Surdeg Kardemummabullar // Sourdough Cardamom Buns with Pear and Hazelnut
Cardamom buns (called kardemummabullar in Swedish) are perhaps my favorite fika item, and since writing Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break it’s a recipe that I experiment a lot with to make new renditions. In honor of the official Swedish Cinnamon Bun Day (celebrated every year on October 4th) this is one of those renditions
I am constantly on the quest to find ways to naturally sweeten recipes (like replacing conventional sugar with honey, or using fruit) and always swapping out all-purpose flour for healthier whole grains. It’s no surprise that sourdough has become a staple in our kitchen at home. Given my love for fermentation, baking with sourdough was a natural step, as it comes with a host of health benefits, one of the main ones being that a long fermentation process helps to break down grains and make them easier to digest.
Which all means that I have been playing around with making sourdough cardamom buns.
I will preface all of this by saying that it’s a little nerve-racking to publish a sourdough recipe. I have been experimenting with sourdough for the last two years, and if those two years have taught me anything it’s that baking with a sourdough starter has as much to do with feeling as it does with following directions. Sometimes you need to add a little more flour and sometimes your dough can feel a little dry. Sourdough is temperamental, and the more you bake the better you get at sensing these things.
If you are interested in sourdough, I highly recommend Sourdough Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads Sweets Savories & More by Sarah Owens. Owens is an amazing writer, and not only is her book a pleasure to read, she is also takes a precise and scientific approach to sourdough that helps you to better understand it and to bake with it. All to say – I am sure that Sarah might laugh at my lackadaisical approach to sourdough in this recipe, but it works in my kitchen.
I have pulled various methods from a variety of sourdough recipes for Swedish cinnamon buns (these two from Sébastian Boudet and Karoline Jönsson are worth a look if you’re up for reading Swedish), as well as a recipe for cinnamon rolls baked in a cast iron that I like. It should be noted that I use a rye sourdough starter to bake these, so your recipe may react differently depending on your sourdough starter. Baking with sourdough is a fun and rewarding process, and it’s one that I think that everyone should try. You just need to trust in the process and your own baking intuition.
The easiest is to prep the dough and form the buns in the evening, that way you can let them rise overnight and bake them first thing in the morning.
If you’re not using sourdough…
You can make this recipe with yeast instead of sourdough. Follow this recipe, or the following directions:
Switch out the sourdough for 2 teaspoons active dry yeast, and instead of crumbling the butter into the flour, melt it first, then add the milk to it. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 2 to 3 tablespoons of the warm mixture. Stir and let sit for a few minutes until bubbles form on top of the yeast. Mix all of the ingredients together and knead for about 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl and let rise for about an hour. Follow the directions for forming the buns, place them on the baking trays, cover and let rise for an additional 45 minutes to an hour, then bake.
Sourdough Cardamom Buns with Pear and Hazelnut
Makes: About 12-18 buns
3 1/2 to 4 cups (14 – 16 ounces, 395 – 452 grams) organic white whole wheat flour
1 cup (3.5 ounces, 100 grams) organic rye flour
7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) unsalted organic butter
1 1/2 cups (360 milliliters) milk
1/4 cup (about 80 grams) sourdough starter
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) unsalted organic butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 large organic pear, cored and finely chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, finely ground or chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds, crushed
In a large bowl, mix together the flours (start with the lower amount of white whole wheat flour, and you can add more when you add the dry ingredients). Cut the butter into the flour in small pieces, then work together with your hands like you would a pastry crust, until the butter pieces are about the size of peas.
In a saucepan, warm the milk until it’s just warm to the touch. Pour the milk into a bowl and add the sourdough starter, honey, crushed cardamom seeds and salt. Mix together, then pour into the flour.
Work the dough until you can form it into a ball. The dough should feel moist but workable (ie not sticky or runny), so keep your flour bag close so that if it sticks too much to your fingers, you can add a little bit. Don’t overdo it though. Work the dough for about 5 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, and let sit for 2 to 3 hours.
While the dough is sitting, make the filling. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the honey and cardamom and mix together with a fork until evenly blended. Let sit and cool. Set aside until you are ready to make the buns.
After your dough has sat for a couple of hours, grease two baking sheets, or line them with silicone baking mat.
When the dough has finished rising, take half of the dough and place it on a flat surface. Roll it out with a rolling pin to approximately an 11 by 17-inch (28 by 43-centimeter) rectangle. Place the rectangle on the surface so that the long side is closest to you. If you have a large kitchen counter, you can also just make one enormous rectangle instead of doing two batches.
Carefully spread half of the butter filling on top of the rolled-out dough so that it covers the entire area; be sure to go all the way to the edges. Sprinkle half of the finely chopped pear pieces on top, followed by the ground hazelnuts. Lightly press down so that the pears and hazelnuts are securely in place.
From here, you have two options. If you want a roll shape, roll the dough into a log, then cut into 6 to 9 evenly sized pieces. If you want a twisted formation, fold the dough in half, so that the top edge aligns with the bottom edge. Slice the folded dough into 6 to 9 equally sized slices. Carefully holding each end, twist the ends and then with one hand, twist the entire piece of dough around your fingers holding the other end, creating a bun shape. Do this carefully and don’t be surprised if a few pear pieces fall out.
Another method for twisting is to cut the folded dough into equally sized slices, then in the middle of each slice, make another slice, starting at the bottom and going to about 1/2-inch from the top edge, leaving a slice which has two “legs.” To make the buns, you want to twist both of these “legs.” Twist each side outwards, then cross them, bring the bottoms of the “legs” back up to the top and tuck them under the rest of the dough and pinch together. You can also tie them in a loose knot after twisting. If you want a visual of how to do this, click here.
Place the buns on the baking trays and cover with a tea towel. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough. Let sit overnight, for at least 12 hours.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
In a bowl, whisk the egg, then add the honey and whisk until well blended. Carefully brush the buns with the egg and honey mixture, then sprinkle a little crushed cardamom on top.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and cover with a tea towel to let cool. Serve freshly baked, and if not eaten the same day as baked, store in the freezer once they are completely cooled.