oven to low and placing the dough along with the butter for the filling, on top to warm.

Main Dough
250 grams flour (.5)
4 grams of salt (.008)
7 grams of ground cardamom (.014)
100 grams butter (.2)
100 grams of sugar (.2)

Mix these ingredients into the pre-dough, then knead for at least ten minutes. Cover with tea towel and let rise for another hour.

Filling
100g softened butter (.2)
100g superfine sugar (.2)
10 grams of cinnamon (.02)
5 grams of cardamom (.01)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Divide the dough in two. Then roll out each half into squares (make sure to use extra flour to prevent it from sticking). Spread the filling on one half of each square and fold over. Then cut into 1 inch strips and either roll or twist to make the bun shapes you like. Leave to rise for an additional hour.

Preheat oven to 470 F. When the oven is hot place the buns in for 10-15 minutes until the buns become a warm golden brown. Check the bottoms for done-ness—they should also be a warm golden brown.

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Kanelbullar made with Baker Miller Flour (Photo by Melissa McEwen)