Pillowy Swedish cinnamon rolls using the tangzhong technique
One of my favorite holiday traditions is making Swedish cinnamon rolls, known as kanelbullar. My mother always made them around this time, so I can’t help but love them. This is my take on her recipe. Don’t tell her but I think this one is even better. It incorporates a few non-traditional changes, most notably the addition of a tangzhong.
Tangzhong is a technique found in Asian cuisine. It is a light gelatinous roux (cooked flour and liquid) that helps create softer fluffier breads and increases shelf life. It takes an extra 3 minutes to make, but is well worth it. By adding tangzhong to the kanelbullar dough, the interior becomes wonderfully pillowy, and stays moist if you warm them up in the microwave.
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 stick butter
- 2 ½ cups milk
- 14g (2 packages) active dry yeast
- 850g all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 sticks butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 200g (1 package) Odense almond paste split in two halves
- 40g ground cinnamon
Optional additions to the filling:
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 beaten egg
- Pearl sugar
- Sliced almonds (optional)
- Make the tangzhong by combining milk and flour in a small sauce pot over medium heat, whisking constantly until it forms a gelatinous paste. Let it cool.
- Prepare milk-butter mixture for the dough. Melt butter in a sauce pot or microwave. Add milk to melted butter. The mixture should be finger warm, not too hot or it will kill the yeast.
- Add yeast to the milk-butter mixture and let proof.
- Add flour, sugar, salt, and cardamom to the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment.
- Add tangzhong and warm milk-butter mixture to flour and knead until dough follows hook (about 5-7 minutes).
- Once it forms into one elastic mass. Remove the dough from the stand mixer and place onto a lightly floured surface. Turn the dough over 4-5 times and form into a ball.
- Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap or dish towel. Let rise at room about 30-40 minutes until it doubles in size. You can use plastic wrap or a dish towel to cover bowl. Alternatively, at this step you can let proof in the refrigerator overnight.
- Mix the filling ingredients together using a whisk or stand mixer. I like to cream the butter and sugar so that it’s softer and easier to work with. Use only one half of the almond paste.
- Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Try to not keep adding too much flour or buns will get heavy and dry.
- Roll out dough into a large rectangle about 1cm thick or a bit less.
- Spread filling on rolled out dough.
- Optional. Cut the second half of the almond paste into coins placed at random intervals across the entire filling.
- Fold half of the dough over itself to make a sandwich with filling in the middle. Roll out to flatten slightly.
- Cut dough into strips, roughly 20cm long by 1cm wide. See video on how to shape rolls.
- Place rolls onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
- Cover with a towel and let rise again about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Brush rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar and sliced almonds just before baking.
- Bake 8-12 minutes until golden (depends on size).
- Pearl sugar is the iconic choice of topping, you can buy it online easily. Remember to use a bit more pearl sugar than you think because the buns expand in the oven.
- The coins of almond paste are optional, you can choose to blend it all into the filling, but for pure nostalgia I like this technique because it’s results in more variety with every bite. And it’s the way my mom did it.
- I always make the filling to taste, and encourage you to experiment with the ratios to find what you like best.