Put the words "Swedish" and "bun" together and be instantly transported to a world of fragrant, pillowy doughs; of cinnamon and cardamom and saffron; of sticky fingers and cosy conversations.
"One of the first words I learnt in Swedish was bullar or buns. Not only am I a firm believer that the best way to learn a language is through food, but also because it’s a word that crops up time and time again when talking about Swedish cuisine. Buns are very popular: you have the infamous kanelbullar (cinnamon buns, which are celebrated in Sweden on 4 October every year); kardemummabullar (cardamom buns); fastlagsbullar (fasting buns); vaniljbullar (vanilla custard buns); lussebullar (saffron buns) ..." says much-loved SBS TV host and cookbook author Rachel Khoo, who's had plenty of chances to eat, and make, all kinds of Swedish buns since she moved to Stockholm.
Here are some of our favourite ways to embrace the Swedish bun (including Khoo's apple and cheese spelt bun, for those who like to live on the savoury side of bun life).
"No matter what time of year, Swedes love their cinnamon rolls. It’s the unofficial national dish and among the first recipes, you learn as a kid. I like them best served with a glass of cold milk," says Sanna Fyring Liedgren, of the Homegrown Swedes blog, who shared her kanelbullar recipe and heartwarming video with us. Hers is a lovely simple version, with cinnamon butter spread over a rectangle of dough that is then rolled, sliced and baked - a great one to make with children.
Twisted cinnamon buns
Bakeproof columnist Anneka Manning is another fan of the cinnamon bun. "These more-ish cinnamon-almond filled buns are the quintessential accompaniment to a fika (or coffee). The traditional twisting and shaping of them may seem a little tricky to start with but follow my instructions and watch this quick video and you’ll have it mastered in no time," she says of her recipe for twisted cinnamon and almond Swedish buns.
These round, yeasted, cream-filled buns were traditionally made for Shrove Tuesday in Sweden, but they've become popular all year round. In this recipe from Adam Liaw, which he shared in Destination Flavour Scandinavia, a light cardamom-spiced bun is filled with a soft marzipan mixture and sweetened whipped cream.
Love lamingtons? You'll love this recipe from Linda Lomelino that combines two classics: Swedish semlor and the Aussie lamington.
Apple and cheese spelt buns (dinkelbulle med äpple och ost)
"My aunt-in-law told me when I handed her yet another batch of freshly baked buns (she lives next door and is a very willing recipe taster) that Swedes just can’t get enough of buns, and neither can I," Khoo writes in her book, The Little Swedish Kitchen, introducing this recipe for apple and cheese buns that she's shared with SBS Food.
"I’ve gone for a rustic approach here, with a rye and spelt flour combination. Apple, cheese and caraway is one of my favourite flavour combinations, but you can easily replace the warm aniseed notes of caraway with some chopped walnuts instead," says Khoo of her twist on the Swedish bun tradition.
Raspberry jam and chocolate buns
You can use the same buttery dough Khoo makes for the spelt buns above to make her sweet raspberry jam and chocolate buns.
Saint Lucia saffron buns
Lussekatter, rich, soft s-shaped buns, often studded with raisins, are traditionally eaten on Saint Lucia's Day in December.
Cardamom bun bombe
This kardemummabullar bombe - another recipe from Rachel Khoo - is a great way to use up any day-old cardamom buns. You can also make this using leftover cinnamon buns. "I’ve also made this using bought buns when I’ve been short of time and need a quick and easy dessert for a dinner party," Khoo says of her recipe, which combines buns, ice-cream and a cardamom caramel syrup.
Gluten-free cinnamon scrolls
Helen Tzouganatos' gluten-free take on the Swedish cinnamon bun means coeliacs can indulge, too.
White chocolate and berry coconut mountains
This kokostoppar (a kind of coconut macaroon) that Rachel Khoo shares in her show, My Swedish Kitchen, sit somewhere between a biscuit and bun, depending on how large you make them. This "little sweet alternative to the traditional cinnamon bun" for enjoying during Sweden's fabulous fika coffee break tradition can be made whatever size you like. "I quite like them when they're just one or two mouthfuls," she says.
Rachel Khoo recipes and images from The Little Swedish Kitchen by Rachel Khoo (Michael Joseph, RRP $49.99).
Watch double episodes of Rachel Khoo: My Swedish Kitchen 7.30pm Mondays from 24 February.
Made ahead, these toffees can be kept in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
This rich chocolate cake is possibly Sweden’s most popular cake, with every cafe boasting its own version. It’s a rich, dense simple cake that is deliberately undercooked so the centre stays nice and gooey (‘kladd’ means sticky in Swedish). It is also a clever cake, with chilling changing its character, making it lusciously dense and more fudge-like.
Saffron is said to have landed in Sweden during the 1300s, thanks to trade with Asia. Its consumption was reserved for feasts and holidays, when it appeared in sweet cakes, breads and buns. Yeasted saffron cakes are still popular in the region, particularly on December 13th, when Saint Lucia's Day is celebrated. This cake, either the whole or in part, freezes well.
During Christmas time here in Sweden, it's very traditional to eat saffron buns. This gave me the idea of combining savoury seed buns with the 'holiday taste'. I also used cranberries instead of the raisins that Nordic buns normally contain. And voila! They turned out lovely and we shared them during one of our Yoga & Breakfast mornings.