Doesn't this look like the perfect weekend breakfast? Warm cinnamon and sugar rolls, straight out of the oven, a little bit of sweet fruit, and a warm cup of coffee... All enjoyed while relaxing in your pajamas with the morning paper or your favorite magazine. Yes, that is my idea of a perfect weekend breakfast. Of course, I would like these butterhorns any day for breakfast, but I find the weekends allow for the time needed to savor a simple European sweet bread such as this.
Swedish Cinnamon Butterhorns, or Kanelbullar, are the Scandinavian equivalent of the American cinnamon roll. Translated, Kanelbullar literally means cinnamon (kanel) bun (bullar or bulle), and it is an appropriate name since these are delicately spiced with cinnamon and less sweet than their American cousins. These breads can be shaped in a spiral like a traditional cinnamon roll, or in a crescent like the ones I have here. While almost all American cinnamon rolls are topped with a sticky sweet glaze, Kanelbullar can stand on its own or it can be dressed up with a little powdered sugar or a traditional glaze.
I first made these rolls almost four years ago now, when I decided that I would impress my Norwegian boyfriend with my baking prowess. (Not that I had a lot of baking prowess four years ago, I think I was blinded by love.) He was returning home from a summer trip to Norway, and I wanted to surprise him with something I knew he would appreciate so I headed to the library and checked out The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. I figured if an authentic recipe was to be had, I would find it there.
Of course, when I paged through the cookbook, the problem ended up being that I found too many great recipes and had trouble choosing! I finally landed on these Kanelbullar which seemed easy to make and didn't have any bells or whistles to trip me up. I got it right on the first try, and when my boyfriend arrived from the airport he promptly ate four of them. I suppose that means they got the seal of approval.
I think what I love most about this recipe is that you can make the dough ahead of time (the night before if you want these for breakfast) and then finish them whenever you please. And for those yeast-phobes out there, this recipe has no kneading and you let the rising happen in the refrigerator. Are you convinced yet?
In all actuality, I wonder if it really might be pretty difficult to convince many Americans to eat this type of sweet bread. Here in the US, we seem to be obsessed with cloying and rich desserts; more delicately sweet yeast-based treats often aren't even on our radar, and faced with a choice between a Kanelbullar and jelly-filled doughnut, the latter would undoubtedly win. Is this just a historical cultural difference, since it seems there is more of a bread-making tradition in Europe? Or is it more a reflection of the alarming American diet? I can't really say. All I know is that I love these Kanelbullar, and I hope there will be more of a trend towards these types of desserts in the future.
Adding a light egg wash makes the top of the dough shiny before baking.
Perfectly golden after baking, with just the smallest sprinkling of sugar on top.
A little bit of of cinnamon and sugar peeking out from inside the roll.
When I was talking to my boyfriend about which ones of my favorite recipes I wanted to make for my birthday week, I mentioned Kanelbullar. He raised his eyebrows in surprise and laughed a little bit, because I think he didn't realize just how much I love these rolls. They are simple and homey and make me think of him and his heritage, and that is not even considering the taste and texture - just sweet enough, with a strong note of cinnamon as well as a softness from butter and a perfect crumb. Kanelbullar could be perfect for so many occasions, or just to show someone you love them. Use a weekend breakfast as an excuse to make these and I promise you will love them too.
Swedish Cinnamon Butterhorns (Kanelbullar)
Adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, by Beatrice Ojakangas
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup warm water (ideally between 90-115 degrees F)
1 package active dry yeast (3/4 oz, or 21 g)
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 large egg beaten with 2 tbsp milk
A few teaspoons of granulated sugar for sprinkling on the top
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm milk until hot, then add butter and stir until butter is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside. In a small dish, add yeast to warm water and let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat together eggs, sugar, and salt in a large bowl, then beat in cooled milk as well as yeast mixture. Add flour in two additions, mixing well to make a smooth but thick batter. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 and up to 24 hours.
When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking liner. Remove dough from the fridge and divide into four parts. Working with one 1/4 of the dough, roll it into a ball using your hands, then transfer it to a well-floured surface and roll it into a 12-inch circle. Spread 1/4 of the softened butter on the dough round, then mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle 1/4 of the mixture over the butter. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, slice the round into 8 wedges. Starting at the wide, outer edge of one of the wedges, roll the dough towards the inside, pointed edge, forming a crescent shaped roll. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough. Cover the rolls with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes in a draft-free area.
Before baking, lightly brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash, and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown on the tops. Cool on baking sheet on a cooling rack, then transfer Kanelbullar to an airtight container. Will keep for 3-4 days, or longer if refrigerated and well-sealed. Can be served warm or at room temperature.