Every morning, my alarm goes off a little after 4:30. After a few false starts, I drag my sorry bones out of bed and sleepily down my first coffee of the day. I drive along empty (save for the occasional very keen jogger) streets until I arrive at the bakery where I work.
It’s quiet, cool, and dark. I relish the first hour I spend on my own rolling out huge sheets of dough, making sweet buns, savoury scrolls, muffins, scones and pretzels, listening to music and lost in my own thoughts.
Eventually I’m joined by others and the mood quickly turns from quiet, solitary contentment to friendly camaraderie. As much as I enjoy this happy bustle of activity, my favourite time is still when it’s just me, doing what I love the most as the rest of the world is still waking up.
These sticky buns were conceived one morning as I prepared trays and trays of cinnamon scrolls. As much as I love the sticky decadence of the American style cinnamon roll, slathered in cream cheese icing and dripping with cinnamon butter, I have the fondest childhood memories of my mother’s friend’s traditional Swedish cardamom scented buns.
We spent Christmases together and I used to see how many buns I could eat without the adults noticing and cutting me off. To this day the smell of cardamom reminds me of the excitement of Christmas from a child’s eyes, something you never quite get back as an adult. So here’s my slightly less-than-traditional version.
Lemon and Cardamom Scented Sticky Buns
Makes approximately 12-16 buns.
180ml (3/4 cup) milk, just warm
113g unsalted butter* (1 stick), melted and just warm
70g (1/3 cup) white (granulated) sugar
2 1/2 tsp. (1 7g sachet) dry active yeast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. salt
430g (3 cups) bread flour
120g (2/3 cup) white (granulated) sugar
3 tbsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground cardamom*
60g (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, very soft
2 tbsp. lemon juice
70g (2/3 cup) icing (confectioners) sugar
For the dough, combine the milk, butter and sugar. Stir in the yeast and let sit until the mixture goes foamy, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the salt and egg, followed by the flour. At this point the dough should be sticky to the touch but not so much so that you can’t get it off your fingers.
Knead for approximately 6 minutes using a stand mixer or 10 minutes by hand. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and rest until just about doubled in size, about 2 hours.
In the meantime, make your mixture by combining the sugar, cardamom and lemon zest. This will smell amazing!
When the dough has risen, tip it out onto a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin roll it into a large rectangle. Spread with butter then sprinkle the topping over. Roll it up lengthways and cut into approximately 2.5cm (1″) rounds.
Place the rounds, cut side up and spaced a little apart, in a greased baking tray. Allow to rest for about an hour until nicely puffed up.* While they are resting preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
Bake for 25 minutes, or until light brown on top.
While the buns are baking, prepare the glaze by mixing together the lemon juice and icing sugar. You may need to add more sugar or juice to get a glaze consistency that you’re happy with.
Glaze the buns when they’re almost cool.
Now do what I do and eat the entire tray in one sitting. Or, you know, feed them to your nearest and dearest. Each to their own!
* Normally it doesn’t really matter whether you use salted or unsalted butter when baking, but it does when working with yeast! If yeast comes into direct contact with salt it will be killed. Dramatic, huh? You also want to make sure the butter and milk are lukewarm, not too hot, as too much heat will also kill the yeast.
* If using pre-ground cardamom you might need to increase the amount as the fresh stuff is particularly potent. I recommend grinding your own though, it’s super satisfying to pound with a mortar and pestle and the taste is so much better.
* If you want to have these for breakfast and don’t want to wake up at some ungodly hour like I do, you can rest these overnight in the fridge and let them warm up for about half an hour before you pop them in the oven. Easy!