This subtly perfumed, coiled bun is the American cinnamon roll’s Swedish cousin. In their native land, kardemummabullar are the centerpiece of fika, or Sweden’s daily coffee break. Freshly ground cardamom is ideal, but pre-ground works as well, and an array of finishing variations—maple syrup to pearl sugar to cardamom sugar to apricot jam—are fair game.
- Warm the milk. Stir in the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes.
- If making by hand: In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt. Using a dough whisk or wooden spoon, mix in the yeast/milk followed by the egg and then the butter. Continue mixing until all ingredients are incorporated and it becomes a shaggy ball. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes, working in any bits of butter completely. This is a very sticky dough, which might tempt you to keep adding flour. Try to avoid that temptation and keep kneading. I find a bench scraper very helpful when the stickiness starts to annoy me. Just keep kneading until the dough is only a little sticky and has become smoother and elastic. If using a stand mixer: Put the flour, sugar, cardamom, and sea salt into the mixer bowl, and use the paddle attachment to combine. On medium-low speed, beat in the yeast/milk followed by the egg and then the butter until the dough comes together into a shaggy ball. Switch to the dough hook and beat on high speed for 6 minutes.
- Transfer the hand- or machine-kneaded dough to a large buttered or cooking-sprayed bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a draft-free spot until doubled, about an hour depending on room temperature. Want to make the dough the night before? Let rise in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours.
- Prepare the filling using a wooden spoon to completely blend together the soft butter, brown sugar, and cardamom, and set aside while the dough rises.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to make a 16" x 12" rectangle. Spread the filling over half of the dough and fold in half, lengthwise, to create a 16 x 6" rectangle.
- Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, trim away ½" from each edge, leaving you with a 15" x 6" rectangle with sharp ends. Cut the dough into twelve 1¼" strips.
- Cut each individual strip up the middle, leaving around ¾" UNCUT at the top, so that you now have what looks like little pairs of dough trousers. Twist the 2 legs together into a spiral and then coil into a bun shape, tucking the ends underneath. Repeat with the remaining dough strips, putting 6 buns on each prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or tea towels and let rise 40 minutes to 1 hour until puffy.
- 15 minutes before you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350° and prepare 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Brush each bun liberally with the beaten egg and bake for 22-26 minutes, until the buns are a deep golden brown.
- Immediately after removing from the oven, brush each with maple syrup, then sprinkle generously with the cardamom sugar.
- These are absolutely best eaten warm from the oven or the same day, though they will keep, stored in an airtight container, for a few days. For best texture, reheat in a microwave for 15-20 seconds. As well, these freeze beautifully. Reheat directly from the freezer in a 325° preheated oven for 6-7 minutes, or microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute.
- Variations: Add ½ t saffron threads to the milk before warming and proceed as directed. Sprinkle Swedish pearl sugar on top of each bun after the egg wash and before putting in the oven. Sprinkle slivered almonds on top of each bun after the egg wash and before putting in the oven. Use golden syrup or experiment with simple syrups such as rose water, orange flower water, or blackberry instead of maple syrup. Brush with warmed apricot jam. Drizzle with an icing of confectioners' sugar and lemon or lime juice. Slather with cream cheese frosting!
Jessica Reed is a writer, baker, artist, and historian obsessed with the history and culture of cake. She is the author of The Baker’s Appendix (Clarkson Potter, 2017) and just left the North East Coast after 15 years for the North West Coast. She is happy to still be baking at sea level.