Hazelnut, Apple & Chocolate Buns

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It sounds a bit goofy and it’s mainly a PR-stunt but we actually have an official Cinnamon Bun Day in Sweden. It’s on the 4th of October. I don’t usually buy in to these things. All these Hug-a-Vegetarian-day/Eat-a-salty-pretzel-day/Jump-on-one-leg-with-a-blindfold-day … They are mostly just awkward. But for some reason I found myself in the kitchen baking buns on the evening of the 3rd October. Let’s call it a coincidence.

I wanted to bake a mash-up between a Swedish bun and the most amazing Hazelnut & Chocolate Babka that we tried in Tel Aviv earlier this year. So I started with the cardamom bun recipe from our first book, doubled the portions (I don’t bake buns often, so I want them to last), changed the proportions a bit and then added the most luscious filling I could think of: Mapled hazelnut butter, freshly ground cardamom, grated apples and dark chocolate. The combination was insane! The good kind of insane. I almost felt like Archimedes there for a while, screaming “Eureka!” as I ran naked into the living room to tell Luise about the flavours of the filling. Thinking back, I might not have screamed Eureka and I definitely wasn’t naked. But the filling was fantastic. And still is.

Decadent, sweet, rich, whole grain buns with a fresh apple twist. They are good. You should try them. And you don’t need a fake-Cinnamon Bun Day to do so. Just a rainy autumn Sunday.

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It will take a few hours to bake buns but the reward is sweet. I didn’t finish until there was hardly any light outside, hence the dark and slightly blurry photos. We normally bake with spelt flours instead of all-purpose, but this time we were out of light spelt so I went with a nice, organic all-purpose flour that we had at home. I mixed it with some dark spelt to still give it a bit of a wholegrain touch. I must admit that result was softer and better than when I use 100% spelt. But that is of course an option, if you prefer.

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Tying them into knots is the trickiest part. My mother makes the most perfect knots. I never manage to make them as pretty or regular shaped (as you can see from the photo below), but I decided a long time ago to call mine rustic and not worry too much about them perfect. You can either cut them once or twice, I show both examples in the photo on the left. Cutting them twice makes more intricate knots and prettier buns, but they are also a bit more difficult to shape as they are so thin. If you don’t want to do knots, you can also roll the dough into a log, with the filling inside, and cut it into simple rolls.

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Vegans can replace the butter with coconut oil and glaze the buns with plant milk instead of egg. I have never succeeded to make a gluten free version of buns as they need the gluten to hold together when they are tied into knots. If you make a good gluten free version, I’d love to hear your tricks.

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Hazelnut, Apple & Chocolate Buns
Makes around 30 buns

I have baked these using Swedish ingredients. Dried yeast and flours might be different depending on where you are from, so I recommend double checking the yeast vs flour amount to similar recipes in your own country just to make sure.

5 tsp fast-action dried yeast (or 50 g fresh yeast)
2 tsp cardamom seeds, freshly ground
a pinch of sea salt
125 g / 4,5 oz unsalted butter
500 ml / 2 cups soy milk (or milk of your choice)
160 ml / 2/3 cup clear honey or maple syrup
500 g /4 cups organic all-purpose flour
250 g / 2 cups wholegrain spelt flour

Filling
180 g / 2/3 cup hazelnut butter
4 tbsp maple syrup

2 large eating apples, grated, excess moisture squeezed out
1⁄2 tbsp cardamom seeds, freshly ground
100 g / 3,5 oz dark chocolate (70-80%), grated

1 beaten egg, to glaze 
A handful of hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Stir the yeast, cardamom and salt in a large bowl and set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the milk and honey and heat until the temperature is about 40°C (100°F). Pour over the yeast and stir until dissolved.

Sift the flours together and add about two-thirds of it to the yeast and milk mixture. Mix to a dough. Gradually knead in enough of the remaining flour just until soft and no longer sticky. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until double in bulk. While the dough is rising, mix together hazelnut butter and maple syrup for the filling.

Divide the dough into two equal portions (unless you have a huge worktop, in which case you can roll the whole dough at once.). On a floured surface, roll and stretch the first dough to a rectangle, about 50 x 40 cm (20 x 16 in) wide and about 5 mm (1⁄4 in) thick. Spread half of the hazelnut butter evenly across the dough and sprinkle half of the apple shreds, half of the cardamom and the chocolate. Carefully lift one third of the dough (closest to you) and fold it two-thirds of the way up, then fold down the top third. Now you should have a rectangle that is roughly 50 x 13 cm (20 x 5 in). Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into roughly 3 cm (11⁄4 in) wide strips.
Take each strip and carefully (so the filling doesn’t fall out) stretch and twist them three times and tie into loose knot-shaped buns, with the ends tucked into the middle. Put on a baking tray lined with baking paper, cover with kitchen towel, and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the second dough the same way as the first. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7). Brush the buns with a beaten egg, sprinkle with chopped nuts and bake for 10–12 minutes, until golden.

Don’t forget to eat the first one fresh from the oven!

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