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  1. Saturday, December 29, 2018

    Kardemummabullar | Swedish Cardamom Buns

    “I want bulle.” 

    Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom buns, viewed from the side on a plate


    Those words have come out of my 7-year-old’s mouth no less than 1,000 times over the last week. Bulle is our family’s word for Swedish cardamom bread, whether in bun or braided loaf form. Bulle technically means “bun” in Swedish, so the cardamom version is actually called kardemummabullar (bullar is sort of like the plural version of the word for bulle…my dad explained it to me and it was weird Swedish grammar stuff that I cannot re-explain, so we’ll just leave it at that). I’ve had the recipe for vetebröd (braided Swedish sweet bread, in our case flavored with cardamom) on my site for years. I even shared a bun version of that recipe, the way my grandmother always made it. When Nate and I went to Sweden with my family this summer we had kardemummabullar like we’ve never made it here at home. Obviously the first thing we did when we were all together post-trip was try to replicate that Swedish goodness. My sister-in-law Cora and I took a first crack, then she and my mom have since perfected the recipe and technique. Cora graciously wrote a post and recipe for us, which I am sharing below. These cardamom buns are magic.

    One beautiful Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom bun, on a plate


    By Cora Wallin

    You’re welcome.

    Sorry, wait. That’s supposed to come at the end, isn’t it? But seriously… you’re going to be so grateful to me. I accept flowers, love notes or life-sized Chris Hemsworth cardboard cutouts. Jane has my details.

    Let me start off by saying I am not Swedish.


    I have the height and love of all things butter and cardamon but not the stoicism or obsession with rotten seafood. I leave those to my father-in-law, Hansy-Poo. (He’s really going to hate that I called him that. But he won’t show it because, well… stoicism, remember?)

    Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom buns, just out of the oven and on the pan

    When Christian (Jane’s brother) and I first started dating, I knew my husband’s family was Swedish but mostly only on the holidays. Christian told me fabled tales of Christmastime and, in particular, the Christmas Eve feast: breaded Swedish ham, savory meatballs, pickled herring and sugary bullar. Turns out he was mostly right about the deliciousness, just exclude the fish.

    His mother is basically Mrs. Claus. Her home becomes utterly transformed at Christmas. Her presents are decorated so beautifully she uses them for decorations on high shelves and in her windows. The candles, the non-creepy Santa collection, the music and the tree with 15 strands of lights make it all feel like Christmas might actually be hugging you. Then she starts to cook.

    Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom buns, cooling on a rack(All photos in this post are by Jane, except this one from, which is from Cora and Christian)

    Lawd, the food. I eat, roll over for a nap, eat some more and only then do I leave the table. It’s goooood, people. After everyone’s rib cages are finally able to expand again, she gives one final gift. She makes bullar. And this is now my gift to you fine folk.

    We went to Sweden last summer and ate bullar at every stop, from gas station to coffee shop. I kid you not. Then Jane and I came home and started tweaking the old family recipe. We did a damn fine job, if I do say so myself. Of all the authentic sampled kardemummabullar, I can think of only one small shop in the-middle-of-nowhere-Sweden whose bullar outdoes what we made. So it may seem like a lot of steps but stay with me. It’s worth it.

    Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom buns, viewed from above on a plate

    Please do try to wait until they’ve cooled some before eating three (or more) right off the cookie sheet. Taste buds grow back but it does take time.

    Side view of Kardemummabullar, Swedish cardamom bread, plated

    Presenting…Phyllis, Jane, Cora and Some Old Swedish Broad’s Cardamom Buns!

    Swedish Cardamom Buns | Kardemummabullar
    Note: Fresh, home-ground cardamom is worth the effort. I’ll attach the link for where we got ours.
    • BREAD
    • 2½ cups scalded milk
    • 2 packages or 4½ teaspoons dry active yeast
    • 7½ - 8 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup butter, melted then cooled
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 2½ teaspoons coarsely ground fresh cardamom (or 3 teaspoons store-bough ground cardamom)
    • EGG WASH
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • FILLING (There is debate about the amount of filling. Cora and Phyllis do the amounts listed below, Jane uses half amounts listed below. Cora says it's because Jane is more American but she crazy (luckily for Jane she got final editing rights to this))
    • 1 cup butter, softened
    • ⅔ cup light brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground fresh cardamom (here is where you really do want to use freshly-ground cardamom, it makes a difference!)
    • ¾ cup water
    • ¾ cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground fresh cardamom (again, fresh is best!)
    • 1½ tablespoon coarse sugar
    1. Scald milk and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast to mixing bowl then soak with ½ cup of the luke-warm milk and gently stir. Let yeast dissolve and bloom, 5-10 minutes. Add remaining milk and ¼ cup sugar. Beat in 3 cups of flour and beat until smooth. Cover and set aside to rise until double in bulik 45 minutes - 1 hour. (We use a KitchenAid stand mixer to make this bread.)
    2. Add remaining ¾ cup sugar, cooled butter and salt. Add cardamom as listed under the bread ingredients as well as 4½ more cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in ½ cup more flour. Knead until elastic and smooth. (We use the dough hook in our stand mixer to do the kneading. Jane usually adds that final ½ cup flour at this point; Cora and Phyllis just let the mixer knead without adding the ½ cup flour.) Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until double, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Jane usually just leaves the dough right there in the mixer bowl and covers it, works just fine. One less bowl to wash.)
    3. Turn dough unto to lightly floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle. Spread evenly with filling and fold dough in half. Cut 1-1½ inch strips of dough with pizza cutter.
    4. FORMING THE KNOTTED BUNS: Now it's time to form the beautiful, awesome-looking buns. This part is tricky. There are lots of ways to do this. Jane does it differently than Phyllis and I remain as neutral as Sweden conforming to whatever method takes my fancy. There are links below this recipe so you can watch videos of people shaping the rolls. Definitely go watch those videos! You will essentially twist the strips and tie a knot. They’re supposed to be rustic, so don’t stress if they don’t all look the same. They will all still be beautiful.
    5. One strip at a time, gently hold one end of dough with one hand while the other twists the dough until it stops, making a spiral. Be careful not to break the dough. Now wrap dough around two fingers once or twice depending on the length of the strip and tuck ends into the center of dough. Phyllis tucks one end in the top and one end in the bottom. Jane holds the bottom end while wrapping around her fingers and uses the other end to go over the center of the top before tucking into the center of the bottom. See, confusing! Watch the videos they’ll help.
    6. Place rolls on un-greased, parchment-lined or Silpat-lined cookie sheets. Let rise until double, 30 to 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 400º F.
    7. While buns rise a final time, make simple syrup. In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and allow to cool.
    8. When buns are double in size, gently brush with the egg wash. Bake in oven 14–16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
    9. When buns are done the tops and bottoms should be a dark brown. The bottoms are your key to doneness, so be sure to lift one before you take them out and make sure it's dark brown. Immediately brush hot buns with simple syrup and sprinkle with sugar cardamom topping or pearl sugar.


    This is the way Jane forms the kardemummabullar knot:

    This is the way Phyllis forms the kardemummabullar knot:



  2. Wednesday, December 30, 2009

    Vetebröd (Swedish Cardamom Bread)

    My Swedish grandmother was a great cook. One thing she always served was vetebröd, which our family always called bulle. Vetebröd is a traditional sweet Swedish sweet yeast bread that is often flavored with a very unique ingredient – cardamom. Every time I smell this cardamom bread I think of my grandma. This is definitely one of my strongest “memory foods.” Bulle means “bun” and my grandmother generally made buns, but my mom and I like to do the braided loaf version of this bread at the holidays.

    Photo of sliced vetebrod, Swedish cardamom sweet yeast bread

    While this isn’t a traditional Christmas food, I only ever get around to making it at Christmastime. Cate LOVES it and calls it the “yummy bread.”

    So, on to the recipe! I took some step-by-step photos for you, shown below. Swedish sweet breads like vetebröd can be baked in many different shapes. The recipe I have calls for simple buns, but braiding the bread is how my mom and I like to bake it. Because I love you all soooo much, I decided to share our family’s special way of braiding the loaf. It’s a great little trick.

    Photos of bread dough being prepped to be made into a braided loaf

    Step-by-step pictures for creating a beautiful braided loaf of bread

    Finished step-by-step photo for creating a braided loaf of bread

    What braided bread should look like coming out of the oven

    Finished product - final photo of braided loaf of Swedish sweet yeast bread

    Vetebröd | Braided Swedish Cardamom Bread
    • 2½ cups milk
    • 2 cakes compressed yeast OR 2 packets active dry yeast OR 4½ tsp. active dry yeast
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 8 cups sifted flour
    • 1 cup melted butter
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 20 cardamom pods (or 3 tsp ground cardamom, which is what I use)
    • 1 egg, slightly beaten
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • ⅓ cup finely blanched almonds
    1. Scald milk and cool to luke warm. Crumble yeast in bowl: add ½ cup of the luke warm milk and stir until yeast is dissolved. Add remaining milk and ¼ c sugar. Beat in 3 C flour and continue beating until smooth. Cover and set aside to rise until double in bulk, ¾ - 1 hour. (I make this recipe in my stand mixer.)
    2. Add remaining sugar, cooled melted butter and salt. If using cardamom pods, break open pods and remove the tiny seeds, then crush the seeds thoroughly. Add cardamom (the freshly-ground stuff or the 3 teaspoons ground cardamom) and 4½ C flour to yeast mixture. Place remaining ½ C flour on board or pastry cloth for kneading.
    3. Turn out dough and knead until smooth and elastic. Note: I put all 5 cups of flour in step 2 and then let my Kitchen-Aid do the kneading with the dough hook attachment.
    4. Place kneaded dough in greased bowl. Cover with cloth and let rise until double in bulk, ¾ - 1 hour.
    5. Cut into even size pieces and roll into balls. Place on un-greased cookie sheet. Brush with egg and sprinkle with ¼ c sugar (Swedish pearl sugar is the best) and almonds (if using). Let rise until double in bulk, 30-40 mins. Bake in moderately hot oven, 400ºF for 12-15 minutes. If you want to make the braided loaf, keep reading the directions below. When cooking it as a loaf, bake the bread at 350º F for 20-30 minutes, until the top of the bread is very browned.
    7. Once the dough is ready to cut into pieces in step 4, you can instead roll out the dough to make a braid. This recipe will make four 12" braided loaves. Divide the dough into fours and form into a round, even ball. Smoosh the ball down into a rectangular-type shape (as best you can). Roll out to a large rectangle 12" long and as wide as you can get it, rolling the dough pretty thin (maybe ¼" or so). The thinner the dough at this stage the more evenly the bread will cook.
    8. Score two lines to divide the rectangle into thirds (the lines should be 12", the length of the loaf...does that make sense? See photos above). These score lines are guides and should not be very deep. Cut lines perpendicular to your score lines starting at the score line cutting out to the edge (see pictures). Make cuts appx. 1 inch apart. The cuts should be made down both sides, should line up and be even in number. (Am I making sense? Thank goodness for pictures!).
    9. Begin your braid at one end. Fold the pieces across to the opposite score line and angled down to the next level of cut pieces. I sort of smoosh the piece down so it stays in place. Once you've braided all the pieces, tuck the last two pieces under each other (pictured) so you have a nice finished end. (Please note - I probably should have rolled my dough thinner than pictured above...although the bread still came out great!)
    10. When I used to make this, I would just divide the dough in two and make two braids (what you see in the pictures) - but that made for a thicker braid and the outside would cook before the inside. I have since started dividing it into four braids, which is easier to roll out thin and cooks more evenly. Follow instructions in Step 4 above for prepping to bake (including rising again). You can cook two braids per cookie sheet - the sheets are 12" wide, so the braid fits cross-wise. If you do have thicker braids that seem to be cooking too quickly on the outside, about halfway through the total bake time cover the loaf with foil. This keeps the outside from getting to dark and it cooks beautifully.


    It’s traditional to bake the bread topped with pearl sugar and/or almonds, but our family likes to make a vanilla glaze to drizzle over the top.

    Braided loaf of Swedish sweet yeast bread drizzled with vanilla glaze

    Slice of braided Swedish sweet yeast bread

    Vanilla Glaze
    • 1¼ cups sifted powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (depending on the flavor you like or are in the mood for)
    • Milk or half-and-half or light cream
    • Salt (a couple pinches)
    1. Put powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Add vanilla/almond extract and salt, then pour in a bit of the milk (or cream or half-and-half), probably 2 teaspoons or so, just a quick swig. Whisk well. A little bit of fluid goes a long way, but add more one teaspoon at a time if needed to get the frosting to a drizzling consistency.
    2. I double this recipe to cover four 12″ loaves.


    I’m not sharing this recipe because it’s an easy one. I’m sharing it because I love it and is special to me. It takes some time, but it is not difficult and so delicious. Eating this soft, yummy bread straight out of the oven is the best. But to replicate the effect the following day, I just zap my bulle in the microwave for 10-15 seconds…mmmmmmmmmm….

    Click here to see how I make this bread into buns, which is another delicious way to enjoy them!

    This link and this link will will take you to recipes for Swedish cinnamon buns (a little different than this recipe, but I’m sure still tasty). Both of these recipes illustrate how to make the dough into pretty buns. This is a great way to cook vetebröd, my grandma usually made these types of buns.

    Also, after visiting Sweden in 2018, my mom, sister-in-law and I figured out a new way to make cardamom buns. Click here to see the recipe and instructions.