A couple of weeks ago, I bought a book, a massive seven hundred and sixty-seven page hulk of a book about Nordic food, perhaps unimaginatively entitled The Nordic Cookbook.
My short review is that it’s well worth thirty quid of anybody’s money, and this is the first thing I’ve cooked from it and also one of the chief reasons I bought it.
Scandinavian baking is excellent. There’s an easy path between bread and cake that fits well into my way of cooking, and these cinnamon buns, rolled sweet pastry laced with cardamom and stuffed with butter and sugar are a superb example. They’re common across all of the Scandinavian countries in one form or another, and they’re fairly easy and forgiving to make.
Start with some milk, 330ml, in a pan along with 150g of butter and a tablespoon of ground cardamom. Heat the milk through until the butter has melted, then let it cool back down to about room temperature. Stirring helps to speed this up.
In a large bowl, combine together 750g of strong white flour and 20g of fast action yeast. The big, massive book states to use 50g, but that seems like an awful lot, and I prefer a slower rise to allow for better maturity of the dough anyway, so I cut my yeast quantity right back. It just took longer to rise.
Add 125g of caster sugar to the flour, a teaspoon of salt, and crack in an egg before pouring in the cooled milk and mixing to a rough dough.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead for about ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and silky. Return it to a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and let it kick back for an hour or so until doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, tip it out onto the work surface. It shouldn’t stick too much, but if it does, dust it with some flour. Shape the dough into a rectangle and roll it out to about 60x40cm.
Next, the filling. This is very simple.
Take about 200g of very soft butter and spread it evenly across the entirety of the dough. You may find that, whilst using a knife or a spatula appears more seemly, using your hands is far more effective.
Sprinkle the butter evenly with 100g of sugar. I use an uneven mix of soft brown, soft dark brown and demerara. Finally, sprinkle the sugar with two tablespoons of cinnamon powder.
Roll the dough up into a long cylinder by pushing the nearest edge away from you, and slice the roll into twenty even pieces with a sharp knife. Place each of the slices into a paper bun case and let them rise for about half an hour.
The bun cases are important. If you just leave the slices on a baking sheet, the butter inside them is going to just run out and all over the bottom of your oven. The paper case catches the butter and helps it to soak back into the dough, resulting in a better bun. Simple.
Brush the tops of the buns with an egg and milk solution (one egg, and a splash of milk), and sprinkle over yet more sugar if you want, then bake at 200c for 10-12 minutes or until golden and rich.
Eat at least one whilst still warm, with coffee, in the sunshine.