June 7 is the “Day of the Skillingsbolle”—yum!
Bergen’s favorite pastry for 500 years
Taste for Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
Should you find yourself in a Bergen café or bakery contemplating your options for a morning treat, consider skillingsboller, the signature pastry of the city.These soft buns are made with a tender, sweet cardamom dough that is slathered with butter and generously covered with sugar and cinnamon before being rolled into a circular shape. After a brief stay in the oven, they are brushed with more melted butter and sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. Add a cup of coffee and your day is off to a very delicious start.
While there are many different types of cinnamon buns served all over the Scandinavian region, the original skillingsboller comes from Bergen. It was brought to Norway from northern Germany in the 16th century and quickly became a local favorite.
Skillingsboller have undergone some changes over the centuries. Originally, the bun also contained raisins. During the war, here was a shortage of ingredients and the raisins disappeared from the standard recipe and never returned. The name skillingsboller translates to “penny bun” in English. It comes from the custom in which baked goods were named after their price, and the skillingsboller was originally sold in Bergen for one shilling (or penny) each. Today, a skillingsboller will cost you more than a penny, but the name remains the same.
When you walk through a cafe in Bergen, you quickly notice that there are at least two different ways to eat a skillingsboller. Some people daintily tear off bit by bit, while others pick it up and dive right in. Some add an additional pat of butter and a slice or two of brown cheese. While the method may differ, skillingsboller are loved by Norwegians (and non-Norwegians) alike.
Just in case your travel plans don’t include a trip to Bergen sometime soon, try my recipe for skillingsboller at home. It’s simple, perfectly buttery and loaded with cinnamon sugar flavor. It utilizes the tangzhong technique (as all my soft bun recipes do) which is an easy, 5-minute step used in making Japanese milk bread that yields exceptionally soft, billowy buns. These skillingsboller are sure to become a family favorite—no passport necessary.
Bake your own Skillingsboller right at home
By Kristi Bissell
Makes 12 buns
For the tangzhong:
5 tbsps. water
5 tbsps. whole milk
3 tbsps. all-purpose flour
For the dough:
5 tbsps. melted unsalted butter, cooled
½ cup whole milk, slightly warm
2 tsps. instant yeast
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. fine salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg
All of the Tangzhong, cooled
For the filling:
5 tsps. soft unsalted butter
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
Pinch of fine salt
3 tsps. packed light brown sugar
2 tsps. ground cinnamon
For the topping:
Melted butter for brushing
3 tbsps. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1. Make the tangzhong: Combine water, milk and flour in a medium saucepan. Whisk until combined and no lumps remain. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it thickens, about 1-2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Make the dough: While the tangzhong is cooling, begin preparing the rest of the ingredients for the dough. Combine yeast, cardamom (if using), salt, sugar, and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk briefly by hand to combine.
3. Attach the dough hook to the mixer. Add melted and cooled butter, slightly warm milk, egg, and the cooled Tangzhong (it can be slightly warm to the touch) to the dry ingredients. Mix on medium low until fully combined.
4. Increase mixer speed to medium and knead mixture for 3-4 minutes or until dough is slightly tacky but not sticky and clears the side of the bowl. It’s okay if it’s sticking to the bottom of the bowl slightly. You can also mix and knead the dough by hand, but it will take longer, about 8-10 minutes.
5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for an hour or until 1½ or 2 times its original size. The time will largely depend on the temperature of your kitchen.
6. In the meantime, make the filling. Combine butter, flour, salt, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Using a fork, mix ingredients together until a smooth, spreadable paste forms.
7. Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 400. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it onto a clean countertop. Roll out with a rolling pin until it is in the shape of a rectangle that is about 16 inches by 20 inches in size. The dough should be smooth enough that you do not need to add flour during the rolling process. If it sticks to the rolling pin, however, sprinkle a little flour over the dough as necessary to prevent this from happening.
8. Using an off-set spatula, spread filling in a thin layer over the entire surface of the dough. Roll the dough into a cylinder shape lengthwise and cut into 12 slices.
9. Place 6 sliced buns on a prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Continue with remaining 6 buns, placing them on the second baking sheet before covering with plastic wrap. Let covered buns rise for an additional 30-45 minutes.
10. Remove the plastic wrap and bake one pan of buns at a time for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining pan. Cool slightly and brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Serve.
Read more about Bergen’s Skillingsbolle traditions at visitbergen.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 27, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.