Norwegian cardamom-scented, vanilla custard-filled, coconut-dusted buns
This is Post #3 in my "Bun in the Oven" series. Read about the inspiration here. It also happens to be a re-publishing of an old Transplanted Baker post from February of this year.
Let us begin with a few scents I love:
Really old books
Waffles fresh off the iron
The top of a newborn baby’s head (I know I’m not the only one)
Lemon dish soap
House paint after it has dried
Cardamom (here’s another great cardamom bun recipe)
Cardamom combined with vanilla
Cardamom combined with vanilla and coconut
Today’s recipe has been a long time coming. In fact, it is one of the first things I knew I wanted to post about after I started writing to you all, yet it’s taken me until now to finally do so. Don’t ask me why. I think it’s something to do with other things getting in the way. Things like; Norwegian apple cake and cheddar jalapeño biscuits. Or perhaps it was the 5-layer chocolate pie or icebox cookies...
But I’m happy to say that the proud day has come to share with you one of the best-loved Norwegian pastries of all-time! A treat loved by school children and American expatriates alike.
Skoleboller, or “school buns” are what you find in every cafe, at every ferry boat kiosk, 7-11 store, school cafeteria, elderly center coffee hour, grocery store, 8-year old birthday party, and of course, my cozy kitchen in Førde. Like any good Norwegian pastry, it is made with butter, flour, and sugar, and flavored with a good pinch of cardamom. Chewy and fragrant, skoleboller (school-ah bowl-aire) are filled with an eggy vanilla custard and drizzled with a powdered sugar glaze before being dipped into sweet, desiccated coconut. In all honesty, it’s the coconut that makes me a sucker for these buns. Well, really it’s the cardamom combined with the vanilla and coconut. Of course, I know there are a good deal of coconut haters out there (my aunt Wendy, for example) and in an effort to include you too, I’ll give the go-ahead to just stick with the custard and glaze and leave the coconut off. Of course, please keep in mind that I won’t be eating my skoleboller at your house.
Now, to tell you all the truth, Norwegians don’t tend to make skoleboller at home. The ones you can get at all of the places I mentioned above are usually pretty decent and only cost about $1.50. However, I for one enjoy knowing what goes into what I eat, and I also like to play around with how much cardamom flavor my buns have or how thick and custardy my vanilla custard becomes. And of course, with this recipe, you can have skoleboller anytime you like; even when a Norwegian cafe, 7-11, or elderly care center is not to be found!
The recipe is rather simple. Don’t be put off by the number of steps! The homemade vanilla custard can easily be substituted with a store bought mix or even a good vanilla pudding. The dough is allowed a quick one-hour rise before being formed into cute, little, buns and indented to make room for that tasty, tasty vanilla custard. And who doesn’t like vanilla custard? I made mine on a Monday night just in time for my Norwegian to bring them to his work meeting the following morning, but I don’t see why a Suzy Homemaker, Patty Working Mom, or Joe the Plumber couldn’t wake up on a lazy Saturday morning and make a batch of these as a late breakfast treat. Just don’t forget the black coffee and the milk for the kids!
Norwegian Cardamom Buns with Coconut and Custard
*Recipe makes about 14- 6” buns or 24- 4” buns
(recipe can easily be halved)
For the buns:
2 cups (5 dl) milk (preferably whole, but 1% or 2% will work too), luke warm
2 oz. (50 grams) fresh yeast, or 2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup (100 grams) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (50 g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom
6 - 7 cups (650- 750 grams) All-Purpose flour
For the vanilla custard:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
1 3/4 cups (4 dl) whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
1 Tablespoons cornstarch
For the sugar glaze and topping:
1 cup (100 grams) powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 teaspoon water
+ desiccated coconut (sweetened or unsweetened) for topping
1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the luke warm milk. Add the melted (and cooled) butter, the sugar, cardamom, and 5 cups (550 grams) of the flour. Blend well.
2. Slowly add more flour until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead for a minute or two until a soft dough is formed. If needed, add another tablespoon or two of flour to prevent sticking.
3. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic, and allow to rise to double its’ size, about 1 hour.
This would be a good time to make your vanilla custard (ingredients above and instructions at the bottom):
4. Punch the dough down, divide into small balls (12-14 will make the traditional, large skoleboller, while 22-24 will make nice, little kid portions).
5. Form each ball into an evenly round, flat bun. Place on a parchment-lined baking tray with at least an inch between each one. Cover with a clean dishcloth and allow to make a second rise for about 20 minutes. In the mean time, preheat oven to 400F (200C).
6. After the 20 minute rising period is up, use the back of a spoon to create a good-sized indentation in the center of each bun (about the size of a soup spoon).
7. Place a generous spoonful of the egg custard in the center of each indentation. Bake on the bottom rack for 10-12 minutes. Take your skoleboller out when they begin to slightly brown on the tops and the egg custard is just starting to set.
8. Allow to cool on a wire rack (The vanilla custard will set a bit once cooled down). Once your buns are cooled, you can drizzle on your confectioner’s sugar glaze – simply whisk the powdered sugar and water together. The glaze should be white, not translucent, and should be able to drizzle but not run, add more sugar or water, accordingly).
9. Once glazed, dip your buns into a bowl or plate full of the desiccated coconut and swirl around a bit until all of the glaze is sufficiently covered with the coconut- careful not to destroy your custard centers.
10. Serve with coffee and milk at home, at school, at the office, at social hour, at a birthday party, on a picnic, on a hike, or anywhere else that seems fit.
To make the vanilla custard:
1. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together very well.
2. Bring the whole milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Slowly pour the egg yolk mixture into the milk, whisking briskly. Add the vanilla.
3. While your egg and milk mixture is still simmering, add the cornstarch, little-by-little, whisking briskly. Allow the cornstarch to fully dissolve and the custard to thicken while stirring the entire time. It will take about 3- 5 minutes for the custard to thicken enough.
4. Allow to cool on a ice water bath.