I’m exhausted and half sick and my eyes are burning holes in my head but I’d rather tell you about some buns I made than take a nap.
I am so dedicated to hangin’ with ya’ll it’s kinda scary.
Do you remember way back in the fall when we hosted two Up With People people?
The one girl, Marjo (pronounced kinda like the Spanish Mario, but not really), was from Finland, and several weeks ago she sent me a recipe for Original Finnish Buns. Just the way the recipe was written—with Marjo’s lilting Finnish accent and brimful of exclamation marks—roped me in. And then there was lots of talk of cardamom, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I was sold.
But I didn’t make the recipe right away. There were a couple stumbling blocks in my way. First, her recipe was full of deciliters and grams—it wasn’t until last week that I finally got around to converting the recipe to our (oddball) measurement system. Even with all my figuring and googling, and with my husband standing over my shoulder, I’m not a hundred percent positive I’ve done everything correctly.
Second, there were the instructions for shaping the rolls. Here’s what Marjo said in the email, “Cut it in pieces, 3-5cm, like this: / / / / Push the cutted pieces with your thumb.”
I puzzled over that for a long time. I discussed it with my brother. I discussed it with my husband. Then I googled for Finnish buns on youtube. Gradually I pieced together a method, but somehow I kind of doubt it’s what Marjo intended. (Marjo? Are you reading this? How far off-track am I?)
Here’s what I did. I rolled the dough out extra thin, spread it with a little butter, a light dusting of brown sugar (much less than sweet rolls), and a not-so-light dusting of cinnamon. After rolling up the dough á la cinnamon rolls, I cut the giant roll into slices about 1, or 1 ½, inches thick. Then—and here’s the unique part—using the handle of a wooden spoon, I pressed down hard on the top center of the buns.
This made the swirly sides of the buns bug out and up, kind of like a fan. It’s quite pretty.
In the oven, the rolls ooze a little butter and sugar, but not much (use sided baking pans just in case) and go all slumpy on each other. The tops get crispy-sweet from the coarse sugar, the edges get caramely-uscious from the buttery brown sugar, and the pastry itself puffs into feathery-light goodness, pungent with cardamom and orange.
Twice now, I’ve made the recipe. The first time I forgot to top the buns with the egg wash and coarse sugar and I underbaked them just a tad. The second time around I added orange zest to the dough. It was a splendid addition, but I have no idea if that’s a Finnish thing to do or not. (Marjo? Marjo? What say ye, oh fair maiden of Finland?)
Because I added orange zest to the dough and because my calculations are almost certainly off-kilter, I hesitate to call these rolls by the same name that Marjo uses: Original Finnish Buns. Something tells me that her rolls are quite a bit different from mine. For that reason, I’m going to back off from making any cultural claims and simply call them what they are, Cardamom Orange Buns. If, by chance, they happen to look and taste like the classic Finnish bun, I’ll chalk it up to delicious luck and thank my lucky stars.
Cardamom Orange Buns
Adapted from Marjo
Marjo’s recipe called for only 1 tablespoon of cardamom, but she said, “I put twice that amount, love cardamom!!!” I went with the larger amount (freshly ground in my coffee grinder, no less) and got buns worthy of three exclamation points.
for the dough:
2 cups milk
3 ½ teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt
scant 3/4 cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons cardamom
zest from one or two oranges
1 egg, beaten
7 tablespoons butter, softened
5 ½ – 6 cups bread flour
for the filling:
7 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons cinnamon
for the topping:
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Heat the milk to lukewarm and add the yeast. Let it rest for a few minutes and then stir in the salt, sugar, cardamom, orange zest, and a couple cups of flour. Add the softened butter and the beaten egg and stir well. Add the remaining flour. Knead the dough for a few minutes, till it’s satiny and soft and slightly sticky. Cover the dough and let rise till doubled.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it into a large (2 or 3 foot) square. (Or you can divide the dough in half and make two smaller squares.) Brush the dough with the butter and sprinkle it with the sugar and cinnamon. Roll the dough up as you would cinnamon rolls.
Cut the log of dough into 1 to 1 ½ inch slices. Using the handle of a wooden spoon held parallel to the table, press down hard on the roll so that the spoon handle almost touches the table. Place the dented buns in greased, sided baking pans, cover with a cloth and let rise for 20-30 minutes. Brush the buns with the egg-water mixture and sprinkle liberally with Demerara sugar before baking in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Allow the buns to cool 10 minutes before using a metal spatula to transfer them from the pan to cooling rack. Cooled buns freeze well.
I am submitting this recipe to yeastspottings. (Check out this post over at yeastspottings [posted the same week that I posted my rolls!] for good instructions on the right way to cut the rolls. I want to make the rolls all over again, now that I can see how it’s supposed to be done…)