Reclaiming Cinnamon Buns

To tell the truth, I’d given up on cinnamon buns. Even as overdrawn emblems of American culture go, cinnamon buns had gotten particularly out of hand. If you’d added up obesity, Texas, SUVs, the entire James Patterson canon and all of the seasons of The Bachelor, it’s possible that a single Cinnabon Pecanbon®, with its 1,080 gut-busting, butt-gusting, bun-hustling calories, could have out-Americaed them all.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the occasional nice little sweet as much as the next guy. And cinnamon is basically unimpeachable under normal circumstances. But when faced with a bun the size of my husband‘s head that activates the nerve endings in my teeth at bite one and my gag reflex at bite three, all I can feel is terror. That’s why I gave up on cinnamon buns, back around the time I got my driver’s license.

Then, though, Christmas came this past December. And for Christmas, someone gave me the quietly enticing design book Handmade Living by Lotta Jansdotter. As if pretty handmade things weren’t enticing enough, this design book comes with recipe cards. Do you hear me, publishers? Recipe cards. In a design book. If this were facebook, I would slap a big fat “like” on the buns of that idea.

You can tell by looking at the book cover that Lotta Jansdotter’s cinnamon buns will not make your head explode with over-sweetness. No one gazes lovingly at a hanging paper mobile or
paints dainty dots on perfectly good plates and cups and then—bam!—sends you into diabetic coma or head explosion with a cinnamon bun. That just isn’t how the world works, people. You have to trust a lady who hand-stencils her own lampshades and keeps all her possessions on open shelving, if only because when you don’t have closets, there’s nowhere to hide the skeletons. That safe space is the reason I felt like maybe I could once again come face-to-face with a cinnamon bun. Well, technically it was the safe space plus an overabundance of recent excursions to IKEA, where I never ate a cinnamon bun but did fall prey to the wafting aroma of bunnitude, because let’s face it, that’s what IKEA pumps through the air ducts to keep people from smacking each other silly in the aisles. The wafting wonders have certainly saved some of the Americans within striking distance of me from time to time, if you know what I mean.

Having baked and devoured these buns this weekend, I can now say for sure that my trust in this particular crafty, shelvy Scandinavian was not misplaced. These cinnamon buns are just right. Not too huge, not too sweet (in fact, I’ve even added a little glaze to the recipe to sweeten them up a touch, because I guess I’m more American than I thought), you can taste the cardamom and cinnamon and appreciate the yeasty goodness of the dough.

In all fairness, I should probably warn you that the next recipe I intend to try from this book is a Smörgåstårta, which I’m sure I don’t have to tell you is a savory birthday cake made from shrimp salad, salmon salad and sandwich fixins. Just as Lotta drew me in with her approachable design sensibility, I thought I’d warm you up first with a pastry less likely to have made you cry as a child. I hope you’ll join me in the deep end when Smörgåstårta time comes—although a birthday cake all to myself wouldn’t be the world’s worst idea, come to think of it. But until then, cinnamon buns.

  • I make cinnamon buns on special occasions – I roll them out the night before I bake them, and let them rise in the fridge. I love the idea of making them a little bit less indulgent and a little bit more unique (cardamom is amazing in baked good). Will def. need to check out this book.ReplyCancel

    • Hi Kasey, I just clicked through to your blog and am really glad to have discovered it. Love the concept of food and music pairings, and I like your style!ReplyCancel

  • Maria

    Hmm, swede as i am, i have to tell u great job!!!
    Another filling we usually do apart fro the cinnamon is just vanilla, sugar and butter, also try to add some shredded marzipan in the filling. makes them really juicy and yummy. also before we put them in the over we brush with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
    Cant wait to see your Smörgåstårta, it’s an all time favorite among the most swedes.ReplyCancel

    • Maria, thank you! I love the idea of using vanilla or marzipan. Do you use vanilla seeds, or does liquid extract work? For a while now I’ve suspected I may have a hidden (and expertly camouflaged) Swedish streak, or possibly just a Swedish food streak. Semla is also high on my to-make list, so watch for those, too.ReplyCancel

      • Maria

        Usually we use the vanilla sugar for it, but i guess you can use either or, mix the butter, sugar, vanilla i bowl and then spread it on the dough.
        Ah, semla :) now were’re talking! :)
        You must do it, the story says that we had a king who adore them so much so he ate them every day, he died from heart failuer. Unfortunately!
        They are very fatty, but traditionally we ate them before the fasting around easter. To build up the body.
        Give them a try, i don’t think you will regret it, and it is a good time now since the national Semla day is 16 Februari.
        We have 2 ways to eat them here, either plain or in a bowl with hot milkReplyCancel

  • Beautiful Cinnamon Buns. I’ve never made them, but they always remind me of when I used to eat them with my mom as a little girl : )ReplyCancel

    • Thanks, Jenné. If you’re ever tempted to make them, these aren’t as much of a production as you’d think.ReplyCancel

  • Carrie

    We had these for breakfast today — yum! My first job at 15 was in a Cinnabon-type store, and I haven’t had a hankering to make cinnamon rolls again until I read your post. Thanks, on behalf of all the Ryan Gallias (or at least the three of us who have started on solid foods)!ReplyCancel

    • Oh, Carrie, yay! I’m glad you liked them. Your comment makes me think I should tackle fried chicken again one of these days, despite my sordid history as a KFC employee circa summer 1994. Love to all Ryan Gallias, solivore and liquivore alike. xxReplyCancel

  • I’m with you about most cinnamon rolls, but these look great. I love the idea of cardamom and cinnamon together – what a unique addition. Thanks for the inspiration.ReplyCancel

    • Thanks, Sara. These are more like a normal, mortal pastry than what we’ve come to think of as cinnamon rolls. Hope you’ll try them.ReplyCancel

  • I absolutely love Lotta, I had no idea she had a new book out. Thanks for sharing.
    I am with you on the whole Americanized thing. If I watch two hours of television a year it is an exaggeration. The other day I was in a cooking store and they had the Food Network on. Now, one would think that the Food Network of all things would not make me feel mortified to be from the United States. I honestly could not believe how ridiculous people were behaving on the show. It makes me wonder if people from other countries think this is how we all eat? Then I think to myself, “Is this how we all eat”? In any case I could go on forever….

    Your cinnamon rolls look lovely. I am not a fan of cinnamon rolls, but I do make them on occasion for my boyfriend. I end up ripping all the outside part off and only eating that little one inch circle from the center. I always say, “If it’s not worth it don’t eat it”. To me the rest of the cinnamon roll is not worth it. Looks like I might want to eat more than just the center of these ones.ReplyCancel

    • Nicole, I’m so with you on the inner inch. Even here it’s the best part, but you won’t meet with tragic misfortune in your quest to reach it.ReplyCancel

  • I have been looking for a recipe to replace the cinnamon buns my Dad used to bring home on Saturdays from a little Danish bakery just outside of Vancouver in the early 80s…I’ve already made the dough from your recipe, and the buns are rolled and rising in the fridge overnight…so excited, and I don’t even think we’ll need the glaze! TheresaReplyCancel

    • Hi Theresa, I hope they turn out just like the ones you remember. In Lotta’s original recipe, which doesn’t have the glaze, she brushes the buns with egg wash and sprinkles with pearl sugar right before baking.ReplyCancel

      • Carolyn,
        The buns rose and baked up beautifully…the cardamom is overpoweringly strong however — almost inedible…is there a possibility that it should be 1 tsp and not 1 tble? Otherwise they’re great — very close to the ones I remember from my childhood. Thanks! TheresaReplyCancel

        • Oh no! One tablespoon of ground cardamom is the correct measurement. Although it struck me as an awful lot when I first read Lotta’s recipe, we didn’t find it overpowering at all. I thought the cardamom and cinnamon balanced well. Maybe your cardamom was a lot stronger than mine? Did you grind your own?ReplyCancel

          • I did grind my own…and I wondered about reducing the amount as I was doing it, but it smelled so glorious that I think it went to my head and clouded my judgment! This recipe is definitely worth trying again though, next time with about 1.5 tsp of freshly ground cardamom. ;)

  • [...] even more inclined to read recipes, and there are some great ones around right now. I want to make these cinnamon buns. And this salad and these pancakes and this roasted chook. Ooh, and these breakfast potatoes! Man, [...]ReplyCancel

  • [...] already shown you how to cure your own gravlax and promised you the recipe for a savory Swedish birthday or tea cake called Smörgåstårta, I probably [...]ReplyCancel

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