Guest post: Kanelbullar

Though I’ve spoken a lot about my time living in Bologna (where I met Gloria) and my current life here in Rome, I haven’t really explained exactly how I got here in the first place. After all, picking up and moving to a different continent is not an easy decision, nor is it easy to always find the means and opportunities to do so – most who come to live or work abroad do not end up staying as long as I have, for whatever reason. In reality, the fact that I ended up in Rome was quite by chance – I had applied for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Italy after graduating from college, which would allow me to teach English in two public high schools somewhere in Italy. All Fulbright scholars are assigned a city in the country they apply to – you have no choice in the matter -- and I was lucky enough to be assigned to Rome. As the lettrice for the English language classes I taught at Liceo Augusto Righi and Liceo Farnesina, I used my skills as a native speaker in the classroom, helping students with conversation and pronunciation, teaching grammar, and holding lessons on American culture and history. It was my first real job after college, and was what gave me the opportunity to get to know and love Rome as I did, as well as introduce me to the wonderful teachers and students I worked with that year – including today’s guest poster!

Gabriele, was a student in one of the classes I taught on Thursday afternoons at Liceo Augusto Righi. Out of the 20 or so students in the class, he stood out right away because he spoke English with a perfect American accent, a skill he acquired while attending an American elementary school for eight years. During our lessons on Italian immigration to America, the poetry of Walt Whitman, and Thanksgiving, I remember Gabriele as being one of the best students in that class, eager to participate and always attentive during my lessons (which wasn’t always a given when the teacher was only three years older than the students). After I finished the Fulbright and he graduated from high school we kept in touch via Facebook, finally getting a chance to meet up in Rome not too long ago when our schedules finally overlapped.

Let me just start off by saying that Gabriele is hands down on of the most ambitious, motivated people I know -- beyond choosing to do university in London, where he studies International Relations, he also balances his schoolwork with a job at Starbucks, secured an internship at the Associated Press for his three weeks of vacation here in Rome this past July (the only person I’ve ever met to look for a job while on vacation,) and this August will start a journalism based internship for the next year, six months in Utrecht and six months in Copenhagen. On top of all that, he has decided to pick up Swedish as a third language (simply because he loves learning foreign languages,) has a blog that documents all his travels and experiences abroad ( and finds time to travel as much as possible, especially in Scandinavia. Impressive for someone who isn’t even 21 yet!

Last week Gabriele and I found time to make and photograph this recipe for kanelbullar, inspired by the month he recently spent in Stockholm. Kanelbullar are Swedish sweet rolls, made with yeast leavened dough, a cinnamon sugar filling, and lots of cardamom. Though I consider myself to be a good baker, I have to say I wasn’t actually sure how these would come out, for a couple of reasons:

1. The recipe that Gabriele had was given to him was in Norwegian (it had been shared with us courtesy of a Norwegian friend) meaning that we had to google translate the recipe.

2. We had to figure out how to convert unfamiliar units of measurement (any idea what dL would be in cups??)

3. I realized last minute that I had forgotten to bring a rolling pin to roll out the actual dough, assuming of course that all went accordingly to plan with the recipe and the dough actually turned out roll-able. (We ended up using a mostly empty roll of aluminum foil for the rolling pin – works great in a pinch, for future reference!)

Despite the rocky start to the recipe, these kanelbullar came out absolutely perfectly – fluffy and buttery and spicy, not to mention they looked like they came from a bakery case at Starbucks (accordingly to Gabriele). These kanelbullar would be a perfect addition to a breakfast or brunch, or great just for a snack with coffee or tea. Note that they are best eaten warm from the oven, but eating them straight away won’t be a problem anyways.


8 tablespoons (1 stick)unsalted butter
2.5 cups whole milk
1 egg
50 g dry yeast
¾ cup sugar
7 cups of flour
1 ½ tsp cardamom
1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons softened butter
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 egg
Decorating sugar


Melt the butter in a saucepan and pour in the milk. Allow the mixture to heat until warm. Put the yeast in a large mixing bowl, pour over the milk and butter mixture, and stir to dissolve the yeast. Add the egg, beating well to combine. Next, in another large bowl, mix together the sugar, cardamom, salt, and most of the flour using a large wooden spoon. Add the yeast mixture to these dry ingredients a little at a time, stirring as you go, until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Turn out the dough on to a clean work surface and knead it for a couple of minutes, until you have a soft smooth dough – if the dough is too sticky, add a little extra flour. Put the dough back in to a bowl and cover it with a clean dish towel. Let the dough rise for 40 minutes.

While the dough is rising, make the kanelbullar filling by stirring together the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle a little flour on to a large clean work space and turn out the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough in to a large rectangle, about 20x50 cm. Spread the filling over the dough. Fold the dough over itself in half. Cut the dough in to strips about 2cm thick. Pick up a strip of dough and twist the two ends in opposite directions two or three times and then coil the strip in on itself, tucking the ends underneath and sealing them in place. Once you have twisted all the strips, place them on a large greased baking tray. Brush the kanelbullar with the egg wash and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake the kanelbullar knots in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack slightly before eating. Makes about 30 buns.

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