Sweden is the land of pastries and baked goods, and the kanelbulle (cinnamon roll) is considered the most popular of all. It’s not surprising then that October 4th (Kanelbullens Dag) is a national holiday that celebrates the treat. The origins of the cinnamon roll are debatable, but it is commonly accepted that the first versions of these pastries were created in Scandinavia sometime in the early 18th century, with variations popping up in different countries across the world soon after.
Unlike the frosted version that is more commonly known in the United States, the Swedish cinnamon roll is not as sweet or heavy. The dough contains cardamom (which gives it a spicier and more aromatic feel), and the buns are topped with pearl sugar instead of slathered in frosting.
Scroll down for Emma Bengtsson’s kanelbulle recipe, and see her demonstrate it in her home kitchen below:
Emma Bengtsson became a master pastry chef without even planning it. As a teenager her heart was set on joining the Swedish army and becoming a combat pilot, but as she grew impatient around the process of joining the armed forces, she took a left turn and went into culinary school. By her third year she knew she wanted to stick with food and dismissed her military dream as she started her internship at Edsbacka (a popular restaurant dating back to 1602 outside of Stockholm, which was one of the few restaurants with 2 Michelin stars in the country before closing permanently in 2010). There she was taken under the wing of the restaurant’s famous pastry chef, who trained her to take over his post when he retired.
That plus the 4 years as executive pastry chef at Aquavit after her arrival in NYC the same year that Edsbacka closed, total 15 years working as a pastry chef. Emma later moved from pastry chef to head chef of the legendary NYC restaurant, and under her, the restaurant garnered 2 Michelin stars.
Unsurprisingly female chefs are rarely given opportunities and/or awards at this level, and Emma is just the second chef in that list for a restaurant in the U.S. (the list of female chefs with multiple Michelin stars in Europe is pretty small as well).
When thinking about Swedish food and cooking, Emma says that for her it’s all about husmanskost (everyday Swedish home cooking)—it’s part of the philosophy in her restaurant kitchen, and now while we’re all cooking at home during quarantine, it makes even more sense!
Try this recipe the next time you’re craving comfort food. It’s a baking project for sure, yet simple and with all the charm of Scandinavian rustic home cooking—but with the bonus of coming straight from the home kitchen of a true master chef.
Kanelbulle (Swedish Cinnamon Rolls)
- 3 cups flour
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cardamom
- 2 eggs (1 for the dough, and 1 for the egg wash)
- 2 7-ounce packets of fresh yeast (about 15 g / 4 ½ teaspoons)
- ¾ cup milk
- For the filling:
- ⅞ cup butter (200g), at room temperature
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 ¾ tablespoons cinnamon
- Pearl sugar for garnish (optional)
- Melt the butter on the stove, take off the fire and add the milk to it. Make sure it is body temperature (feels lukewarm to the touch, not hot) before adding the fresh yeast to it. Add yeast, dissolve and incorporate. Add sugar, dissolve and incorporate.
- In a bowl combine the flour, cardamom, and salt. Make a well in the dry mixture and incorporate the liquid by mixing and kneading.
- Add 1 egg to the dough and keep kneading for about 5-10 minutes until it has a good solid feel to it.
- Cover with a towel and let the dough rest for up to 1 hour.
- Make the filling: Combine butter (at room temperature), sugar, and cinnamon. Mix well until all elements are combined and you have the consistency of a spread. Set aside until ready to use.
- When the dough is ready, roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Spread your cinnamon butter evenly over the whole surface. Roll up the dough into a cylinder, and cut into 2-inch-thick rolls.
- Place on parchment paper and let proof for 30 mins to an hour.
- In a small bowl lightly whisk the remaining egg and brush onto your rolls. Finish by sprinkling pearl sugar (if you don’t have pearl sugar, or don’t want to use it, you can cover them with frosting once they are out of the oven and have cooled down).
- Bake the buns at 325º for about 40 mins.