In Copenhagen, the smell of cardamom pulls me into all those cafés and bakeries. The shape of these buns is common in Finland, where they call them ‘little ears’. It’s very important to use the exact quantities and to let the bread prove properly, or it won’t have the structure to keep the filling inside (though a little always seeps out).
Prep time: 40 minutes, plus 2 hours 55 minutes resting | Cooking time: 12 minutes
- 7g dried active yeast
- 30g caster sugar
- 500g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 2 tsp cardamom seeds (extracted from the pods), crushed as finely as possible
- 250ml milk
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 60g butter, at room temperature, cut into little chunks
For the filling
- 115g butter, very soft
- 125g soft dark-brown sugar
- 1½ tbsp ground cinnamon
- 35g plain flour
- 1 medium egg
- 1 tbsp milk
- Pearl sugar, for sprinkling
- Put the yeast in a bowl with a tsp of the sugar and 2 tbsp of lukewarm water. Stir and leave it sitting somewhere warm. Within about 15 minutes the yeast should have turned frothy.
- Put the flour, the rest of the sugar and 3g of salt into a bowl (or into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook) and mix everything together.
- Stir the cardamom into the milk. Warm the milk, so that it’s lukewarm, then add the egg to it. Add the yeast mixture to the bowl then gradually add the milk and egg, mixing everything together. Add the butter, a little bit at a time, mixing in well after each addition. When the mixture has come together it will be sticky and won’t have formed into a ball.
- If you’re working by hand, tip the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead it. I now follow baker Richard Bertinet’s method, which is much more effective than the old ‘pummel and rotate’ approach. He stretches the dough up from the work surface with his hands, folds 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 (it will help your hands get less sticky).
- Alternatively, you can make the dough in an electric mixer with a dough hook. Mix on the lowest setting until just combined and beginning to form a dough, 1-2 minutes. Continue on medium to knead the dough.
- Whichever process you’re using, the dough needs to transform into a smooth round mass, which is as soft as a pillow. It takes about 8 minutes in the mixer with a dough hook. Be careful not to overwork the dough if you’re using a mixer or the buns will be tough. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for about 2 hours. It should double in size.
- Make the filling by beating the butter, sugar and spice together until creamy, then beat in the flour.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/190C fan/gas mark 6 and line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Turn the dough on to a lightly floured work surface and knock it back. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle measuring roughly 40x50cm, with one of the longer sides facing you. Try to keep it an even thickness. Put little mounds of the filling all over the pastry then carefully spread it out with a palette knife. Working from the longest side, roll the dough up tightly into a fat sausage shape.
- Slice the ends off if they look a bit ragged. Cut the sausage shape into 12 buns but, instead of cutting straight, cut the buns on alternating diagonals, so you end up with 12 fat triangles.
- Using your index finger, or the handle of a wooden spoon, push down in the middle of each one, so you can see the layered stripes on either side (as the buns prove the sides will puff up to make ‘ears’ on each side of the dent). Transfer the buns to the lined sheets, placing them where they have room to swell a little. Cover the sheets with tea towels and leave to sit somewhere warm for 30-40 minutes.
- Mix the egg with the milk and brush the buns with this to glaze. Sprinkle on the pearl sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes (keep an eye on the buns – how long it takes to bake them depends on whether your oven gets properly hot or not). The buns should be golden brown.
- Transfer to a cooling rack. Leave to cool a little before eating, but they are best when still warm.