Feeling the bite of the cold on these December mornings? Why not try these cardamom and pistachio buns to make you feel all warm and cozy. The sister of the ever popular cinnamon rolls, these sticky and fluffy buns are instead spiced with aromatic cardamom, a favourite spice in Indian cooking and Nordic baking as well. Pistachio is a winning combination with cardamom, and the slight crunch adds a great contrast to the soft and fluffy texture of the buns. There’s also a hint of citrus from orange zest to add some brightness and zing.
I have seen a million and one posts for cinnamon rolls on the web. Would you believe I had never really heard of them before I was about 19? I’m not sure if they are as popular here in the UK, though we do have a lot of similar things like Chelsea buns which are filled with dried fruit as well as cinnamon. I’ve had cinnamon rolls on my baking bucket list for a while now, mainly because I’ve seen it posted so often online. But I’m not always keen on cinnamon in baked goods (I know, it’s a travesty) so I decided to switch it for cardamom instead. The cardamom is aromatic without being overpowering. It works so well with pistachio, creating a taste similar to Indian sweets such as rasmalai. I also added a little orange zest which in my opinion works amazingly well with cardamom. It’s very mild, but you get a hint of freshness.
As you might already know if you’re a long term reader of the blog and checked out some of my other bakes such as my blood orange pound cake or bakewell cake, I like to go for recipes that are quick, simple and leave lots of room for error! So, as you can imagine, I haven’t exactly been leaping with joy at the prospect of baking with yeast, which necessitates extra time and can go very wrong if you don’t get the initial steps right. And of course, there’s kneading. I do not have a stand mixer, unfortunately and I am so flabbergasted when I see so called easy recipes calling for the use of a kitchen aid. Um, yeah, of course it’s going to be easy if a machine does all the hard work for you!
However, as it turns out, kneading this dough by hand was pretty easy. I got the basic recipe for the dough from Minimalist Baker, who uses the quicker method of warming milk to speed up the activation of the yeast. On the bottom of their recipe, which is vegan, they noted that if you use cow’s milk, you may need to scald the milk first. But I just heated it up in the microwave for about 2 minutes in 30 second bursts along with the butter, and it was fine.
Aside from 1tbsp sugar added to the yeast, I used no sugar in the actual dough or filling. As such, the buns on their own are quite mild and the pistachio adds almost a slight savoury note. For that reason, I did add a sugar glaze on top, which I wouldn’t recommend you omit. When I was looking for recipes online, I was quite shocked to see just how much icing sugar people use in cinnamon rolls frosting! Maybe that’s the reason why people omit it sometimes. Neither myself nor my family have such a sweet tooth, so I used a meagre 1/4 cup of icing sugar. To that I added 2 tbsps of whole milk. The resulting glaze was quite thin, almost like a syrup, so when you poured it on top of the buns, they absorbed it right up, giving a sweetness that isn’t cloying.
My filling is also really simple and only contains 1 cup of chopped pistachios. I have seen other recipes call for 2 cups, however as my family can be a little wary of new foods, I decided to go a bit more subtle with how nutty it was.
When I have made sweets with cardamom in the past, such as my chai spiced pancakes, I usually use shop bought ground cardamom. I didn’t have any to hand this time though but we always have whole green cardamom for cooking curries, so I ground up the seeds of about 5-6 green cardamoms using a pestle and mortar. And wow-e, did it make a difference! I couldn’t believe the smell you got from just a couple of tiny seeds. Way more potent that the ground stuff. If you do decide to use the ready ground stuff though, I’d recommend using about 1/4-1/2 tsp. Any more than that and it would start being overpowering.
As you might be able to tell from the pictures, they are great for little hands as well as grown ups. I left the tin of buns out and they disappeared one by one. For growns up though, I think these would be great with a nice dark mug of tea or coffee. Playing around with fillings is also really fun. I got the inspiration for these from these Honey and Cashew Buns on Food52. I really think some golden sultanas would make a great addition to the pistachio and cardamom.
- 1 packet active dry yeast, approx 1 tbsp
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbs sugar
- 3 cups flour
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 5-6 green cardamoms or 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 cup pistachios
- 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
- 2 tbsp warm milk
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- Heat milk and butter together either in a saucepan or in the microwave in 30 second bursts until the butter is melted and the milk mixture is warmed to about bath temperature. It should not be boiling.
- Pour the milk mixture in a bowl and then mix in yeast. Let it sit for 10 minutes to allow it to activate. Then add 1 Tbsp sugar, salt and stir.
- Slowly add in flour, about a cup at a time, stirring each time. When the mix comes together into a dough that is slightly sticky, tip the mixture onto a work surface and knead for 3-5 minutes. To knead, fold dough over and push down with the heel of your hand. Turn, fold dough over, and push down again. The dough should be smooth and elastic but slghtly sticky.
- Coat the bowl with oil, then add your dough into the bowl. Cover it with clingfilm or a damp tea towel and leave to rest in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.
- Remove the seeds from the green cardamoms and discard the outer green pods. Use a pestle and mortar to grind up the black seeds into a fine powder.
- Use a pestle and mortar or knife to chop up the pistachio nuts. Beat the 2tbs butter in a bowl and then add the pistachios, orange zest and ground cardamom and mix together well.
- Once the dough has finished proving, tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down the dough to deflate it. roll out the dough into a square about 12 inch wide and 1/4-inch thick.
- Spread the pistachio butter mix on the dough and make sure the nuts are distributed equally.
- Starting at one end, roll up the dough fairly tightly, keeping the seam down. Then with a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into 1-1.15 inch pieces. You should get about 12-14 pieces.
- Divide the rolls between two 7 inch sandwich cake tins, greased with butter or oil, or a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan. Space the buns equally, they don’t need to be touching as they will expand when baking.
- Cover the buns loosely in clingfilm and leave it to rest in a warm place for a further 30-60 minutes.
- Whilst waiting for the final prove, pre-heat your oven to 200C /400F/ gas mark 6.
- Once finished proving, bake the buns in the oven for 20–30 minutes or until the buns are golden brown. Remove the buns and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
- Prepare the glaze by adding the icing sugar to a bowl then slowly whisking in the milk until the mixture is smooth and thick. Pour the icing over the warm buns and let it absorb for a few minutes before serving.
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I’m also running a giveaway at the moment with a cookbook from Michelin Award winning chef Atul Kochhar and a chai latte set. Closes 23rd December 2015.