In Copenhagen, the smell of cardamom draws me to all these cafes and bakeries. The shape of these buns is common in Finland, where they call them “little ears”. It is very important to use the exact amounts and to let the bread prove itself, otherwise it will not have the structure to keep the filling inside (although a little still oozes).
Preparation time: 40 minutes, plus 2 hours 55 minutes of rest | Cooking time: 12 minutes
- 7g of dried active yeast
- 30g caster sugar
- 500g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 2 teaspoons of cardamom seeds (extracted from the pods), crushed as finely as possible
- 250 ml milk
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 60g butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
- 115g butter, very soft
- 125g sweet brown sugar
- 1½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 35g all-purpose flour
- 1 medium egg
- 1 tablespoon of milk
- Pearl sugar, to sprinkle
- Put the yeast in a bowl with a teaspoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of lukewarm water. Stir and let sit in a warm place. In about 15 minutes, the yeast should have turned frothy.
- Put the flour, the rest of the sugar and 3g of salt in a bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook) and mix everything together.
- Add the cardamom to the milk. Heat the milk so that it is lukewarm, then add the egg. Add the yeast mixture to the bowl then gradually add the milk and the egg, mixing everything together. Gradually add the butter, mixing well after each addition. When the mixture comes together, it will be sticky and will not have formed into a ball.
- If you are working by hand, tilt the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it. I am now following the Richard Bertinet baker’s method, which is much more efficient than the old “pummel and rotate” approach. He stretches the dough from the work surface with his hands, folds it and slaps it on the work surface. The dough will be sticky for a while, so a scraper is useful for moving the dough as it forms (this will help your hands become less sticky).
- Alternatively, you can make the dough in an electric mixer with a dough hook. Mix on lowest setting until combined and starting to form a paste, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue over medium heat to knead the dough.
- Whichever process you use, the dough should turn into a smooth, round mass, as soft as a pillow. It takes about 8 minutes in the blender with a dough hook. Be careful not to overcrowd the dough if you use a blender or the buns will be hard. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and let stand for about 2 hours. It should double in size.
- Prepare the filling by beating the butter, sugar and spices until creamy, then add the flour.
- Preheat oven to 200C / 190C fan / gas mark 6 and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Turn the dough on a lightly floured work surface and let it fall. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rectangle of about 40x50cm, with one of the longer sides facing you. Try to keep a uniform thickness. Put small mounds of filling all over the dough and then carefully spread it with a palette knife. Working from the longer side, roll the dough firmly into the shape of a fatty sausage.
- Trim the ends if they look a bit tattered. Cut the sausage shape into 12 buns but, instead of cutting straight, cut the buns in alternating diagonals, so that you end up with 12 fat triangles.
- Using your index finger or the handle of a wooden spoon, push down the middle of each one, so that you can see the stripes overlapping each side (as the buns prove that the sides will swell to make “ ears ” on each side of the bump). Transfer the buns to the lined sheets, placing them where they have room to puff up a bit. Cover the sheets with tea towels and let sit in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Mix the egg with the milk and brush the buns with it to glaze. Sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (keep an eye on the buns – the time it takes to bake them depends on whether your oven is heating or not). The buns should be golden brown.
- Transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool a bit before eating, but they’re best when they’re still hot.