For some reason, Swedish cardamom rolls (or Kardemummabullar) have been all over my news feed lately. I’d never heard of them until last month but apparently they’re sweet, fragrant buns not unlike cinnamon rolls. They’re delicious for breakfast on a cold winter morning.
I saw a recipe for cardamom rolls in a local food magazine but a friend told me that it was missing a step, so I pitched that one. Then I saw another one online that called for vanilla bean paste. I couldn’t find the paste anywhere in St. Louis and I didn’t want to order it online, so I pitched that recipe, too. I ended up sort of following a bunch of recipes, thus creating my own in the process.
My recipe omits a lot of difficult-to-find ingredients BUT it does call for some special equipment. You’ll need a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle to make these rolls. You might be tempted to use ground cardamom from the store, but I’d urge you to invest in a spice grinder. You can find a really good one Amazon that’s not too expensive and it will last you a long time.
The ground cardamom in the rolls take them from “meh” to amazing. It adds a fragrant, almost citrus-like flavor that you hardly ever get with store-bought ground spices. It pairs well with the light brown and dark brown sugar and balances the sweetness in the dough. Make sure to ground the whole cardamom pod (not just the seeds inside) for optimal flavor.
The hardest part about making these rolls is forming them into knots. For my inaugural attempt, I was pretty happy with the way they turned out. Still, I messed up a few of the first ones and I didn’t feel completely comfortable forming them until the end. With practice I’m sure it will come more easily.
Some tips to make it easier: Make sure you evenly roll and cut your dough beforehand. At one point, you have to fold the dough into thirds. Make sure the sides are even otherwise when you cut the dough into strips later to form the rolls, some pieces might slip out.
Also, think of tying knots. I’ve seen a lot of gifs and directions on how to make the rolls, and many of them overcomplicate the process or make it sound scarier than it is. Make sure you’re always holding on to one end of the dough as you wind the other part carefully around your fingers into a ring, and loop one end through the center in one direction and loop the other (that you’ve been holding) in the other direction.
These rolls are perfect for cold winter mornings with a big cup of tea or coffee. I also like them for dessert, which might not be a very Swedish thing to do but I am in America, after all.
Here’s a song to get you started on your Swedish cardamom roll journey.
Swedish Cardamom Rolls
for the dough:
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp (250 ml) milk, heated to 110°F
1 envelope dry active yeast
1/3 cup (67 g) light brown sugar, plus 1 tsp
3 1/4 cups (406 g) all-purpose flour, plus more to flour surfaces
1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. salt
5 1/2 Tbsp (75 g) butter, cubed and at room temperature, plus more to grease the bowl
for the filling:
4 1/2 Tbsp (63 g) butter, at room temperature
1/3 cups (65 g) dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
for the topping:
1/4 cup (59 ml) water
1/4 cup (50 g) light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Grease a large bowl with butter and set aside. Heat the milk ahead of time in a small saucepan with a candy thermometer until it reaches 110 degrees F. Let it cool slightly and then add the yeast and 1 tsp brown sugar and stir until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture sit uncovered for 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the flour, brown sugar, cardamom, and salt. Swap out the whisk for the dough hook attachment and pour the yeast mixture into the bowl. Mix the dough on low until it starts to come together. Then increase the speed to medium low and add the cubed butter in handfuls. Once all the butter is added, increase the mixer speed to medium and knead the dough for five minutes. DO NOT overknead. The dough should be slightly loose.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a dome, tucking the edges into the middle. Place the dough in a greased bowl seam-side down, cover the bowl with a clean dish towel, and place it in a warm place to rise for 40 minutes.
In the meantime, make the filling. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, dark brown sugar, and ground cardamom on medium speed until they’re creamy and smooth (think a paste).
Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll is out into a 13″ by 21″ rectangle. Spread the filling onto the dough with a silicone or offset spatula so it reaches the edge of every side.
Mark seven-inch sections on the wide side of the dough with a knife so the dough is divided into thirds. Fold the left side to the middle, and then fold the right side over the left side. Make sure the edges are in line. Turn the dough so the openings are on the left and right side and slightly roll out the dough.
Cut the dough into 2 cm strands. You should have about 15 to 20 strands. Take one end of the dough and press it between your pointer finger and thumb. Hold it there while you wrap the rest of the dough carefully around your three fingers so it forms a ring. When you run out of dough, carefully knot the end between your thumb and finger through one opening and the other end of the dough rope through the bottom of the rings. This should form a knot. Don’t worry if they look a little lopsided. Repeat this process with all strands.
Place the dough on the pre-lined baking sheets, spacing them out enough so they have room to rise. Place a clean dishtowel over each baking sheet and let the buns proof for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 435 degrees F. While the rolls are still proofing, make the topping. Heat the water, light brown sugar, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan on high, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves. In a small bowl, mix the granulated sugar, freshly ground cardamom, and ground cinnamon.
Bake the rolls for about 8 minutes, or until they’re golden brown on top. Take them out of the oven and immediately brush them with syrup and sprinkle them with the ground spices and sugar mixture. Enjoy!