I’m one of those people who can’t say “no” to any opportunity to be festive. I love the feeling of elation and nostalgia that comes with any holiday. When I found out that Sweden- the country in which I currently reside- has a national cinnamon bun day, I decided that I must participate. Partly because I’m new here and desperately want to fit in with the culture, but also because I could feel the electricity and excitement in the air! Everyone rushing to the bakery at our local ICA for warm, puffy, cinnamon goodies.
The store was busier than I’ve ever seen it. I stopped a store clerk and asked her if there were any special traditions for Kanelbullens Dag (Cinnamon Bun Day). She smiled at me and said “Eat cinnamon buns, of course!” Of course. As if there would be any other answer! The eating part was easy, and there were plenty of the large speckled spirals piled up on a special platter, fresh out from the bakery and still steaming. I could’ve taken my one bun and enjoyed it over my afternoon fika.
But something stopped me. That was too easy. I wanted to do something that would make me feel a bit closer to the Swedish heritage. Cinnamon Buns were, after all, invented in Sweden. I couldn’t walk down a street without seeing these large pastries piled up in the windows of cafes. I wanted to get my hands dirty. I wanted to feel the dough between my fingers, and to smell the fresh baked cardamom and cinnamon in our small Swedish Stuga. I had to bake them myself.
Worst. Idea. Ever.
Before I realized that I don’t even bake- ever- the language barrier came into play. While most people speak English in Sweden, there are some specialty words not used frequently in everyday conversation. Like “live yeast”, or “Cinnamon” for that matter. It took me about 45 minutes to find all of the ingredients I would need for the home made buns.
The second awakening came at home, once I’d confirmed that I had all of the ingredients needed, I realized I couldn’t read the directions. Not wanting to translate the entire recipe, I found one in English. Perfect. But then I realized I’ll have to convert the measurements, as it was an American recipe. Math is one of two of my weak points. The second one: Baking.
Somewhere the conversions when horribly wrong, and I managed to quadruple the recipe. Yes. That’s the recipe x4! I would’ve ended up with over a hundred cinnamon buns (for two people). Thankfully by boyfriend returned home just in time to save the day! I was just about to mix the ingredients together, when I paused with uncertainty.
“Before you come into the kitchen,” I shouted as I heard him enter the front door. “Please don’t be mad at me. I need your help.” I could tell by his uncertain response that he was worried.
“Ooookay.” He said as he slowly peaked his head around the corner.
“HAPPY CINNAMON BUN DAY!” I shouted, covered in white, with our puppy Tesla licking flower from the floor. The counters were littered with ingredients and dirty dishes. My boyfriend, who likes a clean kitchen, sighed heavily as he entered.
“What are you trying to do?” He asked, exasperated after a long day of work.
“I’m baking cinnamon buns!” I answered enthusiastically. “They’re gluten free!”
“How many are you trying to make?” He said, going over the math in his head. “There’s enough here to make 200 buns!”
“Yeah, I think I messed up the conversions a little.” I said, feeling a bit disappointed in myself. I’d wanted to have them finished for his return home that evening. “Could you help me?”
And with that he went into concentration mode. He barely looked at the directions- he just portioned it out, threw the ingredients together as if he’d worked at a bakery his whole life. I watched, took photos, and decided to redeem myself by using the extra ingredients to bake sugar cookies. I mean, how difficult could sugar cookies be?
Apparently pretty damn difficult. I figured “Hey, it’s just flour, vanilla, sugar and butter! Easy-peasy!” Nope. Baking soda is a key ingredient, as is a sufficient amount of flour. What I ended up with was a sweet buttery mess that congealed and hardened together in a flat and bubbly mass on the bottom of the pan. I am quite grateful that Jens showed up when he did, or there would have been two baking disasters that day.
From here on out, I think I will let the bakers do the baking, and I will stick to what I am good at: Eating.