Ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks

Swedes have used spices for hundreds of years and cinnamon has always been one of the most popular spices to use in Sweden.  It is used to flavour drinks, such as glögg, and to enhance many dishes, but it is most famous for its most famous contribution to Swedish cuisine is for kanelbullar, cinnamon buns.

Origins of cinnamon

Cinnamon has been known about for thousand of years as research shows that the Eygptians imported it over 4000 years ago. I don't know when it was first imported into Sweden, or whether it was originally sought for medicinal purposes or as a flavouring, but it is now one of the most commonly used spices in Sweden.

Cinnamon is harvested by growing the tree for two years then coppicing it. The next year, about a dozen shoots will form from the roots. The branches are then harvested and processed by scraping off the outer bark, then beating the branch evenly with a hammer to loosen the inner bark. The inner bark is then prised out in long rolls to make cinnamon sticks.

You can buy cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon in virtually any supermarket. Although you can grind the sticks into powder yourself it really isn't worth the effort as jar of ground cinnamon is just as good and it keeps well too. 

Cinnamon Buns
Cinnamon buns in a cafe
Above: cinnamon buns in a café

Cinnamon buns, kanelbullar, are a classic of Swedish coffee parties and are sold at every café in Sweden. When you step into a Swedish café you can always detect the delicious sweet aroma of freshly baked kanelbullar. It's then that you begin to wonder, is the baking of kanelbullar a condition of being allowed to run a café?

Buns or rolls?

But are they rolls or buns? Cookery books are divided. They are essentially the same thing as both use a sweet yeast bread base with a cinnamon and butter filling. Sometimes they are rolled differently but not always.  Some are more like logs and some more like wheels lying flat. The Fins tend to go for the log shapes and the Swedes for the wheels.

Cinnamon Bun Day

Yes, it is true! Such is the importance of cinnamon buns to Swedes that that they now have an official Cinnamon Bun Day, October 4th! The day was introduced in 1999 by Hembakningsrådet, the Home Baking Council, and so everyone is expected to bake and eat kanelbullar on October 4th.  So far it appears to be the only festival not to include any drinking songs but there is time yet...

Pearl sugar

The biggest difficulty in making cinnamon buns in the UK is that they are normally finished off with some pärlsocker (pearl sugar), sometimes also called sugar nibs.  These can be obtained from a specialist supplier.  If you can't get hold of any pearl sugar you can try some coarse granulated sugar, try crushing some sugar cubes or use flaked almonds instead.

Freezing your own

Cinnamon buns freeze well so when you bake some buns you might as well bake a fullbatch of about 20 and freeze what you don't need straight away.  When you fancy a cinnamon bun for breakfast or fika just pop one into the microwave to warm it through, be careful not to over cook it though!

Cinnamon ice cream

Cinnamon ice cream

If you like cinnamon, why not try our kanelglass (cinnamon ice cream). It is easy to make and goes well with apple dishes as well as being good on its own.

John Duxbury

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