swedish cardamom rolls

Cardamom is a strange spice. It's almost impossible to pin down what that unusual flavor is - one website described it as spicy and almost cola-like. It also lends itself equally well to both savory and sweet dishes, which is why you'll find it in everything from curries to cookies.

Swedes have loved cardamom ever since the Vikings brought it back from the East and you'll find it many of their dessert recipes, similar to how cinnamon is used in the United States. These Swedish Cardamom Rolls are incredibly light and yeasty, with a gentle sweetness that pairs well with the spicy, exotic flavor of the cardamom. This is a variation on the popular Swedish Cardamom Bread or Braid.

Take the time to find good cardamom seeds. Cardamom is one of the more expensive spices in the world, second only to saffron by some estimates, which means that inferior substitutes are often sold in its place. I bought mine from Penzey's.

swedish cardamom rolls

adapted from gourmet december 1996/epicurious.com

ingredients

for dough:
+ 1 cup warm milk
+ 1/4 cup warm water
+ 2 tablespoons honey
+ 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
+ 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
+ 1/2-ounce active dry yeast (2 packages - 5 tablespoons total)
+ 3 large eggs beaten lightly
+ 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
+ 5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour

for topping:

+ 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) softened unsalted butter
+ 1/2 cup granulated sugar
+ 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
+ 3 tablespoons cardamom seeds

for egg wash:
+ 1 egg
+ 2 tablespoons water
+ sugar for sprinkling 

recipe
In a large bowl, add the milk, water, honey, melted butter and 6 tablespoons sugar. Mix until combined. Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the liquid mixture and let sit for about 5 minutes or until the yeast has become foamy. Stir in the 3 eggs and salt and mix until just combined. Use a large wooden spoon to mix in 5 of the 6 cups of flour, one cup at a time, to form the dough.

Liberally flour a smooth surface. Turn dough out onto the surface and begin kneading. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour as needed throughout the kneading time - about 10 minutes - until the dough is smooth and springy. Lightly oil a large bowl and add the dough, turning to coat the surface. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

After the dough has risen, punch it down and turn out onto a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a large rectangle - about 15" x 20".

Meanwhile, in a small pan toast the cardamom seeds over low heat for about 5 - 10 minutes. Pour the seeds into a mortar and pestle and grind.

In a small bowl combine the 1/2 cup sugar, ground cinammon and ground cardamom seeds.

Spread the soft butter over the entire surface of the rolled dough. Sprinkle the sugar and spice mixture over the butter.

With the long side of the dough facing you, roll the dough towards you as you would if you were making a jelly-roll or cinnamon rolls. Cut the log into 1 1/2" thick slices, again as you would cinnamon rolls. Pick up each slice and hold it with both hands. Gently pull each side of the slice outwards as you twist the roll in half at the center. You are making a figure-eight with each slice of dough.

Arrange the rolls on a baking sheet that has been buttered, leaving a couple inches of space in between to allow for rising. Put them in a warm place to rise until they have are about 1 1/2 times their original size, about another hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl combine the egg and water to make the egg wash. Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of each roll with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake the rolls on the center rack of the oven, turning once, until the rolls are golden, about 25 minutes.

makes 12 - 15 rolls.