Meet my dear friend Amy and her little man Ben! We’ve been friends for 15 years! Her hubby and my hubby have been friends since wee babies. Amy gave up her career as an editor to be a full time, awesome mommy. She’s also the best travel buddy! A few years back we flew to London (first class) for a girly weekend get-away! That’s another story for another time… She is also one of the best dang cooks I’ve ever known so you’ll enjoy this fun recipe. It’s frickin’ delicious! You’ll love her right away and her sweet boy!
By Amy Oelkers
As a born-and-bred Minnesota girl, I happily embrace my heritage: I walk the dog in single-digit weather, I chat with people in the check-out line, I have many coats for all possible climate conditions, I eat lefse, I have celebrated New Year’s Eve standing in the middle of a frozen lake, and I love all things Scandinavian. Including, I’m glad to say, my husband, who comes from good Swedish stock. I don’t have a drop of Scandinavian blood in me, but I’ll claim Swedish-in-law. That’s a thing, right? Let’s just go with it.
In a small town to the north of us there’s a lovely little Swedish bakery, where we came across some beautiful cardamom twists that haunted my thoughts for weeks later. Cardamom is a spice native to India, but it’s been a staple in Scandinavian baking since Istanbul was Constantinople (which is coincidentally where the Vikings first encountered it). Sweden tops the list of E.U. countries to import the spice, and per capita use of cardamom is about 60% higher there than it is here in the U.S. As a Swede-in-law but not an actual Swede, I can’t speak to why they love it so much, but I know why I do: it’s essentially the subtle, quirky, floral cousin to cinnamon – still spicy and warm, but a little less brash. It’s the Minnesota Nice to cinnamon’s New Jersey Bold.
In honor of Valentine’s Day (week), here’s my recipe for Swedish Love Knots. They look more complicated than they are and they make your house smell delicious, which is basically the best kind of baking. My three year old, Ben, makes his blog debut here: he loves to help when I’m baking, and by help I obviously mean “not help at all but be cute about it, so I can’t really complain.” Our family loves these rolls, and I hope yours does too!
Swedish Love Knots
12 T. butter + 2 T. softened butter (for filling)
1 c. milk
1 packet (2 ¼ t.) active dry yeast
3 t. ground cardamom, divided
3 c. flour
¼ c. sugar
¼ t. salt
3 T. brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
Swedish pearl sugar or sanding sugar, optional, for topping
In medium bowl, melt 12 T. butter and stir in milk and 1 t. cardamom. Check temperature of mixture – it should be between 110-120°F so that yeast can activate. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook and stir in yeast. Let sit 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.
Add flour to milk mixture. Stir until just combined. Knead in mixer on Medium speed for about 5 minutes, until smooth, soft, and elastic. Shape dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl; cover with towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
While dough is rising, mix remaining 2 T. softened butter, 2 t. cardamom, and brown sugar for filling. Set aside.
Lightly flour a work surface.
When dough has risen, roll out to 12 x 18” rectangle.
Spread filling on bottom third, making sure to get all the way to the edges.
Fold bottom third up and then top third down, like a letter.
Cut dough into strips, 1” thick; you should have approximately 12-15.
Cut each strip down the middle, leaving about ½ inch at the end uncut.
To shape, hold the cut ends of one strip and twist them away from each other (or towards each other, it makes no difference as long as they’re going opposite directions).
Gently pull them up toward the uncut end; cross them, making an X;
then tie the ends in a loose knot, covering up the uncut piece and tucking the ends under the twisted dough.
Place rolls on parchment-covered sheet pan and let rise, covered for about 30 minutes. While they’re rising, heat oven to 400°F.
Whisk together egg and 1 t. water. When oven is hot, lightly brush egg wash over knots and sprinkle with pearl sugar or sanding sugar.
Bake for approximately 18-22 minutes, until rolls are golden brown, rotating pans halfway through.
Because my kitchen is cool and dry in the winter, I’ve learned a trick to help my dough rise without having to wait for hours. While my mixer is working away at kneading the dough, I fill my largest measuring cup with water and microwave it for about 5 minutes.
Then I leave it in the back corner of the microwave, put the covered bowl of dough in the middle, close the door and let it rise in warm-ish, moist comfort.
I have a bunch of lovely knives, a bench scraper, tons of kitchen gadgets, but a pizza cutter has worked the best for cutting the dough, by far. I found a small one at IKEA (Yay Sweden!) that works perfectly.
To be honest, I usually grind my own cardamom with an inexpensive coffee grinder from Amazon, although it’s not necessary. I just find that freshly ground spices have a little more oomph, since the volatile oils that give spices flavor tend to evaporate over time. This is why that 17-year-old bottle of cloves in the back of your cabinet is not very clove-y anymore.
Make sure to start checking your rolls early; there’s nothing more sad (baking-wise) than overcooking something that you spent hours on.