Gluten-free Finnish cinnamon rolls with sourdough

You might already know that I’m originally from Finland and I love Finnish cardamom buns in whichever shape. I have been working on my own gluten-free sourdough cardamom bun recipe to make nice fluffy and flavoursome buns without rice, corn and also oats for in addition to coeliacs I have intolerances for them. Oats I can’t eat at all and rice and corn are best kept to a minimum, which pretty much means that if I want a gf substitute product, I need to make it myself.

After a few attempts I now have a recipe that I feel I’m happy to release for others to try out. I have found that for this one you need to feel your way around and there might be further editions to this post, but as I am currently happy with the ones I have made, I’ll give you my recipe to field test it.

Making the flour mix

After several attempts I’ve found that the best gf grain to use in these buns is millet. It is a mild flour with a slightly sweet flavour. Sorghum also works, but to me in larger quantities sorghum has grassy notes which are too prominent and too bread-like. The best mix is where you have two mass parts millet, one mass part almond flour (ground almonds) and one mass part a 50/50 mix of potato and tapioca starch to give the best result. Making a batch where you have 400g of millet, 100g of potato starch, 100g of tapioca starch and 200g or ground almonds should be enough, but you do want to have some reserve, because the liquid absorption of flours seems to vary a lot between batches and manufacturers.

I have made the buns using my own mix of flours – millet, potato and tapioca starches and almond flour (2 mass parts millet, 1 part starches half and half and 1 part almond flour).

If you prefer, you might use only 100g of ground almonds and use 100g of both potato and tapioca starches. This will give you a bun that is a chewier and dries up more easily, so if you do this you might want to freeze what you are not consuming on the day and defrost when you want to enjoy cinnamon buns. If you want to leave the almond flour away altogether, use millet for the remaining 100g, the buns will be chewy in texture and again prone to drying out. You can use millet flour to flour the worktop and rolling pin when baking instead of the flour mix. You can also try making these from a commercial gf flourmix and let me know how you got on with that. Many of the flour mixes sold are mainly starch so the structure might be somewhat more crumbly and dry. To avoid this, you might add third of almond flour to otherwise commercial mix.

Sourdough cardamom bun recipe

This recipe makes at least 30 smallish buns, so if you wish you could also half it but use one egg. The buns do freeze well so I don’t mind making more at one go. I won’t teach sourdough baking on this blog since there are plenty of great teachers available online. I warmly recommend Naomi Devlin and her gluten-free sourdough course, which I took to learn the inner workings of gf sourdough, in her River Cottage Gluten-free there’s also first steps to gf sourdough baking. I am not affliated, just a keen fan. At the end of this post I have given notes for those who at this point want to try baking with yeast instead.

Ingredients:

3dlmilk (or dairy-free alternative/water)
1-2 tbspground cardamom seeds (break the cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle, remove husks and grind the seeds so that there’s not too many whole seeds)
1 egg
1.5dlsugar
0.5-1
tsp
salt (depending on if the fat you use has salt)
125gmelted butter or margarine
150gactive sourdough starter (remember to have excess (appr. 50g at least, to feed for future use)
4tsp (16g)psyllium husk powder
10-12dl (750-800g)flour mix* (2 mass parts millet, 1 part 50/50 mix of potato starch and tapioca starch, 1 part almond flour)

Cinnamon bun filling:

75-100gmelted butter or margarine
1.5 dlsugar
2 tbspcinnamon

Topping:

1egg
appr. 1.5dlpearl sugar or chopped almonds or almond flakes
Traditional Finnish and Swedis cinnamon buns have an egg wash and a sprinkiling of pearl sugar on top. In the UK at least Ocado stocks some.


Optional: Cupcake casings (preferably ones that are silicone coated to avoid sticking)

Method:

  1. Take 6dl of the flour mix and mix it with the psyllium.
  2. Warm the milk up in the microwave so that it’s lukewarm but not hot (1-1.5min or so).
  3. Add the sugar, salt, cardamom and egg in the milk.
  4. In a large bowl or in a stand mixer, combine the flours, the milk with the other ingredients in it and the sourdough starter. Remember to leave some extra sourdough to feed for future use.
  5. When the dough starts to come together slighlty, add the melted butter/margarine.
  6. Depending how sturdy your standmixer is, you might want to add the rest of the flour mix in by hand and mix in a large bowl. Standmixer helps on getting the psyllium to work if it seems slow in binding but the startches can behave a bit unpredictably so I think it’s safer to make a soft dough in the stand mixer and then convert to mixing by hand in a bowl so you don’t break anything or mix by hand throughout. If you are unsure, check the manufacturer’s guidance on correct use. The dough might be soft and loose, you want to add enough flour so that the dough comes together and holds up and still a bit soft,  so leave some flour on the side, you can adjust when you form the buns. If needed, use your hands to break apart any lumps of flour. Let the dough sit for 30min and check how firm it is, you want it to be soft but not oozing everywhere, it will firm up when rising so don’t make it so hard that it forms a ball at this point.
  7. Let the dough prove under a cloth (2h 35C, appr 3hours in room temperature).
  8. At this point, since you are working with sourdough, remember to feed the remainder of your starter based on your own baking regime.
  9. When the dough has risen, check that it is firm enough to form a ball, if it isn’t, flour the worktop with gf flour mix or plain millet flour and sprinkle 1-2dl of flour mix on the dough and fold it in by kneading with your hands until the dough is firm enough to form and not too sticky. Start with a little bit of flour and gradually add more, too dry a dough will make hard buns.
  10. Flour the worktop generously and take half of the dough and also flour the top of the dough before rolling it into a 5mm thick sheet with a rolling pin.
  11. Spread melted butter/margarine on the sheet using a brush or spoon.
  12. Mix the cinnamon in the sugar and sprinkle generously on the sheet.
  13. Roll the dough into a roulade from the longer edge.
  14. Cut pieces that are about 2cm wide and place in a casing, you can grease the casings with the melted butter/margarine to avoid sticking.
  15. Heat oven to 200C or 180C fan assisted, the buns can rest a little while under a cloth when the oven heats up or you can go straight to the next step if you have the oven ready.
  16. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and using a brush wash the buns with egg.
  17. Sprinkle with pearl sugar or chopped almonds if you can’t find pearl sugar (in the UK Ocado and some Polish shops have it).
  18. Bake for 15-18 min until golden brown.
  19. Repeat the steps with the rest of the dough.
  20. Enjoy once slightly cooled.

The buns might go a bit hard the next day, so when storing them, keep them covered and quickly reheat to freshen them up or freeze and defrost for serving.

The cardamom buns are made with gluten-free sourdough starter and the dough is enriched with milk (or alternative) and butter/margarine.
In the UK ground cardamom isn’t that readily available. You might find it in some Polish or Scandinavian/Nordic shops or online. I find crushing pods first with a mortar and pestle, separating the seeds and then frind the seeds to smaller pieces quite easy to do and don’t really bother to chase up ground cardamom.
Add the flour gradually, for the gluten-free flours seem to vary a lot in how they absorb liquid. When making by hand, use a ball whish and beat the dough vigorously to break up any lumps, use your hands to squelch if needed. If you are using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, this will take care of any lumps and helps the psyllium husk to activate, but take the dough out of the mixer whilst still quite soft and add the rest of the flour in by hand, for the starches can make the dough quickly quite tough and you might risk breaking the mixer especially if there are plastic parts. Refer to manufacturer’s guidance if uncertain.
On a generously floured worktop, roll half of the dough out into a thin sheet (around 5mm). If at this point you find the dough too soft, knead in some more flour mix or millet flour until you get a workable dough.
Spread melted butter or margarine on the sheet. You want to put a lot but just enough to hold the sugar in place is enough, it tends to ooze away if you put too much in.
For cinnamon rolls, sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of the sheet. Of course you could use plenty of other fillings as well. Maybe more on those on a later post?
Roll the dough into a roulade on the long side. If the dough is quite soft, start from each end and then advance little by little towards the middle so that the dough doesn’t tear.

I have to give a bit of a disclaimer. The Finnish traditional cinnamon buns are baked into a different shape than the Swedish ones. They are called “A slap on the ear” (‘korvapuusti’ in Finnish) and they do look like an ear. I have succesfully made them with this dough, but what I have found is that with the gluten-free dough, it is better to restrict the dough with a casing so that the dough rises up instead of spreading to the sides because the supporting network coming from the egg and psyllium husk is not as strong as the one in the traditional buns with gluten. If you just can’t tolerate making Finnish cinnamon buns and baking them in a paper cupcake casing, do make sure the dough is quite firm to prevent the buns spreading out and not getting a nice rise.

Finnish cinnamon buns the way I have learned them (this is debatable!) are cut in an angle so that one end is narrower than the other and also there is a side that is narrower.
When placing on a baking tray, press the narrow top of the bun (you need to turn half upside down!) so that the swirl opens up and the buns look sort of like ears, hence the name ‘slap on the ear’ or more like ‘ear bun’ 🙂
When you want to bake the buns in a cupcake casing, cut the roll straight and place the buns flat on the casing. It is a good idea to grease the casings with the melted butter, especially if they don’t have a non-stick coating so that the buns don’t stick.

The buns will rise more in the oven, if you want to give them 20-30min to prove before you put them in the oven that is ok, but if you are in a rush you can also bake them straight away after washing with egg and sprinkiling with pearl sugar, almond flakes or chopped almonds. Just regular caster sugar is also ok if you are running out of options.

With the gluten-free dough I do find that baking the buns in a cupcake casings gives you a more uniform result for the dough has to rise upwards.

So here it is, my way of doing gluten-free sourdough cinnamon buns. Are you tempted to try? Do let me know in the comments how you got on with the recipe, for I think this can still be tweaked in several ways in the quest for the perfect bun. Also if you have any questions, please ask.

If you want to make these with yeast, I think substituting the sourdough starter with 14g of gluten-free dry yeast should work, just mix it to 2dl of flour mix and add it first to the milk, sugar, salt and cardamom mixture and let it sit for 15-20min before carrying on with the rest of the ingredients. You are likely needing only an hour or so for proving. Or you can use this flour mix in the dough recipe I have done for Gluten-free shrove buns and bake them into cinnamon buns instead.

Hope I have given you something new to try and that you get good tasting results! I do appreciate hearing back from you so nice or constructive comments are welcomed!

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