IKEA has no doubt opened minds and wallets of millions of nesting Americans. I’m totally cool with that. What I do have a problem with, however, is that because of IKEA’s populistic prominence, Swedish meatballs and cinnamon rolls have now become completely – and I mean COMPLETELY – misrepresented. I will leave those weird, non-descript little meaty things for another post, and deal with the cinnamon rolls first. Truthfully, I’d be hardpressed to tell the difference between the IKEA rolls and the slippery sweet, over-inflated sticky buns sold by mall-shops type Cinnabon. I wouldn’t even be all that surprised if they shared the same distributor… But don’t despair – you too can have one… or two… or three………
A real, Swedish ‘bulle’ as it is called, is a thing of beauty. Unlike the Cinnabon type bun it is not filled with air, but offers a nice, chewy resistance as you bite into it. The pearl sugar on top adds a bit of sweet, crunchy texture, but overall they are not too sweet. The most prominent thing you will notice upon your first bite, is the flavor. Sure, there is usually cinnamon in there, but you will recognize that other intensely aromatic spice as cardamom. This, in my humble opinion, is what will propel you into another dimension. Whomever first thought of that was a culinary genius!
Making these rolls takes a little time, but is really not that difficult. You need to let the dough rise twice – this is what takes the most time. In the books, they tell you to let it rise until it has doubled in size. This is important, as it is the rising of the dough that is going to give you that nice, moist, chewy texture. I usually make the dough the night before and let it rest overnight. That way, I don’t have to build my day around it. The basic recipe I’m using here is from the book “Sju sorters kakor” by ICA bokförlag – a book most Swedes seem to have in their posession. The dough typically doesn’t vary much, but you can be as creative as you want with the filling. The standard fillling is butter, sugar and cinnamon, but I like to add almond paste to that as well. I whip it into the butter for an easily spreadable paste, and then dust it with sugar and cinnamon. For variety, I have used lemon curd, apple sauce, and vanilla cream. I’m sure you can come up with other nice alternatives, depending on mood. The experimentation is the best part. Although I’m sure someone out there must have thought about it before me, the part about adding almond paste once when the opportunity presented itself turned out to become the new standard in our family. So far, it has been pretty hard to beat!
150 grams butter (about 1.5 stick)
2 cups of milk (5 dl)
2 packets of dry yeast (50 grams fresh)
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup sugar (1 – 1.5 deciliter)
1.5 t cardamom seeds – or 2 t ground cardamom
a little more than 5 cups of flour (aprox 1.3 liters)
Filling: your choice, but usually room-tempered, easily spreadable butter, sugar and cinnamon.
Eggwash made from one egg, for brushing onto the buns.
Pearl sugar, and/or chopped nuts to decorate with.
How to do it:
Melt the butter, and add the milk. Heat until lukewarm, but make sure it doesn’t get beyond your body temperature. If it does, you will kill the yeast, and the dough won’t rise. I usually use the dry yeast, as it is much easier to find here in the US. The dry yeast is also a bit more forgiving, but even so, be careful not to let it get too warm. To be on the safe side, I often just melt the butter and add the milk with no additional heating. It works just as well, in my experience.
Add salt, sugar, and cardamom. Add the dry yeast to about 2/3 of the flour and mix. Pour the flour and yeast mix into the liquid and work the dough so that it is smooth and elastic. Add additional flour, but save about half a cup for baking. The dough is finished when it no longer sticks to the walls of the bowl. Powder a little flour over the dough, cover with a moist kitchen towel, and let sit in a draught-free place until it has about doubled in size.
Work the dough for a couple of minutes in the bowl, and then pour it out on a floured surface. Knead in the rest of the flour. Consider it done when it no longer sticks to either the surface or your hands. To test it, you can make a cut in it with a knife. The dough should have a nice, even porosity. If the pores look like large bubbles, you will need to knead it a little longer. When it’s done, divide the dough in half. Roll half of it it out at the time, or it gets hard to manage.
Whip the egg and use a brush to coat the rolls with it. If you have pearl sugar (this, you can usually find at IKEA) sprinkle some on top. You can also sprinkle some chopped nuts on it. Bake on the middle rack for 8 – 10 minutes at 250˚C/475˚F in a regular oven (or at 225˚C/425˚F with convection). My kids love them warm out of the oven, served with a glass of milk! I guess that will officially make me a “bull-mamma”, which is a somewhat derogatory Swedish term for someone who clearly does not have the best interest of her kids at heart in that she feeds them too much sugary baked goods. But, quite frankly, I don’t care. Since I only bake them a couple of times a year, I think that my occasional excesses are probably okay. And, as opposed to those frosted, fluffed up monstrosities from IKEA and Cinnabon, at least here I know what I’m serving. Enjoy!