I am not a natural baker. On the rare occasions when I make a cake or a batch of biscuits, I am not showered with compliments (the words ‘you should be on Bake Off’ have never been directed at me). But having written last week about my new-found love of Fika - the Swedish tea-break with (hob)knobs on - I thought it appropriate to tackle the seminal Nordic coffee accompaniment: the cinnamon bun.
I believe that all Swedes, Norwegians, Danes and Finns are born knowing how to whip up a batch of buns. It’s as natural to them as making a cuppa is to us. I therefore needed expert guidance as to which recipe to attempt and turned to my son’s partner – the lovely Elisa hails from Finland – who sent me the instructions to make the ‘Korvapuusti’ version of the bun. ‘Korvapuusti’ - which translates as 'slapped ears' - buns are as Finnish as a sauna, and they are beloved by the entire population. I think it’s the law that all homes should have a supply ready at any time - I wouldn't be surprised if there are Korvapuusti Inspectors who trawl around the country inspecting larders and fining those who have run out.
What they are supposed to look like....
Korvapuusti take a long time to make. When a country has only six hours of daylight during winter months, they have to find a way to fill the time. Admittedly a lot of the time is spent waiting for the dough to rise, but you still need to allow the best part of three hours for the bake, and it’s for this reason I’ve added ‘a good book’ to the list of ingredients. I found ‘Hygge & Kisses’ by Clara Christensen to be the perfect accompaniment, but you may prefer a Jo Nesbo Scandi-crime thriller instead.
Ingredients laid out on a Snowbunting tea towel, accompanied by a Swedish recipe stand, which was a gift from the aforementioned lovely Elisa
For the pastries
1 cup lukewarm milk
4tbsp melted butter (not too hot)
1 packet of dry yeast (about 2 ¼ tspns)
½ cup of caster sugar
1 tspn salt
1 tbspn freshly ground cardamom (you can buy it ready ground if you don’t fancy digging out the pestle and mortar you keep at the back of a cupboard)
1 beaten egg (plus a separate beaten egg for the glaze at the end)
4-5 cups plain flour
Pearl or Rock sugar for dusting (I didn’t have any of this so made do with icing sugar instead)
A good book
For the filling
¼ cup melted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
2 heaped tbspns cinnamon
N.B. If you don’t have a measurement for ‘cups’ then use a teacup (not a mug). As long as you use the same one for each ingredient it should be okay.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the milk, the melted butter, the yeast and the sugar. Allow to sit for ten minutes – the yeast should start to bubble. Then stir in the salt, cardamom, and beaten egg. Gradually stir in the 4-5 cups of flour – stop when the dough can be pulled away from the side of the bowl.
If you are lucky enough to be using a mixer, now is the time to change to a dough hook – knead for 5-7 minutes.
If (like me) you are kneading by hand then channel your inner Mary Berry and knead the dough on a floured board until it is smooth, shiny, and has lost most of it’s stickiness. A great work out for your bingo wings and a chance to take out any frustrations/anger/hatred of Piers Morgan.
Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a towel or some cling wrap and leave it in a warm place (room temperature is fine – just don’t put it in the fridge) for an hour. It should double in size.
(At this point I should confess that my dough didn’t double in size as I don’t think I kneaded it enough…..I’m going to put some loud music on next time and really go for it)
Time for a Fika break! Put the kettle on, grab some biscuits, and put your feet up for a bit with the good book.
Divide your dough into two and roll each half into a rectangle approximately 35cm x 20cm. Brush the rectangles with the melted butter you’ve put aside for the filling, and then sprinkle generously with the brown sugar and cinnamon. By ‘generously’ I mean as generous as you feel on Comic Relief, Sport Relief and Children in Need all rolled into one.
Starting from the long side, tightly roll each rectangle into a long snake, then with a sharp knife make diagonal cuts every 5cm so that you end up with seven almost triangular rolls (fourteen in total).
Place each roll on a slightly greased baking tray, position with the narrowest edge of the dough on the top. Then press down with a finger or the back of a spoon onto that narrow piece of dough so that the rolls start to look like two ears…..yes, that’s how they get their name!
This demonstration is from myblueandwhitekitchen.com as my attempts to photograph this process were rubbish!
Cover with a towel and leave them for another hour – they should double in size again.
(At this point I should further confess that mine didn’t double in size – my pathetic kneading back in stage one had come back to haunt me. The chances of me producing buns worthy of a Kardashian rear were slimmer than Kate Moss on a diet).
Time for another Fika break.....
Just before the hour is up, pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C (400F). Brush each roll with beaten egg and sprinkle on the pearl or rock sugar – then bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
I was really worried that the buns wouldn’t taste nice – I thought that my kneading deficiencies might have affected the taste. Luckily they were gorgeous – and particularly tasty when they were still warm from the oven.
This is one Nordic custom I’m happy to embrace…..but as for adopting the Swedish habit of ‘lagom’ (eating ‘just enough and not too much’) I’m afraid that was a spectacular fail. We scoffed the lot!