The Swedish cinnamon bun is a less-sweet explosion of doughy goodness in one’s mouth than its American neighbor. That’s where the salted caramel steps in.
Picture this: 2 p.m. sunlight pulsing through the window blinds, laying stripes along the walls and upon the wooden surfaces of desk and dining table. The birds chirp their midday lullabies in pine and shrub, the melodies interweaving with the pianos and violins coasting from a Classical Pandora station. Peace is glazed on the ground, in the air, through wind and grassblade, shimmering delicately like butterflies over a garden of roses. A sole figure bends over a picnic table in search of some answer or another within a packet of paper.
She looks up to see a figure dancing in the window, black pan in a mitted hand, a web of smoke stretching its fingers from inside to out. Profanity sizzles simultaneously with the white blanket. Then the figure recedes with a clang of metal upon metal, the pan is set on the sill, and quiet regains its throne.
Sometimes, I believe there’s little fun in cooking unless a few things go slightly wrong. The anecdote above illustrates what occurs when you pair a 480 degree oven with coconut oil, which I used to prevent my rolls from sticking: smoke, swear words, and flailing panic. This morning when I visited the grocery store, I picked up and put down a package of baking paper at least three times before deciding “Eh, I have oil and butter, why spend more money?” Next time: spend more money, or else I might be punched with a $500 fine from the housing office – if the smoke alarm goes off, the fire brigade is automatically contacted, and I must pay as a result.
Lucky for me, the smoke scattered out the window when I threw it open, and disaster was avoided.
The second oddity of this recipe is quite a bit less dramatic. I was under the impression that my dough would yield 12-20 buns. How many resulted? Six. Half a dozen. I actually blame this on the twisting method I utilized, which is a bit fancier and less traditional than your every day cinnamon bun dough-roll. If I was to perform the typical roll-then-cut ritual, the number of buns would increase. One can also double the recipe, if the larger knots appeal more.
Now, to the buns themselves: the Swedish version of the cinnamon bun is bready and dense in its cinnamon flavoring. If one ventures into a Swedish cafe, the buns are on display in cute wicker baskets, beckoning to customers with their crispy dark-brown crusts and dainty pearl sugars standing guard atop. Peel a bun open and it exposes its buttery spread, leafed with cinnamon and just a hint of sweetness, in each new soft layer.
These buns were surprisingly easy to replicate. I modified a recipe found on my flour package from ICA, adding more spice and bathing the yeast in warm rice milk prior to combining it with the other necessary ingredients. In fact, I accidentally made the batch vegan – goes to show how incredibly easy they are to play with in order to fit any dietary variations.
The biggest deviation from the general cinnamon bun formula, however, was the filling.
Salted Caramel Walnut. Say that again, and try not to drool.
The hearty caramel spread adds an unexpected plot twist to the story arc of the buns. One must be watchful when boiling sugar to prevent burning it, and many taste-tests must be performed to ensure that the salt is bold enough to be detected. Finely-chopped walnuts contribute just a hint of crunch, turning this simple bun into a symphony of texture and taste.
A warm bun paired with a cup of coffee or black tea makes for a perfect imitation of Swedish fika. Just be sure to save a few buns for another day.
A little aside: I am headed to The Netherlands tomorrow for a trip, and thus will not be posting until I return. Expect a plethora of tulip photos, as I am visiting Keukenhof on one of the days. In the meantime, let me know:
- Have you ever nearly, or entirely, caused a fire in your house from cooking something? Tell me the story!
Swedish Kanelsnurrer with Salted Caramel-Walnut Filling
INGREDIENTS – DOUGH
75 grams butter or margarine, softened (about 5 T)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 packet of active dry yeast (about 25 grams)
2 T cinnamon
3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
SALTED CARAMEL-WALNUT FILLING:
1.5 cups white sugar
2 T butter or margarine
1 cup non-dairy milk or cream
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
ASSEMBLY: Mix butter, sugar, and salt in a large bowl, either by hand or with a mixer. Place milk in a microwavable bowl and heat for 20 seconds, or until lukewarm; touch with your finger to ensure that it is not too hot. Pour yeast into milk and stir with a spoon; let sit for 5 minutes or until the surface is foamy and bubbly (if this does not occur, your yeast is dead and you must repeat this step). Add milk and yeast to butter and mix. Slowly add flour and blend with a dough hook or your hands until the dough is smooth and elastic, and recedes from the sides of the bowl. Brush or spray the same or a different bowl with butter and place dough inside. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place (I put it by my window) until doubled in size, or about an hour – depending on your yeast, it may take longer; keep checking and be patient.
In the meantime, prepare the caramel. Add sugar, butter, and milk into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent sugar from clumping or sticking to the pan. When the caramel turns a deep brown shade, remove from heat. Stir in salt; taste and adjust to desired saltiness. Set aside.
Once the dough has doubled, punch it down to release the air and transfer onto a well-floured surface. Spread dough into a rectangular shape, about 1/2 inch in thickness. Smear salted caramel over top, covering thoroughly; sprinkle chopped walnuts to finish. It is VERY important that the walnuts are chopped finely. Here you can choose how to shape the buns, but I will direct you to this YouTube video for a visual aid on how I did it. This method resulted in six large buns for me.
Preheat oven to 480 degrees (250 Celcius). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place buns about 2 inches apart. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for 30-40 minutes, or until about-double in size. Remove towel and brush with an egg wash (1 egg, thoroughly whisked) or a banana wash (1/4 mashed banana mixed with 3 T water) – such will make the buns crispy and browned on top. If desired, garnish with pearl sugar. Bake for 6-8 minutes, keeping close watch on the buns to prevent burning. Remove carefully and cool on tray for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. If you did not already use pearl sugar, add some regular white sugar or confectioner’s sugar as the buns cool.
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