One of my favorite items from May’s Chicago Food Swap were Swedish Cinnamon Buns by veteran swapper Rachel. These yeasty sweet buns sprinkled with pearl sugar disappeared all too quickly the day after the swap, leaving me with nothing but crumbs and a burning desire to bake some more. If the mention of cinnamon buns conjures up images of over-sized rolls oozing with filling and dripping with icing, you’re in the wrong country. Those are American-style cinnamon rolls. Swedish cinnamon buns are a much more restrained, civilized affair, as befits those stoic Scandinavian people.

The Swedes are known for being talented bakers and my mother’s Swedish grandmother was no exception. I remember my parents dreamily raving about Meme’s amazing rolls and cakes when I was a kid.  Sadly, I never met my maternal great-grandmother but I cherish knowing that I had ancestors on both sides of the family who were amazing cooks. I wanted to replicate Rachel’s cinnamon buns not only because they were so yummy but also because doing so would connect me to my own Swedish heritage.

As part of Project Cinnamon Bun, I consulted my copy of Swedish Cakes and Cookies, a classic in the field. There was a recipe for cinnamon buns that looked very similar to Rachel’s, but naturally the dough is a yeast dough. Here is where I confess that I am totally intimidated by yeast. I never get the temperature right and the whole kneading-rising-punching process is a mystery to me.

It is lucky then, given my fear of yeast, that I have a bread machine with a “Dough” cycle. I can just dump ingredients in my bread machine, put the yeast in the dispenser, press the button for the dough-only cycle and 2 hours and 20 minutes later end up with a perfect, smooth dough. So, while I do make a lot of homemade bread, I’m not quite making that bread all by myself.  If you view your bread machine as a kneading-and-rising machine, as I do, it opens up a world of possibilities. I make braided challah loaves, pita breads and French boules all with the help of my trusty kneading-and-rising machine

I felt pretty confident that I could come up with a bread machine dough that would work for these Swedish cinnamon buns. Then I could fill them, cut them into the proper shape and bake them in the oven. The buns would look just like the real thing and I still would not have face my fear of yeast.  Is it cheating? Probably. Do I feel bad about that? Not at all.

The results of my experiment were very yummy indeed and it was not hard to do. If, like me, you would like to bake homemade breads and yeast rolls but are intimidated by yeast, a bread machine with a dough cycle is the way to go. But there’s no need to run out and spend $200. Used bread machines, even high-end ones, are easy to find. I suspect a lot of people buy bread machines or receive them as gifts, use them three times and then let them languish in a forgotten cupboard. If you ask around or post a message on Craig’s List, you will find a used bread machine for cheap. I bought mine for $45 and it retails for four times that. I probably use it once a week, so that $45 was a very good investment indeed.

You will note that the recipe call for Swedish pearl sugar. You can find these small, irregularly-shaped sugar crystals at baking supply stores or online. I use them to make chouquettes as well as for these cinnamon buns. There is really no substitute for the crunch that pearl sugar provides, and the pieces don’t melt in the oven, as you can see. So just go ahead and order some!

Swedish Cinnamon Buns
Makes approximately 12-14 buns.

For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 cup sugar
4 TB butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
For the filling and garnish:
4 TB butter, softened
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
Swedish pearl sugar

Place ingredients in bread machine, select “dough” setting and press start. Meanwhile, make the filling by whisking together the softened butter, the sugar and the cinnamon. Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper.

When dough cycle is complete, remove dough from machine and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough in half. Roll the first half into as large a rectangle as you can, making the long sides of the rectangle approximately twice as long as the short sides. Spread half the filling on top of the dough leaving a small border around the edge. Starting with a short side, roll the dough up as tightly as you can. Cut the roll into even slices, 1 1/2 to 2 inches long. Place the slices cut side up on the prepared baking sheets. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

These buns are best on the day that they are made. If you have leftovers, reheat them before eating for best results.

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Emily Paster

Emily Paster is a freelance writer and mother of two living in River Forest. She writes about food and parenting on her website, West of the Loop. Emily's print work appears frequently in Chicago Parent...