Introduction: Sourdough Cardamom Buns

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With many of us stuck at home getting into baking, naturally, many of us have likely set forth on the quest to attempt the perfect artisanal sourdough loaf. In the process, we end up with lots of sourdough starter, and of course, the inevitable "sourdough discard" – ripe starter that must be thrown away to make room for feeding the starter. It seems like a shame to put that thriving microbial gloop to waste, so here I present a way to use leftover starter in a Swedish classic: Kardemummabullar, or Cardamom Buns!

Back when I was at school in the city (before I transferred to Zoom University) I had the chance to try this incredible delight for the first time at Fabrique Bakery in the Meatpacking District of New York City. When you enter the store, you're greeted by an army of buns and pastries glistening in the case and you're immediately hit with a shockwave of aroma that is undeniably cardamom. It's a charming area and cute cafe, I highly recommend you go if you're around.

Still, I thought it seemed totally feasible to make these guys at home and save a lot of money, considering the ingredients were all within reach of most home bakers. What I give you here is my adaptation of various recipes which I tested and modified to accommodate using up leftover starter. That addition is not traditional, but it gave me great results! To be clear, the buns will not be very sour; I'm using the starter for its leavening properties and will not be developing a lot of acid.

If you want to make this without starter, I'll give the according modifications in the second to last step.

So then, let's begin!

Step 1: Demo Video

Above see a video showing how to make the buns with no narration or music to enhance the ~a s m r~ or something

The actual directions and quantities are found in this article

Step 2: Caveats!

I'll be using common terminology like "feed" and "hydration" which I assume is understood by most people who have sourdough starters. I'm also using equal parts whole wheat flour and water by mass in my starter.

This dough is quite wet, which can be frustrating when kneading or rolling the dough if you use too aggressive a touch, but don't let this discourage you!

Because we're using a sourdough starter, the time span is several hours, although it's not more work than any other bun - the rest times are just longer.

Still, if we're gonna be stuck at home we might as well make good use of that time, right?

If you start in the morning (which for me now means noon) you can have these ready for a post-dinner snack, or you might be able to rest them in the fridge overnight before baking to have them for breakfast the next day. Don't wait too long to bake as they'll acidify a bit in this time, desirable for sourdough loaves but not for a pastry.

Step 3: Ingredients

For the DOUGH:


  • 115g (1/2 cup) ripe sourdough starter
  • 85g (6T) warm milk
  • 1/2 egg (reserve the other half for the egg washing step)
  • 35g (Heaping 2T) dark brown sugar


  • 190g (1.5 cup) all purpose (or better, bread) flour
  • 3g (1/2 t) salt
  • 3/4 t ground cardamom (grind seeds not green husks)
    • Cardamom is too light to bother weighing to any accuracy with a kitchen scale, just use half a small spoonful


  • 35g (2.5T) room temp butter

For the FILLING:

  • 35g (2.5T) room temp butter

  • 35g (Heaping 2T) dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 t ground cardamom

For the SYRUP:

  • 30g (~2T) brown or white sugar
  • 30mL (2T) water
  • Splash (about 1/2 t) of vanilla extract


  • About 30g / 1T granulated white sugar
  • About 1/2 t ground cardamom

Step 4: Notes on the Ingredients

  • The only "esoteric" ingredient here is cardamom. Still, you should be able to pick up a bottle of cardamom pods or powdered cardamom at most stores for around $5 – the price of one bun at Fabrique NYC.
    • Feel free to use powdered, or take whole seeds out of the green pods and crush them yourself with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder
    • I impulse bought a bag of hundreds of cardamom pods on ebay for nine bucks that should last me a lifetime and a half
  • When I ask for brown sugar, you can equivalently use white sugar and pour in a spoonful of molasses poured straight from the bottle without measuring – just guess.
    • Actually this is what I did since I didn't feel like pulling out my pickaxe to mine open the rock solid chunk that solidified in the pantry

Step 5: Awaken the Yeast

If your sourdough starter is already ripe, just skip this step

Otherwise, if you're pulling out of the fridge like I am, do a feed with 4oz (1/2 cup) of water and 4oz (1 cup) [whole wheat] flour, then leave the starter out in a warm place for a few hours until very foamy and doubled

Just do this in the morning and be ready to go by noon or the early afternoon

Warm Place Ideas

  • On top of the toaster oven running at low temp
  • Inside an oven that's been turned on for a minute, then let cool until racks are comfortably warm to the touch

Take out the butter while you're at it so it has plenty of time to soften

Step 6: Combine Wets, Combine Drys

In one bowl, combine the 115g (1/2 cup) ripe starter, 85g (6T) warm milk (microwave for 20 secs), half egg, and 35g (heaping 2T) brown sugar.

In a larger bowl, combine the 190g (1.5 cup) flour and 3g (1/2 t) salt

Step 7: Combine and Knead

Combine the wets and the drys and work them together until they form a sticky dough. Thoroughly clean a countertop and scrape out the dough to begin kneading.

A fair warning, this recipe has fairly high hydration, so the dough will be pretty soft and hard to work with. It will stick easily to the countertop. This is normal.

If this consistency is too frustrating to work with, add up to 1/4 cup of additional flour, but try to keep the dough very soft. We're trying to avoid a dense bun.

Work the dough for several minutes, pulling and folding the mess to encourage the gluten to tighten up a bit. You'll notice it will begin to detach from the countertop a bit more easily and stretch longer distances, which means it's working.

Work fast, as it sticks less if you're working at a fast pace.

Step 8: Add Butter and First Rest

Now add the 35g (2.5T) softened butter. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Smear it into the dough all over and continue pulling and stretching, the butter should take a couple of minutes to fully absorb into the dough.

Continue kneading a minute or two more, then scrape the dough off the countertop with a spatula and place into a bowl. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and begin the first rise.

This first rise allows the yeast to continue colonizing the dough and improves flavor. Sourdough starters take a lot longer to act than active dry yeast, but the payoff is much more time for the development of complex flavor compounds.

The initial rise is complete once your dough has doubled in size and looks puffy and active. This took me just over 3 hours, but I would not have felt worried letting it go a couple hours longer.

A while before you're about to declare the end of the first rest, take out the remaining 35g (2.5T) butter so it has a chance to soften.

Step 9: Rolling and Laminating

To shape the buns, the dough will be "laminated" briefly (don't freak out!! It's a simple step, and far less involved than puff pastry) and then cut into strips and rolled around your fingers.

To be specific, this means:

  1. Heavily flour the work surface and the dough. De-gas the dough slightly by pushing down gently
  2. Spread dough into a long, 6" by 18" (cm by cm) rectangle using a rolling pin to help it out. Continuously flour everything to avoid sticking. The dough should be very very soft
  3. Prep the filling by combining the 35g (2.5T) butter, 35g (heaping 2T) brown sugar, and 1/2 t cardamom.
    • Because I live in a colder area, I hit it with 5-10 seconds in the microwave to melt it slightly into a thick paste which helped it spread much easier.
  4. Spread the filling on the entire surface with an offset spatula or butter knife
  5. Fold in thirds by folding over the right third then left third. Press lightly to seal

Step 10: Shaping

  1. Use a pizza wheel or sharp knife to cut into 6 strips, cutting parallel to the long side of the dough. See the picture above
  2. Roll the buns. This is hard to explain in words, so I refer you the video I included on step 2. Skip to timestamp (:) to see how I roll them.
    • The general idea is:
      1. Grab one end with two fingers spread an inch apart and your thumb
      2. Gently stretch the free end and with some tension, wrap it around your fingers
      3. Cross the free end over the middle, between your two fingers
      4. Finally tuck the very end under and into the bottom of the bun

      The image above depicts these four numbered step for reference

  3. Place these on a greased thick baking sheet or silicone mat / silpat

Step 11: Final Proof

We're now steadily approaching the finish line!

Cover the buns with greased plastic wrap or a light damp cloth (to avoid weighing them down) and proof for 2-2.5 hours. Go by feel rather than exact time. When they're very puffy they're good to go

Step 12: Brush and Bake

As we approach the end of the proof, preheat your oven to 400F (205C). Once the buns look like they've doubled in size, they're ready to go.

Take the reserved half of the egg and whisk it up with a fork. Brush this egg wash lightly on the surface with any brush, but don't go too heavy here as the excess will burn.

Put them in to bake on the middle rack.

Quick Tip!

  • Place a pizza stone / terra cotta tile in the rack below the buns, this shields them and helps prevent burning the bottoms, yet still allows them to get a nice crisp exterior!

A breakdown:

  1. We will bake at 400F for 15 minutes
  2. Then turn down and bake at 350F for 10 minutes

Be sure to check at least five minutes before the time given above, as you always want to pull them out if they're burning. I like to get these pretty dark, something like copper / amber. Definitely not approaching burnt though.

If you smell burning in the first minutes, don't panic, it's the excess egg wash that's dripped down burning on the sheet. This typically leaves a burnt impression on the pan, but has no effect at all on the actual bun.

Step 13: Syrup and Topping

While they bake is the perfect time to prep this step.

Boil the 30g (~2T) brown sugar and 30mL (2T) water in a small pot for a minute until they form a thickish syrup. Add the splash of vanilla extract once it's had time to cool down slightly, we don't want to accidentally evaporate it all now

Mix a spoonful (~30g) white granulated sugar and about 1/2 t cardamom in a cup and set aside as well.

Once you pull the buns out of the oven, while they're still hot, brush the syrup over the tops of each and sprinkle with the granulated sugar so it adheres to them

Let cool several minutes, but I won't complain if you can't help but break into one hot!

The day after, you can always 'revitalize' these by reheating them in the oven or microwave.

Step 14: Enjoy!

These are fantastic served still warm from the oven, especially alongside a nice pourover coffee with milk! Something about the sweet but balanced buns with crunchy granules on top combining with the rich, roasty flavor of the coffee just makes it a classic combo.

The quasi-lamination gives them a slight flakiness and the sourdough imparts a savory, bready flavor that actually enhances the sweetness from the brown sugar very well.

I have read that the Swedish have a concept of fika, which is a time to slow down and appreciate the small things in life and each other over coffee and sweets. I respect that so much and hope we can all introduce this ritual into our lives!

Cardamom buns are a unique alternative to the classic cinnamon buns we often eat, and I suggest you try making them to have with your own fika as we spend the next several weeks at home. Might as well make use of this time and spread some love through these Sourdough Leavened Swedish Cardamom Buns!



Step 15: Post Script: Using Active Dry Yeast

If you don't currently have sourdough starter... go make one!

Okay, but in all seriousness, of course you can make these without. The tweaks are as follows:

All rising times are reduced to 45 minutes to 1 hour, keep an eye to not overproof them

Remove the starter, and the new quantities you should use for flour and milk are:

142g (9T) warm milk

248g (2 cups + 1T) flour

additionally, add around 1/2t dry yeast to the wets to act as leavening.

The rest of the steps should be same, but for the rest amounts, go by feel rather than exact times

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