The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cardamom Butter Buns for a Picnic + Brief Introduction

JacquelineColussi's picture

Cardamom Butter Buns for a Picnic + Brief Introduction

Hello! I've been a Fresh Loaf reader since 2008, when my husband, Dado, introduced it to me. Together we're the team (TFL handle bagel_and_rye) who post about the activities of Chicago Amateur Bread Bakers from time to time. This weekend I finally got around to creating a TFL blog all my own.

It helped that I was motivated to share some news: Dado and I have been in the process of developing bread formula software (BreadStorm™) for some time. We're now at the point that we're ready to mention it here on The Fresh Loaf. And to invite bread bakers who would like to test the software to reach out to us. The software is in beta, which means that a small group of bread bakers are currently using the software and giving us their feedback.

But to get to today's formulating and bread baking... I like working out a bread formula from a taste memory, and then tasting the results and seeing how close I've come. Some years ago when we lived in Sweden, perhaps my first taste memory of the Swedish food culture was cardamom, gently scenting small buns, sliced in half and spread with butter for breakfast; or topped with butter and mild, hard präst ost (that is, priest's cheese) and a slice of cucumber to make an open-face, slider-style, between-meal snack. There was something magical about the scent of cardamom, so unexpected, earthy, and hovering between sweet and savory. It seems I've been craving that scent ever since, and have occasionally attempted to develop my own cardamom-infused buns. Here's the results of this weekend's experimentation.

I wanted a soft, buttery dough, with a tight yet tender crumb, so I began with a basic Pullman dough (also known as Pain de Mie):

Basic Pullman Dough

With an enriched dough such as this, I prefer to keep the salt at no more than 1%. Personal preference, as I'm rather sensitive to the taste of salt, which seems to be further amplified on my palate by the sugar and butter.

Because the 18% butter will soften the dough, and because the 5% sugar may challenge the yeast to do its work, I decided to include a sponge pre-ferment. The sponge--containing only flour, milk, and all of the formula's yeast--will both develop the gluten network (without interference from the butter) and kickstart fermentation (without interference from the sugar). The sponge will also bring a subtle complexity of flavor to the bread:

Pullman Dough with Sponge

To infuse the dough with cardamom flavor, I use green cardamom pods, available at our local Middle Eastern Bakery.

Green cardamom pods, available in Chicago from the Middle Eastern Bakery.

I'm after the dark, pulpy seeds contained within the rough green shells. I find a mortar and pestle is an easy way to break the shells open.

Broken green cardamom pods, revealing dark seeds.

Once the pods are split, by hand I pick out the dark seeds and discard the rough shells. This takes a few minutes but is worth it for the rich and earthy cardamom flavor we'll taste in the finished bread. Approximately 1/3 of the cardamom pods' weight is shell, so, for example, 6 grams of pods will yield 4 grams of aromatic seeds. The last step here is to grind the seeds with the mortar and pestle. Not too fine, as I like to see rustic flecks of cardamom in my bread.

The night before baking, I mix the ground cardamom into the milk used in the final mix, and refrigerate the mixture overnight. The cardamom intensely perfumes the milk, which will perfume the bread. A bit of pure vanilla extract added to the mixture further brings out the cardamom flavor.

The last thing I added to the formula is some extra butter, which I'll melt and brush over the buns, both before and after baking. Here's the formula in its final form:

Cardamom Butter Buns (%)

When ready to start baking, I scaled the formula to use 1,000 grams of flour, to yield 18 buns of approximately 100 grams each:

Cardamom Butter Buns (g)


1. Night before: Mix together the ingredients for the sponge. Cover the sponge and allow it to sit at room temperature for about an hour, or until you begin to see it expand. Then refrigerate the sponge overnight, where it will ferment slowly.

2. Using a mortar and pestle, crack open the green cardamom pods, then take out the dark seeds by hand. Grind the seeds with the mortar and pestle.

3. Measure the milk to be used in the final mix. To this milk, add the ground cardamom and the vanilla extract. Cover the mixture and refrigerate overnight.

4. Next morning: Set out the milk, butter, and cardamom mixture to warm to room temperature.

5. Once all ingredients are at room temperature, mix together all final mix ingredients except the butter. Knead the dough by hand until you feel the gluten coming together. (For me, this is around 5 minutes.) Add the butter and knead until it's thoroughly incorporated into the dough.

6. Ferment the dough at 25C/77F until doubled in size.

7. Pre-heat the oven to 205C/400F. Divide the dough into 18 pieces of around 100 grams each. Roll each piece into a strand of about 20cm (8in). Coil each strand to form a spiral or snail-shell shape. My sloppy spirals, proofing:

My sloppy spirals.

8. Proof until a fingertip poked into the dough creates an impression that stays, i.e., that doesn't pop back out.

9. Just before baking, brush the tops of the buns with melted butter. Reduce oven temperature to 190C/375F. Bake for 15-25 minutes, or until a hint of golden color begins to appear on the crust. These buns are meant to be creamy and soft, with the barest hint of crust.

10. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush again with melted butter. Allow to cool before serving.

Cardamom butter buns, ready for a summer picnic.

Two buns are missing from the basket (above); they went straight down our hatches while still hot from the oven ;-) They're a close approximation of my Swedish taste memory, but next time I'll experiment with doubling the percentage of cardamom.

We like the buns spread thickly with butter and bitter orange preserves. The crumb is tight and uniform, soft and smooth, but structured enough to support the weight of toppings.

 crust, crumb.

I'll be bringing the buns along to tomorrow's "Taste-and-Tell" picnic with the Chicago Amateur Bread Bakers.


annie the chef's picture
annie the chef

Hi Jacqueline

Those rolls look delicious and sound flavoursome. My family enjoyed sweet dough bread very much and only starting hooked to sourdough bread lately.

Have a great time at the picnic and happy baking!


JacquelineColussi's picture

Thank you for your kind words, Annie! Hello from Chicago.

breadsong's picture

Hello Jacqueline,
Those Cardamom Butter Buns are so beautiful (as is the garden of purple petunias!).
The fragrance during mixing and baking must have been wonderful with the freshly-ground cardamom.
I love your recommendation of infusing the milk with the spice, and will try this infusion the next time I make this type of bread (I've made a Finnish Nisu bread, similar to these Cardamom Butter Buns).
This post (David Lebovitz, visit to Rosendals Trädgård Bageri in Stockholm), shows some more lovely Swedish breads, and there's a picture of a big bin of kardemumma further down the post, too.
Best wishes for your baking group picnic (lucky group - they're in for a treat!), and for your testing and development of BreadStorm as well.
:^) breadsong


JacquelineColussi's picture

Hello breadsong! Thank you for your kind comments. Our place did (and still does) smell of cardamom.

When we lived in Stockholm, Rosendals Trädgårdscafé was a favorite spot for fika (Swedish-style coffee break), a daily ritual unfailingly accompanied by some lightly sweet baked treat. (At fika is where I developed the habit of thickly buttering my bread.) The post you shared from David Lebovitz captures the Rosendahls atmosphere perfectly. When one walks into the bakery, there's a large, rough-hewn table, maybe 1meter wide by 4meters long, if memory serves me, on which all of the bakery's cafe offerings are displayed. Customers mill about and admire, and then choose a treat and help themselves. It's a feast for the senses.

I had to look up "nisu," although I guessed it might be another word for what the Finnish side of our family calls "pulla." jarkkolaine gave a helpful clarification: 

Nisu is the old Finnish word for wheat, and sometimes used to refer to what we nowadays usually call "pulla". This probably comes from the fact that in the old days, bread in Finland was almost always made of rye and therefore bread made out of wheat was a special treat -- special enough to be known as the "wheat bread".

Thank you for your well wishes for BreadStorm™! We're excited to share the software with our fellow FreshLoaf-ers.


breadsong's picture

Hi Jacqueline,
That's wonderful you've been to that bakery in Stockholm - I enjoyed reading your description of what it's like there!  I'll put this on the travel wish-list, to be in Stockholm one day, at coffee-time :^)
Thanks for Jarkko's definition of nisu - it's good to know more about the Finnish history of this bread.
:^) breadsong


evonlim's picture

hi Jacqueline, thank you for taking time to share a wonderful detailed formula and those beautiful rolls with beautiful background of purple flowers.. r those petunia? 

i like the cardamon in the rolls instead of the usual cinnamon. will definitely give this a go..

have fun at the picnic!!

happy baking n look forward for your next post



JacquelineColussi's picture

Hi evon!

Yes, the flowers are petunias. The picnic was fun, even though we had to move it indoors at the last minute because of thunderstorms and heavy rain. Thank you for your encouragement to post again.


Skibum's picture

. . . to bake a version of these and I have the cardomom soaking in milk right now -- GREAT idea!!!  I bake traditional Finnish Pulla periodically and this recipe also uses cardomom, though I have just aqdded it to the dough, it imparts a great flavour.  Your formula is also very similar to my recent go to dough which is derived from Peter Reinhart's soft white sandwich bread, in ABED.  So if I add some egg to your formula or cardamom to my white bread roll formula, I basically have pulla.  I will try baking pulla buns today.

Thanks for the inspiration!  Beautiful baking!  Brian

JacquelineColussi's picture

Hi Brian,

Thank you for your kind words. How did your pulla buns turn out? 

So sorry to hear about the flooding in Alberta. I hope you and your neighbors are safe and sound, and that your community is already on the mend.


EDIT: For Brian's pulla, check out

dabrownman's picture

inedible, Even my apprentice wouldn't touch it after one whiff,  was a Swedish Cardamon bread from Clayton's book.  It was horrible and I chalked it up to 2 things.  Like you, I made fresh cardomain powder and Clayton was probably using ground stuff he had in the cupboard for 10 years with little flavor or I might somehow have put too much of the really fragrant fresh stuff in by mistake.  At any rate it has to be an acquired taste all Swedes grow up with and one I no longer want to acquire :-)

Your buns look very nice at any rate.