My ancestors are Scandinavian with a huge percent coming from Norway, then Sweden. I grew up eating recipes passed down from my great-grandmother Birgit Pearson such as meatballs, every meat and potato dish known to humankind, pea soup, pancakes, waffles, kringle, and almond cookies.
We ate a lot of cinnamon rolls when my mom got her bread machine (remember how cool it was to have one of those in the early 90's) and the recipe evolved from a traditional kanelbullar to American style cinnamon rolls. At the age of 25, my mom made kanelbullar, pop tarts, Swedish meatballs and more for my going away party. The recipes tasted just like I remember them as a kid. Curious where I was headed? Neil and I were moving to Stockholm, Sweden for a work opportunity.
While in Stockholm, I learned so much about the Scandinavian culture and even more about the food. My favorite sweets were prinsesstårta (princess cake made with marzipan), semla (Swedish cream bun) and kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls). While on COVID lock down, I decided to give it a shot at kanelbullar to see how well I could bake this delicate dessert. The style of kanelbullar I chose is the traditional knot, instead of the popular spiral. Another way to make it is to braid it into a twist.
Before you begin baking, you MUST have ground cardamom to make this complete. There is no substitute for it. Since the price can be a bit high ($7+), I recommend purchasing it from a local spice shop. Let's get baking!
1 cup whole milk, warmed
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
Combine the milk and yeast. Let stand until it's starts to foam, approximately 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, butter, white sugar, egg, cardamom, vanilla and salt. Using a dough hook, mix all the dough ingredients together. Knead the down on low-medium speed. The dough will become smooth and tacky/elastic, but should not be sticky.
*If it is sticky, add more flour as needed.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it back into the bowl. Set aside in a room temperature place, with a tea towel over the top for 2 hours. The dough will double in size.
Turn on the oven to Bake at 350 degrees. Make the filling by combining the butter, dark brown sugar, cinnamon and egg in a small bowl. *if the butter is not soft enough it will leave small clumps. It will melt in the baking process or you can warm the mixture.
Remove the dough from the bowl and cut it in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half into a 9x12 rectangle. Spread the filling over the rolled out dough. Then fold each dough into thirds, as if you were folding a letter, and roll it out into a rectangle about 8x14. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1-1.5" strips.
* The larger the strips, the larger the kanelbullar
Twist each strip like a coil (video here). Then wrap the twisted dough around 2 or 3 fingers (like wrapping an electrical cord). When it is getting to the end of the twisted dough, wrap it over the top and tuck the tail underneath (video here).
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place each rolled bun the sheet. then finish the top of the bun off by:
1. brush with a dash of olive oil/melted butter and sprinkle with pearl sugar or sliced almonds.
2. add extra filling to the top of the bun. When it comes out of the over, sprinkle it with powdered sugar.
Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes, until golden. This recipe makes about 1 dozen large kanelbullar.