Cardamom Buns – Better than facebook!

January 12th, 2011 / Comments 0

The first time I tasted cardamom, it was the spice that scented sweet breakfast bread that a friend had baked. I was twenty-four, living in a fourth floor walk-up apartment on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. My nearest neighbor and close friend Char and her husband, Rob, lived  next-door. Our kitchens opened onto the same fire escape.

capu mug c egbert Cardamom Buns   Better than facebook!

Char had a way with spices. She brought whole cloves, allspice and cardamom across the fire escape and into my kitchen. When my apartment was filled with the smell of burned popcorn, Char suggested that I simmer a tablespoon of mixed pickling spices in a saucepan of water to get rid of the smell. She served hot tea with lime slices that were dotted with whole cloves. Slow cooked, steel cut oats topped with heavy cream and brown sugar tasted even better when she sprinkled freshly ground allspice on top. I have whole cloves, allspice and mixed pickling spices in my pantry and use them all, but it was the scent and flavor of cardamom that made me remember Char when I made a batch of cardamom buns last weekend. Here’s how I did it:

Cardamom Buns

I sprinkled four teaspoons of active dry yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar into one cup of whole milk that I had zapped in the microwave for fifteen seconds, until it was about 100º. I stirred the mixture to dissolve the yeast and sugar and let it stand for five minutes.

When the milk was foamy, I poured it into the bowl of my stand mixer and added three quarters of a cup of granulated sugar, one tablespoon of molasses, one large egg, half a cup of melted unsalted butter, half a teaspoon of kosher salt and one tablespoon of freshly ground cardamom.

When the mixture was smooth, I added four cups of all-purpose flour, one cup at a time, and one cup of raisins to the bowl. After six minutes of kneading, the dough was smooth and elastic. I used a dough hook to knead the dough but it can also be kneaded by hand on a lightly floured board.

I transferred the dough to a lightly buttered bowl, covered it with a cloth napkin and let it rise in a warm place. After an hour, the dough had doubled in size and was ready to be formed into buns.

I deflated the dough, cut it in half and formed each piece into a ball. I used a rolling pin to roll one ball into a ten by sixteen inch rectangle.

I combined half a cup of brown sugar, one teaspoon of ground ginger and three-quarters of a cup of chopped walnuts for the filling. I spread four tablespoons of softened, unsalted butter onto the dough and then sprinkled half of the sugar/walnut mixture evenly across the butter. I rolled the dough up tightly, to create a sixteen-inch log, and then used a serrated knife to cut the log into ten slices. I arranged the slices in a greased, nine inch round cake pan about half an inch apart. I repeated this process with the other ball of dough, four more tablespoons of softened butter and the remaining filling.

I covered the buns with cloth napkins and put them to rise in a warm spot. In about an hour, the buns had doubled in size. I painted the tops of the buns with an egg wash made by beating together one egg and two teaspoons of water before I put them in a 400º oven to bake. In eighteen minutes, the edges were beginning to brown and the buns were baked. I didn’t bake them until they were golden brown because I didn’t want them to be dry.

Charles and I each enjoyed a warm cardamom bun with a cup of tea scented and flavored with clove-studded lime slices. I put the rest of the buns in the freezer.

Each morning since, I have zapped a bun in the microwave for 35 seconds and been transported back to that fire escape and fond memories of cooking and laughing with Char. It has been even better than connecting on Facebook!

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