Friday, 16 November 2012

Scandi spiced buns

So here is the promised buns post from last week, which I delayed due to a saturation of blog-based bun recipes at the time. But actually this works out terribly well, as it coincides with the return of the wonderful Forbrydelsen (The Killing) to our screens on Saturday.  I should make out that that was the plan all along, but I fear you are too clever to fall for that.

It's incredibly trendy to be Scandinavian at the moment. I can't tell you exactly why.  Perhaps it's because we all became suddenly obsessed by Michelin starred restaurants, and it was brought to our attention that one of the most intriguing was not in London or New York, but in fact tucked away in Denmark. Or maybe it's thanks to Ryan Air, who introduced 1p flights to places we'd not previously bothered with, and all came back and proclaimed them to be awesome. Or Wallander, maybe it's Wallander.  I couldn't tell you, but me and my Sarah Lund jumper are right on board this bandwagon. 

The truth is I've never actually been.  This is a fact which saddens me greatly - and one which I intend to rectify as soon as this goddamn house move is over and I have some pennies to my name - but regardless, I am still confident that it is probably my spiritual home.  I base this wild assumption on the following (sound the generalisation klaxon):
1. From what I can tell it shits all over us in terms of education, health care, and general political common sense
2. They make totally amazing crime dramas, largely featuring kick-ass (high on the autistic spectrum) female leads
3. Scandinavians come with an inbuilt good taste in home furnishings, as standard
4. They have wolves
6. People seem to have a genuine interest in decent, wholesome home cooking, balanced with an understanding for the need of a lardy treat every once in a while. The most prolific of which: The Bun.

Every Scandinavian I have met has been so impossibly nice that it is very difficult to ever imagine them going to war with one another, but if they ever did then I'd say there's a high chance that it'd be over buns.  Browse a few recipes for these chaps online and you will find 1000 variations, not just between countries, but within them.  It's like ragu recipes in Italy or BBQ sauce recipes in Texas; no two are the same and each one is adamant that it is THE recipe.  Us Brits might be a pain in the arse in many ways, but at least we largely agree on how to make a Victoria sponge.

So in the name of diplomacy - and acknowledgement that this recipe is a complete bastardisation of what several countries hold dear - these buns of mine (*ahem*) are being loosely termed as 'Scandi' as opposed to Norwegian/Danish/Swedish. I have also gone for 'spiced' rather than simply cinnamon, as I've thrown all fucking sorts in there. 

This isn't the quickest of recipes - you kind of need to commit to being in for the day - but it's all in stages, which means you have convenient breaks for episodes of The Walking Dead*/your favourite drama.  I should also point out that I take zero responsibility for what these are going to do to whatever diet you are on.  I ate seven in the space of an hour and expanded like the proverbial yeast dough.  But hey, it's winter, we all need some padding.

*My favourite thing about the Walking Dead is when Andrew Lincoln talks to Morgan on the walkie talkie and I can pretend he is talking to me.  What? Shut up.

Scandi spiced buns (makes about 40 small)
For the dough
250ml whole milk
7g sachet of dried yeast
1 egg, beaten
500g strong white bread flour (plus a bit more for kneading and rolling)
100g salted butter
80g caster sugar
Ground cardamom (you can leave this out if you don't like it, but I used the ground seeds of about ten pods)

For the filling
100g butter, very soft
50g soft brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground all spice
1 egg, beaten

So, let's start with the dough. In a pan, heat your milk until it is hot but not boiling (do not run off upstairs to the loo, as milk has a habit of boiling up and very quickly becoming a dairy based volcano, the evidence of which may or may not still be visible on my hob). Remove from the heat and then add in the butter, and leave to cool down a bit. 

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, yeast, sugar and cardamom.  Gradually pour in your milk mix, and start bringing together the dough with your hands.  Things will get messy.  About half way through add your egg (you don't want to add it too early as the warm milk might turn it to scramble).  Keep working away until all the milk is added, it will be quite sticky but you should be able to gather it together in a rough lump to turn out onto a floured surface (add more flour if it really is too sticky to handle).  Then it's time to knead - you've seen how they do that on the TV, right?  Knead away for a good few mins, get some of that pent-up aggression out, and you should end up with a nice ball or slightly shiny, springy dough.  Or, if you're a lazy son of a gun like me, fire up your Kenwood Chef and let the dough hook do the work for a couple of minutes, and hopefully end up with the same result. 

Cover with a damp cloth and put somewhere warm and dry for at least an hour.  This is a perfect opportunity for an episode of The Walking Dead.  Preferably one which has you on the edge of your seat with tension and graphic violence, as apparently watching scary things burns of loads of calories and you're gonna need that leeway for later. 

Check on your dough after an hour, you want it to have doubled in size. If it's not quite there, watch another episode.  If it's done nothing at all then you might have a dud packet of yeast, for which there is no remedy I'm afraid.

At some point whilst the dough is rising, make your filling.  Mix the butter with the spices and sugar, until you have a spreadable paste, as below. The smell should make your knees buckle with festive sentimentality.

Turn out your dough and give it another quick kneading.  Then split into four and place three bits back in the bowl, under the cloth.  One by one, roll each ball of dough out into a rough rectangle shape, and spread with a generous helping of the spiced butter.  You could also sprinkle on some raisins or sultanas, if you're that way inclined.

Then roll it up into a sausage shape.

And slice into rounds, about 2-3cm thick.

Position these in a greased dish or tin, with a bit of space between as they will double in size. I wanted mine to all bake together in a big clump, but if you want them all separate then leave even more space.

Cover the dish and leave for another half an hour somewhere warm (I sat them on top of the oven, which was heating up). This isn't quite long enough for a Walking Dead episode, so I would recommend Modern Family as more jovial alternative.  Although watching this is bittersweet, as I increasingly notice the similarities between Ben and I, and Mitchell and Cameron, the gay couple.

See, they've swelled up again, isn't yeast clever? Now give them a brush of the beaten egg and sprinkle with a bit more sugar if you like.

Now it's time to bake. Gas mark 5, for about 10 mins. They're done when they've gone a nice golden colour and your house smells of actual heaven (see, gay couple).

I got a bit distracted by one of the episodes of something and mine went a bit too golden. One of them also seems to have prolapsed.

These ones came out a bit better. 

Best eaten warm, but even I am beyond eating 40 before they cool.  For those that cool, keep them in an air tight container.  I iced mine with a maple drizzle (mix maple syrup and icing sugar into a runny icing).  You can also freeze them very well, I believe, but mine didn't make it that far.


  1. They look proper good! I have told (I mean asked) my step-mum to knit me a Sarah Lund jumper, she's my style icon :)

    1. Maybe if you make her a batch of buns she'd be more easily persuaded. I got an excellent one in Zara last year, but it's dry-clean only, so it's hanging out at the bottom of the laundry basket, waiting to be remembered....