(Swedish Pumpkin Spice Buns)
When Alicia Kennedy mentioned she’d be doing a collaboration with Burlap & Barrel to create her own pumpkin spice blend, I had the idea to build a Swedish bun recipe around it. Bullar are either flavored with cardamom (kardemummabullar) or cinnamon (kanelbullar), so making one with a cinnamon-forward spice blend was entirely sensible. And making one with a quality spice blend that also contains nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and coriander—along with cardamom, added separately—turned out to be an excellent idea. The aroma that wafts from the oven as these buns bake is downright inebriating, and their flavor is complex and amazing.
Pumpabullar—buns with actual pumpkin in the dough and pumpkin spice in the filling—are already a thing in Sweden, although they are relatively a recent innovation. Since mine lacked pumpkin, I asked my Swedish friend Johanna Kindvall—chef, cookbook author, and artist—what to call them, and she suggested I use the term ‘pumpakryddbullar’.
It is a long recipe, with lots of notes, but these buns are not really that difficult to make. I’ve provided two different options for shaping, a classic knotted bundle (see this video for a great demo of the method) and a braid. Both are easy to do with a little practice, and no matter which version you choose, the buns are extremely forgiving of an inexpert technique once they are proofed and baked. (The ones pictured above were my very first attempts.)
Pumpakryddbullar (Swedish Pumpkin Spice Buns)
Makes 12 buns
You may use whatever starch you like in the tangzhong, including bread flour (or potato starch, tapioca starch, or instant mashed potatoes…); my tangzhong starch of choice these days is glutinous rice flour, because it is known to keep breads softer longer than other starches.
For a vegan version, simply replace the butter and milk with plant-based versions of each (soy milk is known to be the best replacement for milk, browning-wise, but oat milk works nicely here too). For the egg wash, you can use melted coconut oil, or a 50/50 mixture of plant milk and sugar or maple syrup.
If you don’t have cardamom seeds for the dough, you can use 3g (1 teaspoon) ground cardamom instead.
This is a deliberately high-hydration dough, so be sure to wet your hands during the folds in step 5 to keep the dough from sticking to them.
For the same reason, use ample flour on the counter and the exterior of the dough during rolling and shaping.
Optionally refrigerating the dough as described in step 6 will make it more extensible and less sticky, both of which will make it easier to roll out. (This is usually my preference if time allows.)
If you don’t have Alicia’s Burlap & Barrel pumpkin spice blend, just replace it with 14g (2 tablespoons) ground cinnamon, making these into kannelbullar.
The filling can stiffen up when it hits the dough, especially if the dough is cold. Be sure it is very soft & warm before spreading it; if necessary, pop it into the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds (but try not to let it melt fully).
Cut the dough into this pattern for the braided version:
And this one for the twists:
Swedish pearl sugar is available online from baking-supply companies like King Arthur; there are recipes online for making it yourself as well. If unavailable, use turbinado sugar or just leave it out altogether.
40g starch or flour
6g (1-1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
335g bread flour
6g (2 teaspoons) lightly-crushed cardamom seeds
56g (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, cold
7g (1-1/4 teaspoons) salt
84g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
14g (2 tablespoons) pumpkin spice mix
3g (1 teaspoon) ground cardamom
50g (1/4 cup) sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt
1/4 cup Swedish pearl sugar (optional)
For the tangzhong: Place the water and starch in a microwave-safe bowl and whisk to combine. Cover loosely and microwave in 30 second intervals until thickened and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes, whisking regularly. Uncover and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
For the dough: Add the remaining milk, sugar, and yeast to the bowl with the tangzhong and whisk until uniform. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour and cardamom, and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together and no dry flour remains, 2 to 5 minutes. Cover loosely and let sit for 20 minutes.
Add the salt to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 4 minutes. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until the butter is incorporated and the dough is silky and starts to clear the sides of the bowl (it will remain webby and sticky), 6 to 8 minutes.
Desired Dough Temperature: 75˚F.
Transfer the dough to a medium bow, cover, and let sit at 75˚F until about doubled in volume, 90 to 120 minutes, folding the dough with lightly-moistened hands at 45 and 90 minutes.
(If desired, once the dough has about doubled in volume, it may be covered tightly and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Remove the dough from the fridge an hour or so before shaping the buns to warm it slightly. The buns will take about 90 to 120 minutes to proof in step 11 if shaped when the dough is cold.)
For the filling: Place softened butter, pumpkin spice, cardamom, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and stir with a spatula until a smooth paste forms. Cover and set aside.
For the buns: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured counter. Flour the top of the dough and roll it into a 16- by 12-inch rectangle, with its longer side facing you. Using an offset spatula, spread the filling evenly over the lower two-thirds of the dough. Fold the uncovered third over the center third, then fold the remaining third over the center strip.
For braided knots: Using a floured bench scraper or a pizza wheel, cut the dough into quarters crosswise, and then cut quarter into thirds crosswise. Cut each strip lengthwise into three equal strips, leaving them connected at one end by about 1/2-inch. Braid the strips and then pinch them together at the end. Flip the braid over and then, starting with the unbraided end, roll it into a ball and then gently press the bundle together to seal it. Transfer the ball to the prepared pan, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining strips of dough, spacing them evenly apart on the pan.
For twists: Using a floured bench scraper or a pizza wheel, cut the dough into half crosswise. Cut each half into 6 strips lengthwise. Loosely hold the end of one strip between your thumb and first three fingers of your non-dominant hand and then gently stretch the cord while wrapping it loosely around your fingers. When you get down to the last 3 inches or so, remove the bundle from around your fingers, wrap the remaining cord crosswise around the bundle and then push the end through the core of the bundle to hold it in place. Transfer the bundle to the prepared pan, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining strips of dough, spacing them evenly apart on the pan.
Cover the buns loosely and allow to proof until about doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes.
Thirty minutes before buns are doubled in volume, set an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 325˚F.
Brush the buns evenly with the the egg wash and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of pearl sugar per bun.
Bake the buns until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan after 15 minutes.
Allow the buns to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. They will keep for a few days in a closed container but are best served fresh.