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December 6, 2023
A Decadent Cardamom Morning Bun Is Closer Than You Think

Wake up to a gooey, slightly Scandinavian morning bun

A sugar-studded morning bun feels like a welcome, even indulgent, wake-up call. Just imagine rolling out of bed and biting into layers of buttery coils. Yes, the recipe takes a bit of planning, but it’s also the perfect pastry project for a snow day or a holiday breakfast fit for Scandinavian royalty.

Not an early riser? Don’t fret: Morning buns aren’t just for mornings. In fact, chef Nichole Accettola of the Scandinavian-inspired Bay Area restaurant Kantine prefers savoring her morning bun during an afternoon fika, a Scandinavian name for a coffee break. Supposedly originating from a Berkeley café in the 1970s, the morning bun was one of Accettola’s first introductions to San Francisco’s pastry scene when she moved to the city in 2015. Now Kantine’s signature buns have flown off the bakery shelves and into the pages of her first cookbook, Scandinavian from Scratch. It’s Accettola’s love letter to enthusiastic home bakers and her most ardent Kantine customers, aimed at proving it’s possible to make their from-scratch bakery favorites at home. “Sometimes I’m contacted by people who say, ‘We’d like to special order that,’” she says. “And I thought, my God, if you just knew how easy it was to make at home.”

Accettola begins this task by demystifying Danish dough, the base of Kantine’s morning bun. Similar to a croissant dough but with the addition of eggs, Danish dough requires lamination, which means that sheets of butter are folded between layers of leavened dough with breaks to chill. Lamination has a difficult reputation, but Accettola assures us that, with a smidge of patience in between rounds of chilling and a ruler for precision, it’s actually a straightforward process. “I’ve taught inexperienced bakers how to make this dough, and it’s surprisingly forgiving,” she writes. That patience is further rewarded once the dough is swirled into muffin tins and popped into the oven.

“When it’s in contact with the muffin tin, where it caramelizes, I call that the ‘cork,’” Accettola says. “You can almost pull off that bottom, and, oh my gosh, it’s crispy and buttery and sweet. It’s the best part.”

A morning bun isn’t complete without smothering its outsides and crevices with granulated sugar. Accettola goes a step further by spiking her sugar with freshly ground cardamom, a citrusy warming spice often found in Swedish pastries, to pay homage to her 15 years in Scandinavia. Here you won’t want to settle for just any cardamom either, and Accettola argues that decorticated cardamom, the seeds extracted from the spice’s pod, is a worthy splurge.

Above all, arriving at a superlative morning bun is an exercise in slowing down. Resist the temptation for shortcuts, like adding room-temperature butter or rolling the dough too aggressively, but don’t agonize over it. As Accettola writes, even an imperfect pastry still tastes great.

RECIPE: Cardamom Morning Buns