Saffron and vanilla are among the world’s most expensive spices. That’s a given.
But can you guess what the third most pricey one is?
Like the other two, it owes its hefty price tag to the fact that it has to be harvested by hand.
Thankfully, a little goes a long way, so you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy it.
While it’s used in a lot of savory dishes, especially in Indian cuisine, I especially love it in baked goods. Its flavor — sort of like sweet cinnamon and ginger crossed with citrus and mint.
So it’s no wonder that “Sweet Buns with Cardamom” jumped out at me immediately in the new cookbook, “North Wild Kitchen: Home Cooking From the Heart of Norway” (Prestel), of which I received a review copy. It is by Nevada Berg, who created the blog of the same name, which was named by Saveur magazine as “2016 Blog of the Year.”
Her name may be Nevada but she now lives in Norway on a farm with her husband and son. Born in Salt Lake City, Berg captures the rustic, outdoorsy food of her adopted country. While some recipes can be easily made with ingredients found in the United States — such as “Smoked Trout Mousse” and “Cauliflower Soup Topped with Fried Fennel” — others will be much more challenging, if not impossible, to create unless you make a trip to Norway to shop. That’s true with recipes such as “Rowanberry Jelly” made with small, acidic rowanberries and ‘Reindeer Stew with Samisk Bread” that does indeed require reindeer meat.
Fortunately, with the sweet buns, cardamom is readily available in any supermarket. Berg says they can be made with raisins or chocolate. So, guess which one I chose. Yes, chocolate, but of course.
The dough gets mixed in a stand mixer. One and a half teaspoons of cardamom flavor it. The dough is allowed to rise two times. I found I needed an extra half an hour during the first rise, so I added that to the recipe.
My rolls also took a longer than the original 12 to 15 minutes to bake up golden brown. So I changed the baking time to 12 to 18 minutes. Just keep a close watch on them.
They are fluffy, bread-like in texture, almost like dinner rolls. But they are sweet. The cardamom is not overwhelming, but marries well with the rich, slightly bitter dark chocolate.
They’re amazing with coffee in the morning or for as an afternoon snack with tea or hot chocolate. If you really want to take a walk on the wild side, split them when warm and smear a little sweet butter on each side. It’s cardamom heaven.
Sweet Buns with Cardamom
1 1/4 cups lukewarm whole milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1/3 ounce (8.5 g) active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup salted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 cup raisins, soaked in warm water for at least 1 hour (optional) or 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (optional)
In a small bowl, whisk together the lukewarm milk and 1 egg.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, cardamom, and salt. Add the milk mixture and knead on low for 8 minutes. Add the butter and knead on medium for about 5 minutes or until the dough is very elastic and somewhat moist. Strain the raisins and knead them (or the chocolate chips) into the dough, if using. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm spot for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into 12-equal-sized pieces and shape into balls. Place the balls of dough on the prepared baking sheet and let rise for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg on top of the dough. Bake for 12 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly and serve. Store leftovers in a resealable plastic bag at room temperature for up to 2 days.
From “North Wild Kitchen” by Nevada Berg
More Fun with Cardamom: Sweet Almond Buns with Cardamom