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Cooking

Cinnamon Buns

Try two delicious versions of the breakfast classic: yeasted Swedish and quick.

Swedish cinnamon buns Swedish cinnamon buns are less stick sugary than many American versions. (Photograph by Jim Scherer; Styling by Catrine Kelty)
By Adam Ried
October 4, 2009

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I am something of a Scandiaphile. I love clean Scandinavian design. What’s more admirable than a Nobel Prize? I practically grew up in a Volvo. Did I mention that I can’t get enough pickled herring?

In my Swedish travels, I have noticed that kanelbullar -- cinnamon rolls -- are as ubiquitous there as muffins are here, available in cafes, bakeries, markets, and even convenience stores. They are very different from the glazed, sticky, pull-apart monsters that Americans know. The Swedish version is smaller and lighter, more bready, and much less sweet. Best warm and fresh from the oven with a cup of coffee, they’ll keep in an airtight container for a couple of days, and they freeze beautifully. Just pop the frozen buns into a 350-degree oven for about 4 minutes to heat them up before serving.

Swedish-Style Cinnamon Buns

Makes about 24 buns

Make sure to test the milk and sugar mixture’s temperature before adding the yeast.

1 cup milk (not skim), warmed to between 110 and 115 degrees

2/3cup granulated sugar

2/3cup packed brown sugar

3 envelopes (6¾ teaspoons) active dry yeast

3 eggs

4½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough

2¼ teaspoons ground cardamom

Salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to about 105 degrees, plus extra for greasing the rising bowl, plus 4 tablespoons very soft unsalted butter

2½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons pearl sugar, for topping

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the milk and 1/3 cup each granulated and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve (the milk should cool down to between 100 and 110 degrees, the temperature at which yeast is activated). Add the yeast, stir to mix, and set aside until the yeast begins to foam, 5 to 10 minutes. Add 2 eggs and mix at low speed to blend. Add 2¼ cups of the flour and mix at low speed to blend. (To mix by hand, follow the directions using a bowl and wooden spoon.) Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a warm spot until the mixture has doubled, about 1 hour.

Return the bowl to the mixer, add the cardamom, 1¼ teaspoons salt, 8 tablespoons melted butter, and half the remaining flour, and mix at low speed to blend. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary, add the remaining flour, and mix. When blended, stop the mixer, replace the paddle with the dough hook, and knead the dough at medium-low speed until it forms a soft, elastic mass that pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. (To mix by hand, add the cardamom, salt, butter, and half the flour and incorporate with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the remaining flour onto a work surface, turn the mixture out onto the flour, and knead it until all the flour is absorbed and the dough is soft and elastic, about 10 minutes.) Lightly butter a mixing bowl, turn the dough into it, and roll the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with the kitchen towel, and set aside to rise in a warm spot until the mixture has nearly doubled, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the remaining 1/3 cup each granulated and brown sugar, the cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Line two 18-by-13-inch baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats and set aside. Lightly flour the work surface, turn the dough onto it, and sprinkle some flour over the dough. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a roughly 16-by-26-inch rectangle. Spread the 4 tablespoons softened butter evenly over the entire surface of the dough, then sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. With the long side facing you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch along the length of the seam to seal. Cut the cylinder into 24 pieces and arrange them cut sides up on the baking sheets with at least 2 inches in between. Cover each sheet with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to rise in a warm spot until the pieces look about 50 percent larger, about 1 hour.

Set the oven racks in the upper and lower positions and heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of water, and brush the top and sides of each roll with the egg mixture. Sprinkle a heaping ¼ teaspoon pearl sugar over each roll and bake until light golden brown (taking care not to burn the bottoms), 12 to 15 minutes, turning and rotating the baking sheets after 6 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Quick Cinnamon Buns

Makes 12 buns

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

2¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling

1 tablespoon baking powder

Salt

¾ cup plus 1½ teaspoons buttermilk

½ teaspoon plus 1 dash vanilla extract

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, 6 tablespoons melted and cooled, 2 tablespoons softened

1 egg

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line an 18-by-13-inch baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar, and cinnamon to blend, and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk 2¼ cups flour, baking powder, the remaining 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt. In a small bowl, whisk ¾ cup buttermilk, ½ teaspoon vanilla, and melted butter. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until mostly incorporated. Turn the mixture onto a floured work surface and knead just until the dough is cohesive -- do not over-knead. Roll dough into a roughly 12-by-18-inch rectangle. Spread the 2 tablespoons of softened butter over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. With the long side facing you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch along the length of the seam to seal. Cut the cylinder into 12 pieces and arrange cut sides up on the baking sheet with at least 2 inches in between. In a small bowl, beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water, and brush the top and sides of each roll with the egg mixture. Bake until the buns are light golden brown (taking care not to burn the bottoms), about 17 minutes, turning the baking sheet after 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the confectioners’ sugar, remaining 1½ teaspoons buttermilk, and the dash of vanilla extract. When the buns are cool, drizzle a scant teaspoon of icing over each and serve.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

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  • October 4 Globe Magazine cover
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