So, I traveled to Sweden recently, Stockholm to be exact. I've got Swedish heritage, so I was excited to see where my family came from, but my trip took place in the middle of winter and I was nervous about the cold weather, short days, and long nights. Sweden exceeded my expectations - I loved every minute. Stockholm is easily one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited – stunning in both light and darkness with gorgeous architecture and history dating back to the 1200s.
Like so many of us, I travel because I like new food discoveries, and, in Stockholm I discovered my love for kanelbullar, aka Swedish Cinnamon Buns. Before my trip, the only time I had tasted kanelbullar was at Ikea, exhausted and starving after braving hours of shopping. Unsurprisingly, the kanelbullar I had in Stockholm were infinitely better than the Ikea version. You should know that kanelbullar are more cousin than sibling to American cinnamon rolls. They're not as gooey or rich and never have icing; kanelbullar are made with loads of earthy cardamom, warming cinnamon, and flecked with pearl sugar or sliced almonds.
While in Stockholm, I am pretty sure I had one every time I saw one. I mean, I did not hold back. The kanelbullar were the perfect excuse to escape the cold and partake in the Swedish tradition of fika or the Swedish coffee break. Kanelbullar are such a part of Swedish culture that it's estimated they eat nearly 320 annually so I think it's safe to say it's in my genes to need kanelbullar. Some of my favorites were the ones I had at the amazing Saluhall food hall in central Stockholm's Ostermalm district and I had to recreate them when I returned home. These take a bit of time and patience but they're worth every minute!
plus a pinch for the yeast
plus 1 egg yolk
plus more for rolling the dough
or pearl sugar, for garnish
Heat milk to 110° to 115°F degrees then combine with the yeast, and a pinch of granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, the egg and egg yolk, 2 teaspoons of the vanilla, 2 teaspoons of the cardamom, and 2 teaspoons of the salt then whisk until eggs are broken up and well combined.
Slowly add 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour to the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead until a soft silky dough forms (Only add as much flour as you need. The dough should be tacky, silky, and a slack enough that it slightly falls on itself when you set it down. If the dough is sticking to you hands after 3 1/2 cups, add remaining 1 cup flour in 2 tablespoons intervals until you have the desired consistency.) Mix in 4 tablespoons of the room temperature butter a few pieces at a time until well incorporated. Shape dough into ball tucking the ends under so the top surface is smooth.
Lightly spray a clean bowl with nonstick spray and roll dough ball in oil. Cover with plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel, set in a warm place and allow to rise until doubled; about 45 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. When ready to form the cinnamon rolls, prepare the filling by combining the remaining 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter, 1/4 cup of the light brown sugar, 3 teaspoons of the ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of the ground cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla bean paste, and a pinch of salt. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
If you let the dough rise in the refrigerator, allow the dough to sit out a room temperature for about 1 hour before continuing with the below steps.
Heat oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. On a lightly floured surface use a rolling pin, to roll the dough a 12-inch-by-18-inch rectangle. Spread the butter-sugar mixture over rectangle all the way to the edge. Along the 18-inch side, mark the dough every 6 inches then use those marks as a guide to gently fold the dough in thirds onto itself so it’s like a closed business letter. Turn the dough so the seam is in front of the you and the open ends are to your right and left.
There are two ways you can roll these cinnamon rolls, the traditional way of rolling the dough into a log and slicing then baking or by cutting long strips of dough, twirling the dough around your fingers and creating a knot like roll, which we do here.
Trim the edge of the dough slightly so the rectangle is even then using a very sharp knife or pastry wheel, slice the dough lengthwise into 2 centimeter long strips (you should have about 16 to 18). To form a knotted roll, loop the two times rope over your first two fingers then fold it under to tie it into a knot (check out Fix Feast Flair for pictures as to how to tie the rolls). Let dough rise 30 minutes at room temperature.
While the buns are rising, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of light brown sugar with 1/4 cup water, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom (or 3 crushed cardamom pods), remaining 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (or a 3-inch cinnamon stick), and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or a vanilla bean split lengthwise). Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve then sugar then remove from heat.
When the rolls are ready to bake, brush tops of each with the spiced simple syrup then sprinkle with pearl sugar or sliced almonds. Bake cinnamon rolls in the oven about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and almonds are toasted. Remove from oven, and brush again with the simple syrup; cool slightly before serving.