#8: Norwegian Kanelboller

I’ve had a stressful couple of weeks, which means a few things: (1) I was sensible enough to constrain myself to one dish this time instead of two or three or four, (2) it took me the full week to find time to make my one dish, and I was still awfully busy for some time afterward, so this post is going up more than a week after the last one (sorry!), and (3) this week’s recipe is not really as “new and different” as I ideally aim for these recipes to be.

Kanelboller, you see, is Norwegian for “cinnamon buns.” I have, obviously, both made and eaten cinnamon buns/cinnamon rolls before, but after a long and stressful week, I was craving comfort food, and, well, it’s hard to beat cinnamon rolls when it comes to comfort food. These ones have a little twist (both literally and figuratively!) that makes them uniquely Nordic, so they still do qualify under my rules. (Also, there’s a non-zero chance that we’ll revisit Norway with a bonus recipe in about a month. You’ll see why when and if that happens!)

Boller – i.e. “buns” – are apparently a staple of Norwegian cuisine. Boller are lightly sweet rolls seasoned with cardamom, and there are plain boller, boller with raisins or other dried fruit in them, boller with chocolate in them, and, of course, boller with cinnamon filling. I seriously considered making each of those varieties, but, as I said, at the end of a stressful week, kanelboller were the ones that sounded most like comfort food, and so kanelboller it would be.

Being swamped and stressed also meant one more thing: I didn’t have a lot of mental energy left for going through a bunch of recipes and fiddling with everything until I had a recipe of my own. Instead, I stuck pretty closely to the recipe on this Norwegian food blog (which has a bunch of excellent sounding recipes, including some for other kinds of boller). I did tweak a few quantities and steps, so my kanelboller aren’t exactly like hers, but they’re pretty similar.

Okay – let’s get things rolling. (Get it, ’cause they’re rolls? Man, I’m so witty.)

THE PROCESS

There aren’t too many ingredients this week, and no particularly unusual or hard-to-find ingredients at all.

1
In theory, I want to eat healthier. You can probably tell how good I am at meeting that goal by the three sticks of butter in this picture. It’s not my fault that butter keeps being delicious at me!

I began by slightly warming half a cup of the milk in the microwave (you don’t want it more than a teensy smidge above room temperature), mixing in a teaspoon of sugar, and activating the yeast in it. The recipe this is largely based on does not suggest activating the yeast before adding it to the mix, and you can skip this step if you want, but I strongly prefer to do it. Every so often you get a dud packet of yeast, and it’s nice to find that out before you mix it into your dough. I mention this because I did, in fact, get a dud packet of yeast this time around – it sat there in the sugary milk and did nothing at all. Luckily, I had a few more packets of yeast in the pantry, and so the second bowl of milk, sugar, and yeast foamed up just fine. While it was getting nice and foamy, I put the flour, sugar, salt, and cardamom in a large mixing bowl, and heated the other two cups of milk to room temperature. After the yeast had had ten minutes to foam up, it went into the mixing bowl as well, along with one egg. I mixed those in and then gradually added the other two cups of milk. Then in went the softened butter, also added gradually. (If you have a good, large stand mixer or something similar, all this mixing would probably be much easier to do that way. I only have a medium-sized, mediocre food processor, and so I did my mixing by hand – and I mean that literally, since after a certain point it’s much it’s much easier to grab the dough and massage butter into it than to try to use a spoon.) Once everything was well-mixed, I formed the dough into a big ball, covered the mixing bowl, and left it to rise for about an hour.

While it was rising, I made my cinnamon filling by mixing together butter, cinnamon, sugar, and salt. (The butter I used was unsalted butter – if you’re using a stick of salted butter here, you should skip adding the additional salt.) I tasted a little of it to see how I liked it. (Okay, I’ll be honest, I tasted a lot, at many points in this process. There’s no real way to make these kanelboller without frequently getting cinnamon-sugar-butter on your hands, and if you can do that without licking your fingers every couple of minutes, you are a stronger person than I am. I had to wash my hands about seventy-three times while I was making these rolls because there kept being more delicious cinnamon filling to lick off them.) After that first taste test, I decided I wanted the filling to have a little more Scandinavian oomph to it, and added some cardamom to it, too.

3
Just try to tell me you wouldn’t be licking this off your fingers constantly, too. It’s like pure, concentrated unhealthiness. And it’s AWESOME.

Filling done, I used up a good-sized chunk of my remaining stick of butter thoroughly greasing several cookie sheets, and then it was time to check on the dough, which had risen nicely to create a giant monster doughball of dooooooooooooooooooom!

2
DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

…okay, not so much doom as tastiness. Which is not actually very much like doom. But still! It’s big!

This is probably a good moment to mention that this recipe makes a lot of kanelboller. I believe I ended up with 25 full-sized rolls – and that was after everyone in the house (including me, of course) stole multiple blobs of dough, because lightly sweet, cardamom-flavored dough is super yummy. Since everyone in the house (again, including me) has a major sweet tooth, I wasn’t worried about rolls going to waste (and indeed, they did not), but if you don’t have a lot of people to feed or your household isn’t full of people who will happily eat three cinnamon rolls a day, you might want to halve the recipe.

Anyway, I took my giant monster doughball of doom and/or tastiness and kneaded it for five minutes or so. I then divided it in half, chucked one half back in the bowl, and put the other half on a lightly floured silicone baking mat to roll it out. (I used to use waxed paper for this, but I hate rolling out relatively tough dough like this on waxed paper – it’s always grabbing the paper and crinkling it up instead of rolling out properly. Silicone mats are much nicer, if you’ve got one.) Because this is a relatively tough dough, it took some work to get it to spread out nicely, but eventually the dough got to roughly a quarter-inch in thickness, and I had a rectangle large enough to more than cover the baking mat.

4
Okay, it’s not exactly a rectangle, but this is baking, not geometry. Although both of those things do involve pi!

I then took my cinnamon-butter mixture and spread half of it over one half of my big dough rectangle, like so:

5
It’s sort of like a black and white cookie, only much bigger and also not actually black, white, or a cookie.

I carefully folded the dough in half, so that I had a long, comparatively thin rectangle of dough with a thick layer of cinnamon filling inside. I stretched and squished the dough until all the edges all lined up fairly well. I then took a knife and sliced the dough rectangle in half crosswise (so that now I had two shorter, squarer rectangles of dough), and then began slicing each of those rectangles into strips lengthwise.

6
That description seems like something that probably needs an illustration, so here, have an illustration. I am nothing if not helpful.

Each strip was about 3/4 of an inch wide. As you can see (thanks to my helpfulness), each one consists of two layers of dough with cinnamon filling in between them.

Now it was time to make the kanelboller look all pretty. After I sliced each strip, I twisted it into a spiral, like so:

7
It’s like a magical unicorn horn of cinnamon-y goodness!

Then I tied each spiral into a simple knot and tucked the ends in. This may sound slightly complicated, but it’s really knot. (Ba-dum tshhh!) The recipe I linked to earlier in this post includes a YouTube video demonstration, which might be helpful. It’s not at all necessary to do this whole twisting and knotting thing if you’d rather just make a simpler shape, but the twisting and knotting is really very easy and the resulting buns look…well, see for yourself!

8
See? They’re all pretty and swirly and stuff!

I let each tray of kanelboller rise a little more for about fifteen minutes (they didn’t rise very much more, though, so honestly, you could probably skip this if you’re in a hurry), made a simple egg wash by mixing together one egg and two teaspoons of milk, and then brushed a little of that over each roll so that they looked nice and shiny.

9
Oooooh, shiny.

Then they went into the oven at 390° F to bake for about 13-14 minutes. While the first cookie sheets of cinnamon rolls were baking, I went back and got the other half of my doughball (of doooooooooooom) and repeated the whole process of rolling, coating, folding, slicing, twisting, knotting, and egg-washing with it. Then I baked those rolls, too, until finally, I had kanelboller…

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Om nom nom.

…lots and lots of kanelboller.

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Om nom nom NOM. (Also, I should note that this picture was taken after about five of them had already been eaten. I was not kidding when I said that this recipe makes a lot of rolls!)

THE VERDICT

I mean, they’re made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls – what do you think the verdict is?

But seriously, these are delicious. The cardamom does give them a slightly more complex (and yummy!) flavor than plain cinnamon rolls, and while I’m obviously a bit biased, I think they look gorgeous, too. (Also, because I was rather proud of this: one of my family members brought some kanelboller to work to distribute among their coworkers, and apparently one of the reviews they received was “if delicious is 10, this is a 20.” So, yeah…they’re pretty tasty!) As I said at the beginning, they are obviously not quite as new and different as I ideally aim for with this project, but as comfort food, they were utterly successful. And hey, I didn’t injure myself in any stupid ways this week, so that endears me to the kanelboller in and of itself.

If I make these again – which I probably will, because they’re really not that complicated and they end up tasting and looking pretty darn impressive – I honestly don’t think I’d change much of anything. Perhaps I’d make even more filling so that the cinnamon-sugar swirls were bigger and the rolls were even less healthy, but that’s about it.

THE INGREDIENTS

For the dough:

8 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
1 package yeast
2 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup butter, softened (11 1/3 tbsp, or just under 1 1/2 sticks), plus more to grease the cookie sheets

For the filling:

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom

For the egg wash:

1 egg
2 tsp milk

Because I took something in the vicinity of eleventy billion years actually getting this post up, the next country will be revealed roughly one minute after I hit “publish” on this. Stay tuned!

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