Sticky Swedish Cinnamon Buns, ‘Kanelbullar’

Cupcake bunsI love Sweden. My one little adventure there left me with a heap of extremely fond memories. Notably I think the Swedes are a pretty groovy bunch, the country is stunning and the food, well I can’t possibly do justice to that huge topic, let’s just say, there is a lot more than pickled herring and reindeer meatballs. Curiously when I was in Stockholm I did not eat anything particularly sweet however these sticky buns are allegedly a staple to this corner of Scandinavia, and a jolly good one at that. Light as light, spiced cardamom wholemeal dough with a cinnamon, sugar and butter paste swirled into the buns they are a more delicate and different version of our own ‘Hot Cross Buns’. Naturally it helps if you are blessed with a sweet tooth, no way Mr.P is going to nibble at these morsels, but the ‘little people’ adore them, and have completely lucked out as the original recipe I was sent makes a very healthy  quantity, or unhealthy if you happen to be watching your weight! Which brings me back to how they came onto my radar in the first place, as lets face it, it was not in Sweden I discovered them. Enter my ‘Swedish’ friend, drum roll please…….

My gorgeous and pretty Swedish friend (aren’t they all) rocked up for tea about a month ago with her mother, ‘Inge’. ‘Inge’, (the destroyer of my waistline) happily handed over these sticky delights mumbling sweet nothings as I tucked in and rather embarrassingly ate the large majority. Since then I have been pestering said daughter, who subsequently  has been pestering her mother, for a translation of the recipe from the 1960’s bible of Swedish cooking, ‘Fodan Hennet Ekonomin’. A translation arrived and I have to admit I rather baulked at the recipe, muttering ‘you cannot be serious’ to the quantities and indeed the method of how to make them. So deep was my distrust that something had been fundamentally lost in translation that I scoured the internet for alternative versions. ‘Waste of time’, rang through my ears,  as all  the recipes seem to vary hugely, hence I was left at humble pies door resorting back to my trusted friends 1962 recipe for ‘Kanelbullar’. Of course, it works. Slightly unbelievably, it really works, shame on me for doubting! It does make a lot of buns and I ended up making a loaf of bread as well, but the recipe is a winner. Also, no one here complained, lots of buns for tea  and a delicious loaf of bread, with just the faintest hint of cardamom,  making very good toast for breakfast!

Buns (Kanelbullar)

50g fresh yeast. If not available use dried . Easy Bake sachets  2x7g are fine.

500ml milk

100-125g butter

900g  (Approx) strong wheat flour

150ml sugar (I used half Demerara and half white caster)

1 small egg

1 ½ teaspoon freshly ground black cardamom pods


2-3 tablespoons soft butter mixed in with

50ml sugar

1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or whatever you fancy; raising, sultanas, nuts marzipan…)

If you use fresh yeast: crumble it into a large mixing bowl. Add the finger warm (37C) liquid: the melted butter, milk, sugar, cardamom and egg. Stir until all is dissolved – do not let it get cold. Put it in a warmish place if distracted.

If you use dried yeast: make the liquid as above. Add the dried yeast to about 300g of the flour and mix it well.

Start adding the flour to the liquid stirring by hand or machine. 500g is OK to start with.

Stir until the dough is still a little sticky adding 100g at a time.  Give it another good stir until it is ‘shiny’. You will see it.  (she is totally right – it goes really quite shiny) Rather let it be slightly sticky at this stage.

Sprinkle some flour on the top and cover ( easier if it rises too much and sticks to the roof of something). Leave in the bowl  in a warm place. Warm is not hot. Room temperature takes a long time. 30-37C oven is fine. Leave until it has doubled in size, around 1 hour.

Turn out on a floured surface and knead ‘like mad’. Keep turning the dough.  Add some more flour if too sticky. Do not add too much or the buns will be stodgy. You will probably not use 900g. (actually I did almost use this amount)

Split the dough in half. Roll out one half until quite thin, not see through (I would suggest about 2 -3 mm thick). Spread half the filling evenly and roll into a swiss roll. Cut 2-3 cm slices and put into baking cases. Baking cases can be on a flat baking sheet or in muffin tray, or into a round cake tin or just on baking parchment on a tray.  Place in warm place until double in size. You should have made about 25-30 buns. Any extra dough make into bread without the cinnamon paste.

One they have doubled in size. Gently brush an egg/ milk mix on top. Sprinkle with sugar ‘crumbs’ if you have. Bake in a hot oven 250C 5-7 min.

Traditionally, I am told, confectioners sugar, or pearl sugar, should be used to decorate. I have raided a few supermarkets and Jane Asher and had no luck, I think it is a continental thing and really quite hard to get your hands on over here. 

Swirls and twirls

About lardersaga

Joanna Preston is mother of the 'little people', 1 pink and 1 blue, and wife to saintly Mr.Patience! After a decade dedicated to cooking for others (Alps, Africa and founding 'Sugar & Spice') my attention is now solely in the home kitchen. We are a food obsessed family that adore growing, sourcing and cooking delectable feasts for friends and family!
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