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Grandma's Buns: a Cardamom Heirloom

April 08, 2001|MARY ELLEN RAE

This bun recipe has been in my family for at least four generations. The other recipes were taken from my grandmother's cookbook, which was published in 1947. As in most baking recipes, follow the ingredients closely but change the flavorings to suit your tastes. Different nuts can be substituted. You can use more or less cardamom as desired.

The recipes call for crushed or ground cardamom. For the best price, purchase whole pods in specialty markets. Buy either the green or bleached pods that are a pale beige color. Gently smash the pods to remove the seeds. Grind the seeds in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. If you can't find the whole pods, ground cardamom can be substituted, but the flavor will be subtler, and I prefer the look of the black specks of cardamom in the pastries.

Grandma's Buns

Active Work Time: 50 minutes

Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 15 minutes plus 1 hour rising

Also called tujvpoikar, which translates to "thief boys," because, my grandma said, as soon as she baked them, they would disappear. Sparkling sugar, also known as crystal sugar, can be found in gourmet stores.

DOUGH

1 1/2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes dry yeast

1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided

1/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

5 cups flour

2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom seeds

3 beaten eggs

Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar to the warm water, whisk and let stand for 5 minutes.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the salt. Scald the milk by heating it in the microwave 2 minutes (or heat it in a saucepan until small bubbles form around the edges), then add it to the mixing bowl and slowly whisk until the butter is melted. Cool the mixture to lukewarm. Add the dissolved yeast and mix well.

Add 2 cups of flour and the ground cardamom and mix on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing 1 minute after each addition.

Scrape the soft dough onto a lightly floured board. Knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough, 6 to 7 minutes. You can also use the dough hook attachment and knead 5 to 6 minutes. When kneading by hand, it's OK to use an additional 1/4 cup flour for your hands and the board.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and place the bowl in a warm place until the dough is doubled in size, about 1 hour.

ASSEMBLY

1 cup pecans

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter

1 cup granulated sugar

Dough

3 tablespoons sparkling sugar, optional

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease 4 baking sheets and set aside.

Toast the pecans on a dry baking sheet until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Finely chop them and place them in a bowl. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter and place it in a bowl. Put the sugar in another bowl.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a 12-inch log shape. Cut each log into 10 pieces. Roll each piece into a 6-inch rope. Fold each rope in half and cross each end over the other to form a braid shape. Place each braid on a baking sheet. Finish with the remaining dough. Dip each braid into melted butter, then into the bowl of sugar to coat, then place back on the baking sheets. Generously sprinkle each braid with nuts. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar, if using.

Bake the buns until they're pale golden, about 15 minutes. Remove them to cooling racks and cool completely. They will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature 2 to 3 days, or they may be frozen up to 1 month.

About 40 buns. Each bun: 187 calories; 125 mg sodium; 32 mg cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 21 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 1.03 grams fiber.

Cardamom Cookies

Active Work Time: 45 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

These are great for an afternoon coffee break. This is the traditional way to make this butter cookie. For a variation, try dipping the cookies halfway in melted chocolate before sprinkling with the almonds. Use any leftover topping to stir into muffin, cake or pancake batters.

TOPPING

1/4 cup toasted almonds, finely ground

2 tablespoons sugar

Combine the almonds and sugar; set aside.

COOKIES

2 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the cardamom.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and beat after each addition. Add the flour mixture gradually and beat on medium speed to combine, 1 minute. Do not over-mix the dough or the cookies will not be tender.

Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form the dough into a disk. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 baking sheets and set them aside.

Remove half of the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out the cookies with a cookie cutter. Place them on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Sprinkle approximately about 1 teaspoon of topping on each cookie and press down slightly. Bake the cookies until the edges of the cookie reach a pale golden color, 10 to 11 minutes. Remove to rack and cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days or freeze.

36 cookies. Each cookie: 83 calories; 71 mg sodium; 18 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.36 gram fiber.

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