Kanelbullar are beautiful, soft buns with a hint of cardamom and a delicate buttery cinnamon filling.
I haven’t tried many Swedish buns in my life, but the few I have tried left a strong enough impression on my taste buds to make me want to bake them at home from scratch. I finally got the chance to make them today, and the only thing I regret is not tripling the recipe because it turned out so amazing that I could barely save one before they all disappeared from the bowl.
There are 2 things that are characteristic for Swedish buns. The first is their uniquely beautiful shape, and the second is the use of cardamom in the dough and sometimes the filling, too. It’s a delicious spicy addition and its taste isn’t overwhelming. However, if you don’t like cardamom, you can use less of it—about ½ teaspoon will still give you a bit of spice—or omit it altogether.
The buns have a subtle butter-sugar-cinnamon flavor, making them a great light breakfast, unlike American cinnamon rolls that tend to be heavy on the icing (not that that’s a bad thing). Make sure to bring your butter to room temperature before making the filling so that it’s soft enough to mix and spread on the dough.
There seem to be several ways to shape the buns, but I followed this extremely helpful visual guide which creates some of the most beautiful buns ever. If it seems confusing, they suggest twisting the strips and shaping them into a snail-shell shape.
- 3 cups (400 g/14 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (50 g/1.7 oz) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 g/0.25 oz) instant yeast
- 1 cup (240 ml) lukewarm milk
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick/56 g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup (2/3 stick/75 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (65 g) light brown/granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 beaten egg , for egg wash
- Pearl sugar , chopped almonds, or granulated sugar, to sprinkle on top, optional
- Place flour, sugar, cardamom, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and mix until combined. Attach dough hook to the mixer. Add milk and melted butter to the flour mixture and mix on low speed until dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. Add salt and continue mixing for another 8 minutes on low-medium speed until dough is soft and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Place dough in a large bowl brushed with oil, and toss to coat (the fat will keep the dough from drying out). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place or on the counter for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size. Keep in mind that rising will be slower in cold weather.
- To make the filling: In a small bowl, combine soft butter, sugar, and cinnamon until you have a smooth paste.
- Shaping the dough (I followed this visual guide): On a lightly floured surface or non-stick silicone baking mat, roll dough out into 35x35cm (14x14-inch) square. Spread butter-sugar mixture onto entire surface, making a very thin layer. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, then roll again into a rough 35x20cm (14x8-inch) rectangle.
- Facing the long edge, cut dough into roughly 2cm wide and 20cm long strips. Twist each strip several times, slightly stretching it as you do so. Grab one end of the twisted strip and coil the dough around your hand twice, then over the top. Coil dough again and tuck the loose end in at the bottom.
- Arrange buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (if they’re too crowded, use 2 pans), keeping as much space between them as possible. Cover and let rest for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, set the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350F/180C.
- Brush buns with an egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Allow buns to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Buns are best the same day they are made, but can be frozen for up to 2 months and reheated in the oven before serving.