I’d always assumed that Scandinavia was where they ate dried meat, pickles and smoked fish. Until I had the opportunity to visit Stockholm in December, I had no idea that they make legendary pastries and cakes. The word ‘fika’ is what everything ‘stops for’ – coffee and a bun in the mid morning.
They are the best fun to make – really full of great tastes and topped with ‘pearl sugar’ which is like putting magic snow onto the top of your baking. The basic dough is flavoured with cardamom – which is unexpected as I associate it with the Asian kitchen. Apparently this is due to rampaging Vikings who got as far as Turkey and discovered the spice in a big way! The EU annually imports more than 12,000 tons of cardamom and Sweden tops the list of purchasers by far.
SWEDISH CARDAMOM PASTRIES
Makes 12 pastries
325 gm. plain bread flour
100 gm. plain white flour
30 gm. granulated sugar
1 packet instant dried yeast
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 pt. milk
3 oz./ 85 gm. butter (melted)
2 large free range eggs
Orange sugar filling
3 tbs granulated sugar
zest from 1 large orange
1 oz./28 gm. salted butter at room temperature.
(1/2 tsp. cinnamon optional)
Swedish pearl sugar
- Set the oven to 190ºC /375ºF/Gas mark 5. Prepare three baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.
- In the bowl of a mixer combine roughly 3/4 of the flour, sugar, yeast, cardamom and salt. Mix well together.
- In a small saucepan heat the milk and butter until warm. ( 120º – 130º) – or warm enough to put your finger tip in comfortably – but not hot as heat kills the yeast action!
- Add the liquids to the flour mixture in the bowl and blend until mixed together.
- Beat the eggs lightly and gradually add to the mix, while beating slowly. This will make a sloppy kind of dough – but remember you still have 1/4 of the flour to add.
- Add the flour – you can use the dough hook if you have one. ( I don’t and it works perfectly well without) Give the dough another five minutes in the machine before turning onto the counter. You might need a little extra flour to stop it sticking. Kneed it by hand for another five minutes ( just for the joy of feeling the dough take in air and firm up a little!)
- Place the finished dough in a bowl covered with cling-film and leave for at least a couple of hours in a warm place. You can actually leave it for longer – overnight or while you go shopping !It will roughly double in size.
- In the meantime – mix the soft butter/sugar and orange zest. (you can add the cinnamon here if you like it)
- Punch down the dough and let it rest for five minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 18″ x 12″ rectangle. Now spread the butter mix over the bottom 2/3 of the dough using a spatula. Now take the top 1/3 and fold it over – then do the same with the bottom 1/3 until you have a triple sandwich of dough. Don’t worry about being exact – this is not an exact science and the pastries will look great however unscientific you are !
- Cut the dough into twelve strips – each roughly 6″ by 1″.
- Take each strip and cut right up the middle, almost to the end. This dough is very pliable and forgiving ! Take each end and ‘twizzle’ the whole strip – now form it into a loose knot and let it make a knotted bun shape on the counter. Don’t worry at this stage as once the pastries rise – they look wonderful – even if you were never a boy scout!
- Place each bun on the prepared trays – cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for approx. an hour.
- Brush gently with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the pearl sugar.
- Bake for 18 – 20 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack when cool and get ready to taste!
- You can buy pearl sugar online if you can’t find it locally.
- You could add raisins to the orange sugar if you like.
Best news is that you can freeze the pastries at the ‘strip stage’ ( ’10’ above) If twelve pastries is too much for your household – you can use them another day! Just take out a couple – let them defrost and rise and then finish off as above with the egg and sugar !