I don’t know about you but the holiday spirit didnt strike until a week before Christmas. I am sure some of it had to do with the unseasonably warm weather and lack of snow - the biting cold and snow globe flurries being two key elements crucial to the winter mood.However when the spirit did finally strike it came in the form of bread making.
I have been especially facinated with diving back into the recipes belonging to the Scandinavian side of my family. I never knew my Great Grandmother Hansen but the act of using my hands to make the same recipes she made, that she passed down to my Mum, that my Mum passed down to my Mother keeps me connected. I think back to the first recipe I ever made - I was around 10 and it was this incredibly dense sugary lemon bread. I was obsessed with these tiny spiral bound cookbooks my mother had on her top kitchen shelf. They had the most incredible little illustrations - one of a Danish woman, one of a Norwegian and one of a Swede. Suprise , suprise the lemon bread came from the Swedish book. The recipe itself had many steps - grating and juicing the lemon, making a glaze, buttering a pan. I loved all the tactile steps, the range of tools and of course the incredible aromas! I have since always loved baking because it is a challenge. I know a lot of people are intimidated by baking and that is of course valid but for me it’s like painting. Trying to recreate an image i’ve seen as close to that images as I can. At first I think “how in the hell will I ever capture that? “ but in art school I learned that if you always avoid the hands than you will never learn how to draw them. With baking if I fail well then I of course am a bit discouraged but I want to try again. If I succeed? Well of course it’s an incredible high.
Bread in particular an art that I will be the first to admit I find intimidating but honestly the only way to get better at anything is to jump in and take it slow.And best part about it? I’ve already gone ahead to troubleshoot so hopefully the lessons I learned will help you in your journey! For those of you who followed along with Apparition’s instagram stories here is the bread recipe as promised!
Swedish Cardamon Bread
Serves 8-10 ( I found it can be divided into three loaves if you wish)
For the Dough:
2 TSP active dry yeast ( I used one packed Fleischmann's )
1/4 C water ( for activating yeast)
1 TSP sugar ( for activating yeast)
7 TBSP butter
1 1/2 C whole milk heated to 115 degrees
4 1/2 C flour (plus a handful or so extra for dusting)
1/4 C organic sugar
1 1/2 TSP cardamom seeds ( lightly crushed)
1/4 TSP kosher salt
For the filling
1/2 C granulated sugar
7 TBSP butter softened
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
1 1/2 TSP cardamom seeds, finely crushed
1 egg beaten ( room temp)
Pearl sugar (regularly will do just fine as well though not as aesthetically pleasing)
1 egg beaten (room temp, to glaze bread with)
First Activate the yeast.
Check that the yeast package has not expired. Then take one packet of Fleischmann's dry active yeast and sprinkle it on top of a bowl of 1/4 C water (100-115 degrees). You can use a thermometer to double check or you can do it by hand feel ( start tap on luke warm and adjust temperature to "wash your dishes temperature " essentially hot enough to bear but not scalding ). Whisk in 1 TSP sugar until yeast mixture is mostly dissolved. Let the mixture sit uncovered in a warm area for about 10 minutes . You will know that the mixture has activated properly because it will create a frothy foam on top .
This website is extremely helpful for tips & visuals :
Next make the dough:
Pour the milk into a 1 qt. saucepan. Cut butter into smaller pieces and add to the milk heating the mixture on medium low. Stirring occasionally, heat mixture just long enough that butter dissolves but the milk does not come to a boil ( about 1-1.5 mins).
Remove the butter & milk from burner and add in your activated yeast.
Whisk flour , sugar, coarsely ground cardamom , and salt in a bowl.
Stir in yeast mixture until dough forms.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface ; knead until all elements are incorporated and dough smooth and elastic ( about 3 mins)
Return dough to bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Let sit in a warm place ( for example the mantel above a wood stove works wonders) until the dough is doubled in size ( about 45 mins- 1 hour depending on how warm the area is).
While the dough rises make the filling:
Mix granulated sugar, softened butter, cinnamon and finely crushed cardamom in a bowl until smooth.
Assemble the bread:
On a lightly floured surface roll dough into a 11 in x 17 in rectangle about 1/4 in thick. Spread filling over the dough leaving 1/2 in border along the edges. Working from one long side to the other , roll dough into a tight cylinder. Transfer the roll seam side down onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.Cover with a dish towel and let sit in a warm place until dough has doubled in size once more ( about 45 mins).Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the Bread:
Using kitchen shears or knife you will then cut your bread into a decorative pattern. Starting 1 in from the ends of the dough you will make alternating crosswise cuts spaced 1 in apart three quarters of the way through the dough ( there are visuals of this in the highlights section of our IG profile under "Cardamon Bread" ) . Whisk egg together and brush mixture onto the dough. Sprinkle pearl sugar and almonds on top. Bake about 22-30 minutes until golden brown and inside is thoroughly cooked ( which you can check by inserting a cake tester or fork into one of the cuts in the dough - if it comes out wet or is not "springy" than it needs five more minutes).Let bread cool for about 45 mins ( or until the filling isn't molten lava temp) before serving.
Bread keeps for several days after initial baking and is most delicious when served warm so that the filling is all warm and gooey ( 20 mins on 270 degrees does the trick).