Richly spiced and nutty, this version of my favourite sticky cinnamon rolls is just the right side of sweet, thanks to a layer of cream cheese hidden inside. The cardamom will bring the wonderful scent of Scandinavian baking to your kitchen.
Preparation time: 40 minutes, plus rising and proving time
Baking time: 30 – 35 minutes
Makes 8 large or 12 smaller rolls
For the dough
55 g butter, plus extra for greasing
150 ml milk
450 g strong white bread flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoon fast-action yeast
50 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling and to finish
150 g pecans
5 cardamom pods
1–2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, to your taste
2 tablespoon sugar
100 ml maple syrup
250 g full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1. Melt the butter in a small pan, then using a fork, beat in the milk, followed by the eggs. Sift all the dry ingredients together, then make a well in the centre.
2. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, then mix with a wooden spoon to make a rough and fairly sticky dough. Leave for 5 minutes.
3. Dust the work surface with flour, then turn the dough out onto it. Start kneading, flouring the dough and your hands if you need to, but avoid adding too much. If the dough sticks a lot, scrape away any bits with a knife, wash and dry your hands and start again, dusting with more flour. After 5 –10 minutes, when the dough feels very smooth and springy, put it in an oiled food storage bag or bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
4. Make the filling while you wait. Finely chop the pecans (or use a food processor if you have one). Bash the cardamom pods to release their seeds, discard the husks, then grind the seeds finely with a mortar and pestle. Mix the nuts, spices, sugar and 4 tablespoons of the maple syrup.
5. Flour the work surface again, then turn the risen dough out onto it. Sprinkle with a little flour, then press it out to a rectangle, about 25 x 30 cm. Spread the cream cheese all over it, going right to the edges. Scatter with the pecan mixture, then roll into a tight sausage, starting from a long edge for 12 rolls, or a short edge for 8 rolls. If it looks a bit uneven, pat the dough to straighten things up.
6. Cut the sausage into 8 or 12 slices with a large non-serrated knife dusted with flour (the flour helps stop the dough sticking).
7. Generously grease a tin with butter (a 23-cm round for 8 rolls, or a 23 x 33-cm rectangle for 12), then tuck the slices into it. Keep the seam of each spiral facing inwards. If they have squashed a bit during slicing, pat them back into shape.
8. Cover loosely with oiled clingfilm or a food storage bag, then leave to prove in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until risen. Poke the dough lightly; once ready, it will not spring back. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan/gas 6).
9. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C (160°C fan/ gas 4) and bake for another 20 – 25 minutes (depending on the size of your rolls), or until they have risen, are golden all over and cooked right through. If you’re unsure, carefully turn the upside down out of their tin and tap sharply in the middle. It should give a hollow sound, and also be a good golden brown colour.
10. Brush the rolls with more maple syrup and enjoy the same day.
HOT CROSS BUNS OR TEACAKES
Add 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice to the flour and use 85 g sugar. Knead in 150 g dried fruit at the end of step 3 and leave to rise. Omit the filling. Shape into 12 balls, leave to prove, then slash each roll with a cross shape, brush with beaten egg and bake. Brush with a little golden syrup once out of the oven. Serve split, toasted and buttered.