Orange, Marzipan and Cardamom Swedish Buns


The start of the year can be hard months, especially in Portland. In the years I’ve lived here, January/February is usually when the winter depression sets in — the realization that we’ve got another five months of constant endless drizzle and gray skies ahead of us, and that my subsequent days will be spent doing the exact same thing: going to work and biking in grim weather.

At this time of year, it’s easy for me to fall into a trap of hating the city, thinking mean thoughts that are unbecoming of a supposedly lighthearted and whimsical food blogger like myself:

I hate biking, I’ll think ragefully to myself as I don my waterproof pants and high visibility jacket to armor myself against the rain. I hate Portland cyclists. They’re the most smug and entitled; think that their paltry 3-mile bicycle commute is a friggin’ race for the yellow jersey. In addition to these jerks, why is Portland considered such a good biking city anyway, especially if it rains like 300 days out of the year? Terrible.

I hate Portlanders, I’ll fume in my head, as I stand hangrily in line behind a woman toting a yoga mat and lengthily debating the merits of different nutrient-dense vegan foods with the cash register at New Seasons, Portland’s local, pricier answer to Whole Foods. Everybody here is so smug and preachy about their alternative diets and their healthy exercises. Why does she have to discuss this with some rando person? It’s only so she can righteously declare that she eats kale everyday and publicly congratulate herself. Terrible.


This year, my solution to such stormy thoughts was to take a vacation. I bought a ticket to Texas to visit Kiron, one of my best friends, who is currently spending a semester abroad at the University of Texas in Austin.

Fun fact about me — I actually went to high school in Houston, where I had a pretty stereotypical childhood. My memories of the place are filled with hours of soccer practice in the blistering heat, blasting music during a long commute to the private school I attended, suburban pool parties turned sleepovers and driving to fast food restaurants with friends. When I graduated from high school, my parents pretty much high-tailed it out of the city, and a result, this past trip was my first time back in Texas in almost ten years.

It was physically and emotionally overwhelming. Physically because Kiron and I ate like kings, and I gained back most of the weight I’d lost in a month (on this sad, mostly carb-free diet I’m on) over the course of four days with unnecessary stops — NO REGRETS. Emotionally because, walking around, I would suddenly get nostalgic flashes as a long lost memory was resurfaced. Oh, this was the Chipotle my friend and I ate at when we toured UT’s campus together! or Oh, I’ve had Amy’s ice cream before after all, there used to be one next to my high school!


Although I enjoyed the trip, the reliving of my past and being immersed in a new-yet-familiar made me grateful for the things I had now; specifically, for living in Portland itself. The fact that good food and neighborhoods were separated by short bike rides instead of congested highways, and the fact that I could easily buy healthy, wholesome foods at small mom-and-pop stores instead of massive, generic grocery stores. It was strange to me that this was my life once, so long ago. And though I have fond memories of living in Houston and had a great time in Austin, the trip made me realize how much I’d changed, especially with regards to the things I value and the way I live my everyday life. I now compost regularly and get irritated if I spend too much time driving. All those Portlanders that I was hating on earlier — the jerk cyclists, the pretentious yogis and smug vegans — they had rubbed off on me after all.

People travel and vacation for many different reasons — to learn, to find new things, to explore, to escape. But my favorite reason for doing so is that for me, traveling somewhere new always reminds me of how lucky I am to have found Portland, a place that I ultimately love and chose as my home.


For those of you who have always found regular cinnamon buns to be too intense and sickly sweet, Swedish buns provide the perfect compromise. Swedish buns are basically cinnamon rolls topped with beautiful Swedish pearl sugar instead of icing. My version of the pastry is filled with marzipan, orange zest and generous pinches of cardamom. When baking in the oven, the buns fill the kitchen with the most wonderful, aromatic scent that really makes the house feel like home.


Some baker's notes:
  • Swedish pearl sugar is available online — I like the Lars’ Own kind, but King Arthur Flour also makes their own Swedish pearl sugar variety. Do NOT confuse Swedish pearl sugar with Belgian pearl sugar, which is significantly larger and is intended for embedding into doughs. In a pinch, you can make your own Swedish pearl sugar by using a rolling pin to crush sugar cubes into smaller granules.

  • Plan ahead for this one! The dough needs to rise for about 3 hours total — the first hour and a half after the dough has just been mixed and kneaded, the second hour and a half after its been punched down and formed into rolls. If that seems like a lot of time, feel free to make the dough the day before and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator. This trick works better if you use instant/rapid rise yeast.

  • If your kitchen is cold and you don’t want to wait forever for the dough to rise, one trick is to set your dough in the oven with the light on. The lightbulb will increase the temperature around 5 or so degrees. Don’t try to increase the temperature more than that, a slow rise is good for flavor development, a fast rise is bad.


Orange, Marzipan and Cardamom Swedish Buns

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Ingredients

Special Equipment:

For the Dough:
(makes 12 large rolls)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant/rapid rise yeast
  • 2 1/3 cups whole milk, warmed to lukewarm
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

For the Orange, Marzipan and Cardamom Filling:
(makes enough for 12 large rolls)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • zest from 2 medium oranges
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 4 ounces marzipan, chilled (place the marzipan in the fridge for at least 2 hours before using, preferably overnight)

For the Egg Wash and Swedish Pearl Sugar Topping:
(makes enough for 12 large rolls)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 cup Swedish pearl sugar (see baker's notes)

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Recipe

For the Orange, Marzipan and Cardamom Swedish Buns:
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together 5 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups bread flour, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 tablespoon instant yeast. Set aside.

  2. In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together 2 1/3 cups milk (warmed to lukewarm), 2 eggs and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. Set aside.

  3. Use a tall glass or a large liquid measuring cup to make a well in the center of the dry ingredients (from the 1st step) and add liquid ingredients (from the 2nd step), using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula to stir until combined. As the dough starts to form, transfer to a lightly floured center and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough is sticking, you can add up to 1/2 cup of extra flour as you knead, but be careful not to overdo it or you'll end up with tough, heavy buns.

  4. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and store in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

  5. As the dough is rising, prepare the filling ingredients. In a small saucepot over medium heat, melt 1/3 cup cubed unsalted butter, constantly whisking. Stir as it bubbles, and after 2 to 3 minutes you should see brown bits appear on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat immediately and continue to whisk for another 30 seconds. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

  6. In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup granulated sugar and zest from 2 medium oranges by using your fingers to rub the orange zest into the granulated sugar. This will help release oils from the zest and fully infuse the sugar with orange flavor. Set aside.

  7. Once the dough has doubled in size, transfer to a lightly floured counter and use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches.

  8. Use a pastry brush to brush the rolled dough with 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter (from the 5th step). Sprinkle the surface of the butter-slathered dough evenly with the sugar and orange mixture (from the 6th step) and 1 teaspoon ground cardamom. Use a hand grater to grate 4 ounces of marzipan over the dough. If the marzipan starts to stick to the grater, allow the marzipan to chill in the freezer for 5 minutes before grating over the dough again. Make sure you sprinkle the sugar, spices and marzipan evenly and completely over the rolled out dough, including the edges.

  9. Working lengthwise, roll the dough into a log, pinching its edges to seal. Cut the roll into 12 pieces, each about 2 inches wide. Place cut sides down on a parchment-lined 18 x 12 inch jelly roll sheet pan, spaced 3/4 inches apart. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm places until the edges of each roll are rounded and touching, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

  10. While the dough is rising, prepare the egg wash by whisking together 1 large egg and 1 teaspoon of honey in a small bowl. Preheat the oven to 350 (F).

  11. Once the rolls have risen, use a pastry brush to brush each roll with the egg wash, until the surface of each roll is completely covered. Sprinkle a generous amount of Swedish pearl sugar over each roll, making sure to use the entire 1/2 cup. Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for around 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges of each bun are golden in color. Let cool on a wire rack.
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46 comments

  1. Amazon is your friend: http://amzn.to/1y5wcAu but I've also seen them at Sur La Table and even Target!

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  2. Where could I find a donut pan?

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  3. What a sweet trip for you Michelle; visiting friend trips are the best kinds. I am always treasuring memories with them.However this post is even sweeter with these Swedish cinnamon scrolls!

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  4. I'm sure my skills are such that I could take on this recipe, but I agree with you that almost all cinnamon rolls/ sticky buns are a sugar coma for me. I love them, but I hate how I feel haha. I'd like to try these in hopes they would be the answer to my prayer!

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  5. I'm dancing a Nordic dance in my kitchen right now; these look fabulous! The filling must be A+ as well. It reminds me of the filling I had in my saffron knots. Warm hugs and sunshine to your grey days in Portland, xx.

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  6. I usually only buy big items from amazon, cameras and such, so I was hoping I could purchase one at a store locally. I'll definitely be going by target! Thanks!

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  7. Sini, your saffron knots have been on my "To Bake" list for months now! I can't wait to try them!

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  8. Thanks Belinda! Visiting friend trips are indeed the best kind; I don't see a lot of my friends often enough!

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  9. Yesssss. These are perfect because they're really more like sweetened brioche buns than sticky rolls!

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  10. Portland sounds like such a nice place to live. I like the rain (though I say that coming from a pretty sunny city) and would take moderate temps any day, but then again, the grass is always greener. I always find cinnamon buns too sweet, I can't wait to try these!

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  11. Your post is very helpful, thanks for sharing your experience ) Because right now I'm trying to understand what I want from my life and somehow it became more clear..)) Oh, and these buns! They are gorgeous !! I can imaging the incredible scent!)

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  12. can i get a big bowl of this filling and eat it with a spoon? SWEET.

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  13. These sound great ... I feel like I keep seeing these Swedish buns pop up everywhere. I enjoyed the post as whole, like always. I really enjoy your writing. Keep it up! Also, totally jealous of you living in Portland (although I'm sure I would hate all the rain), and jealous of your trip to Austin. Two places I NEED to get to.

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  14. Come visit and I'll feed you these buns!!! XOXO

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  15. Ugh, life. You just gotta live it to learn it, I guess. It's funny because I wrote this post last week, but now there's a chance I might be moving out of Portland by the end of the year. Oh well! Adventure, here I come!

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  16. DO IT! Come visit and I'll bake you these buns :-)

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  17. Always learning new things about you! Glad you had a nice trip and a shook off the winter blues.

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  18. cookswithevie.wordpress.comJanuary 29, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    This post made me laugh out loud! I love Portland but have only visited in august. Have been day-dreaming about it lately as it has been extremely cold here since beginning of January (-25celcius with -30's windchill). You sounded like me only I complain about slightly different things. The buns look and sound wonderful!

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  19. I have lived in Dallas for a while now and thats the feeling I get when I visit Austin (its much smaller, more local etc), i can only image the difference living in Portland and traveling back to Houston. I was in Seattle last weekend and I was pleasantly surprised by the weather there (maybe i got lucky that weekend)...these buns look heavenly so many nice flavors.

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  20. yay for nostalgic trips home full of food :)

    i find your thoughts on portland so funny...i have a love/hate relationship with the pnw....so much to love and just enough to complain about so that we don't feel smug all the time ;)

    and ugh, these buns...i want to stuff my face! orange and marzipan?!!? genius!!!

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  21. Yep - knowing that you're probably going to get drenched when cycling or walking anywhere is deffo a deterrent for leaving the house (London = rain for half the year). But I have to say being stuck inside during a downpour, all cosy with jumpers and warm baked goods (helllooooo swedish buns!!!!), is one of the nicest things ever.

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  22. How would you alter this for a high altitude? :)

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  23. I would start by decreasing the baking powder to 1 3/4 teaspoons, increasing the baking temperature by 15 minutes, and decreasing baking time by 10 minutes. I'm a little out of practice though since I haven't lived in Denver since 2011 so what I'm telling you could be completely wrong...

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  24. Ooof okay, the weather wherever you are sounds exactly like the sort of thing I would complain about. Glad you can relate to my ranting, and thanks for stopping by!

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  25. Hahah I know right? I forget that London has pretty similar weather to Portland (mostly gray and drizzle)! Sometimes I work from home when it's raining just so I don't have to bike to work and get drenched.

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  26. Honestly, I'm just a complainer. I got some amazing food in Houston — I just don't know if I could ever live there again! I got too spoiled by Portland :-/

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  27. Haha, i know right?! The PNW is so funny, you either love it or hate it. I also feel like there are so many weird things that are apart of PNW culture that you hate at first and then they creep slowly into your heart... like rain.

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  28. I thought we'd talked about how I went to high school in TX? Maybe not...

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  29. When I first moved to Seattle, I would always long for the bright sunny crisp days I used to get back east. Until I started noticing that whenever I went back home during Jan/Feb, it was just as gray, and worse, snow. Made me start to appreciate the warmer west coast climate. I agree that getting away helps with the appreciation. Although, the Portland vegan/grainfree/local/freerange/nonGMO talk, I just can't deal. Glad to hear that you're feeling rejuvenated. I am dying to go to Texas, so I can eat all the tacos.

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  30. Hello! I am enjoying the very beginning of your blog. I am definitely going to try and make this vanilla cupcake recipe and I live in the SF Bay area so it should be fine. :D

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  31. Sometimes you need to leave your home for a while to really apprecaite it don't you? I felt exactly the same way after I came back to London from New York; all of sudden I could appreciate it in a totally new way and all the things I would usually find annoying became almost endearing. I was, however, super jealous of your eating around Austin. It's on our 'to visit' list for sure and I think it's just zoomed to the top. PS these buns are GORGEOUS.

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  32. I always am very humbled and appreciative of what we have going on once I return home after a trip. Its a very peaceful thing. And these buns, I've got to make soon!

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  33. I sense perfect, lazy breakfast on a Sunday morning....!

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  34. I think vacations are always helpful to reset your brain! Also, spending time with good friends is probably the best medicine ever!


    Also, these rolls look amazing. I love all things with pearl sugar.




    Portland side-note: I was in Whole Foods on Sandy, looking for elusive Califia creamer, and a woman in the elevator was talking to her tiny child about how they were going to go home and have "Susan put needles in Mommy because Mommy's back hurts and you know how when Mommy doesn't feel good Susan comes and sticks needles in Mommy and we feel all better..." I was like, am I in an episode of Portlandia? I'm confused and I want to laugh...a lot.

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  35. They're so delicate! Must taste heavenly! For a baker discovering the wonders of yeasted dough, this recipe is a must do! Thanks for sharing.

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  36. so so in love with these pictures <3 and how i would love to eat one of these buns right now :D
    best wishes from berlin
    nora & laura

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  37. Oh these sound SO dreamy, Michelle! Orange, marzipan and cardamom could not be a more perfect combo -- you are a flavor genius! And I so love these reflections and your renewed appreciation of Portland and your home. So lovely. Thank you so much for this!

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  38. I know what you mean! I start hating Portland this time of year too! Love it in the summer, but during the winter I just want to be in some tropic place - anywhere but here. Glad I'm not the only one! haha


    www.simplydavelyn.com

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  39. I can relate so much - just moved to Southern California (where I grew up) from Portland. I was so glad to leave at first because I get crazy SAD in the fall/winter there, but I am really starting to miss it because I just love the feeling Portland has of a community of people working together for a common cause - to make Portland the awesome place that it is. The people here are so shallow-seeming. (Fun fact - I went to high school in Houston (Katy) too! *shudder* Sadly, my parents are still there.)

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  40. oh no way! my family lived in katy for a while; my sister even went to taylor high school!

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  41. That is too funny! I was the one who emailed you a few weeks ago who used to live on Hawthorne - apparently I'm always nearby!! (Not to be creepy :P)

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  42. oh no way!!! you should have reached out to hang out when you lived here! i bet you we have some crazy shared history since we both lived in katy and the same hood in portland :-)

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  43. I know, that would've been sweet! I'm hoping to move back to pdx eventually...I'll hit you up then :P

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  44. rachel_bodyrockerMay 7, 2015 at 8:29 PM

    Ok... because my plan was to use three pans of different sizes, I altered the recipe by adding half the ingredients in addition. However, the batter did not seem to be sufficient so I ended only using two pans (one 6" and 4"). Is the batter supposed to rise significantly? My batter did not rise very much at all.


    I had to use a substitute for the buttermilk because it is not available in grocery stores in my area in Mexico. (I made the substitute with regular 2% milk and lemon juice).


    I'm guessing the better is supposed to significantly rise which is why it should yield three 6" cakes, and mine did not. :(

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  45. I just want to thank you for posting this recipe. I had been looking for the perfect Strawberry Shortcake recipe for years, and two years ago I found this and made it for my sister's birthday. Wednesday, I will make it for her birthday for the third year in a row. :)

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