Kanelboller: part of a Norwegian diet

If you think eggs or dairy are needed to make a gorgeous dough, this vegan recipe for cinnamon buns might change your mind

Photo: Tine Mediebank Cinnamon makes everything more inviting.

Photo: Tine Mediebank
Cinnamon makes everything more inviting.

Sunny Gandara
Arctic Grub

You’d be hard pressed to find a Norwegian who doesn’t absolutely LOVE cinnamon. One could say three out of four pastry recipes in Norway includes this delightful spice (exaggerating here and there), and kanelboller, or kanelsnurrer as some call them (in English we know them as cinnamon buns) is one of the most popular of Scandinavian baked goods. Perhaps it is the warming and comforting sensation one gets from cinnamon that is so appealing to northern people—after all, we spend over half the year being cold. Cinnamon adds a little exotic element to what is otherwise a straightforward cuisine, using what is at hand to create a meal.

I am unable to count how many versions I’ve had of kanelboller; in friends and family’s homes, in cafes, at functions, and everywhere else you can imagine food being served, and there have been very few I’ve actually disliked. The key is to get them light and fluffy and moist—the rest will fall into place, because how can you go wrong when adding cinnamon to a recipe? (Spoken like a true Norwegian.)

Last year there was a huge uproar among Scandinavian cinnamon lovers, as the E.U.’s regulations stipulated restrictions of the use of cinnamon, citing the dangers of over consuming the spice due to its content of coumarin, a fragrant organic chemical compound in cinnamon, suggesting it to be moderately toxic to the liver. Bakers all across Scandinavia fumed, citing their history of using cinnamon in their breads and pastries for over 200 years. The Swedes circumvented the regulations, citing that kanelboller were “Tradition food” and were allowed a higher dosage in their food. I find this to be quite funny, but it also shows Norwegians’ and our fellow Scandiavians’ attachment to this popular spice.

I’ve covered cinnamon buns in the past, but I wanted to develop a dairy free and eggless recipe since I decided to no longer include these products in my diet. If you think eggs or dairy are needed to make a gorgeous dough—boy, will this one prove you wrong!! In fact, dare I say that this is perhaps the best recipe for kanelboller I’ve come up with to date? You be the judge.

I highly recommend using fresh yeast in this recipe. There is something magical about the scent and consistency of dough made with fresh yeast—something that truly reminds me of being in Norway in someone’s kitchen while yet another delightful pastry is baking away. While I am aware this is harder to come by in the U.S., I am lucky in that my local market’s pastry department will sell me their fresh yeast by the pound. Ask the bakery department at your grocery store or bakery—many people are happy to make a few extra dollars selling their base ingredients!

The dough for these kanelboller is truly light and airy—a dream to handle! Another mention is that the spread in the middle should not be excessive—just a thin, even layer is enough. Remember, these aren’t the super-decadent cinnamon buns we’re used to in the U.S. where both the fat and glaze is dripping and one bite seems enough before we deem it “too much” and “I can’t have anymore.” This is a bun that is not too sweet but that you (unfortunately?) could eat three or four of in one sitting!

1 1/2 cup soy milk or other plant based milk
100 grams or 1/2 cup vegan butter
50 grams fresh yeast (or 1 packet dry yeast)
500 grams or roughly 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
100 grams or 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp baking powder

113 grams (1 stick) or 1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
60 grams (1/4 cup) light brown sugar
60 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
Additional vegan butter (melted) and sugar for brushing and sprinkling on buns

In a small pot, heat up the soy- or plant-based milk and butter until lukewarm, around 98.6 Fahrenheit (37 Celcius). Crumble in the fresh or dry yeast. In a large bowl, combine half the flour with the rest of the dry ingredients, pour in the yeast milk mixture and add the rest of the flour until a firm, smooth dough shapes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot to rise for about one hour.

Meanwhile, combine the ingredients to the filling in a small bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (210 degrees Celcius) and spray two baking sheets.

Punch down the dough and roll it out to a rectangle about 15 x 20 inches (40 x 50 cm). Spread the filling thinly all over the dough and start rolling from the widest and closest edge until you have a “sausage.”

Using a dough cutter, divide into about 15-20 pieces and place cut side up on the prepared baking sheet.

Cover with a towel and let rise again for about 20 minutes.

Brush the buns with melted butter and sprinkle some brown or regular granulated sugar on top. Place in oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes until nice and golden.

Note: If you are a fan of glazed cinnamon buns, you can mix a bit of soy milk and confectioner’s sugar together until you achieve a thick but runny consistency and spread the buns with these after they have cooled down.

This article is reprinted with permission from Sunny Gandara’s blog, arcticgrub.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/kanelboller-part-of-a-norwegian-diet/. For step-by-step photo directions, please visit the site. Connect with her on facebook (facebook.com/forkandglass) or twitter (@forkandglass).

Sunny Gandara has over 15 years experience in marketing and PR, both in the music and beverage industry. In 2008 she founded her own company, Fork and Glass, a food and wine event and consulting company, located in the Hudson Valley of New York. She now focuses on education, giving seminars and classes to private and corporate groups. Sunny, a native of Norway, is a professionally trained cook and holds a diploma in Wines & Spirits from the WSET.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 12, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.