Breads/ Breakfast/ Recipes/ Yeast Breads

cardamom sweet rolls and my pastry plight

This is just the thing I love to bake.

There’s nothing fussy, nothing requiring great skill or intense patience. There are no special tools needed and even if you mess up totally, they’ll still somehow look good and taste delicious. When it comes down to it, there is only yeast and flour…and dough that you can sink my palms into and feel good about.

cardamom sweet rolls.

A few days ago, when I was traveling, I got to thinking about pastries. I saw some stunning ones in small artisan bakeries in Savannah and Charleston, and was reminded again of the intense differences between our Americanized jumbo danishes and traditional European pastries. Breakfast pastries in general get a bad rap because they are seemingly associated with saturated fat, sugar and, well, obesity in general. A typical scone from Starbucks weighs in at around five hundred calories…but is also twice the size of what a scone should be. Same goes for french fries, burgers and even sodas!

You see that a lot here. Bigger isn’t always better, friends.

But…step off a plane in Europe and you’ll find pastries the way they were meant to be. They aren’t junked up with fake white frosting, dripping with butter or the size of your head….instead, they are dainty. They fit in the palm of your hand and are made without preservatives, the way pastries ought to be made. Instead, they’re made with real creamy butter, white flour, farm fresh eggs and sugar…but aren’t heavy in the least bit. Sometimes they are more on the savory side and served in bread baskets, along with cheese and fruit. They are meant to be enjoyed, savored, celebrated.

These cardamom sweet rolls are anything but their American cinnamon roll cousin. They’re small and not-too-sweet, making them a great option for a Thanksgiving bread basket. They remind me of something I would buy in France and have for a mid-afternoon snack, with a creamy cafe au lait. They are sweet rolls you can feel good about baking and eating…the kind that won’t weigh you down for the rest of the day and the kind that makes an ordinary morning a special one.

Cardamom Sweet Rolls

makes 12-14 small rolls

1 packet dry yeast

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup whole milk, warm

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

2.5 T butter, softened

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp cardamom

for filling:

2 T sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 T butter, soft

* 1 egg, beaten with a little warm water

In a small bowl, combine the yeast and warm milk and let sit for five minutes for the yeast to dissolve. Pour into the bowl of a Kitchen Aid and add the sugar, cardamom, soft butter and egg. Mix for three minutes on medium speed. Add the flour and salt and mix on high speed for six minutes, until the dough becomes a smooth and elastic ball.

Place dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for two hours. It will double in size.

Punch down dough on a floured surface and roll out to be a wide rectangle. Using your fingers, smoosh the soft butter on top and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar to coat. Roll up, starting from the left side (see above photo) and then slice into 1 inch rolls.

Place rolls on a lined baking sheet, cover and let stand for thirty minutes. Brush with beaten egg and bake for twenty minutes at 350, until brown and golden.

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  • Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin
    November 3, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Wow those look amazing!! I love that they’re not too sweet so could work as bread! You make it look so easy but I am sure if I tried these I would fail. miserably. 🙂

  • Christina
    November 3, 2010 at 7:26 am

    These look great! I love European style pastries for all the reasons you’ve already listed 🙂

    Where’s the cardamom? I assume that it should be used in place of the cinnamon in the filling you have listed, but wanted to check 🙂

    • Christina
      November 3, 2010 at 8:34 am

      n/mind I am clearly blind 😉

  • M
    November 3, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Hi Jenna

    Could you make some gluten free recipes on your site….esp baking ones?

    Thanks from the many of us out there with celiac disease!

    PS enjoy your blog, miss your lunches and breakfasts though 🙂

    • Lainey
      November 3, 2010 at 11:46 am

      I agree! Love the blog but I miss seeing your daily eats!

  • Annie@stronghealthyfit
    November 3, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Adorable! I agree, it’s amazing to see the difference in food quality and portion size between Europe and the US.

  • Katy @ A Healthy Shot
    November 3, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Ok I really need to stop reading your blog 2 hours before lunch. I’m pretty sure everyone in the office can hear my stomach rumbling 😉
    It really does take a trip abroad to realize how rediculously American portion sizes are!!!

  • Jessica @ How Sweet It Is
    November 3, 2010 at 7:37 am

    I’m not a fan of huge pastries either. I prefer them to be bite sized. And I love that these have more cardamom!

  • Natalia - a side of simple
    November 3, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Sigh* This brings me right back to Europe. Thanks for bringing up such great memories, Jenna 🙂

  • Amanda
    November 3, 2010 at 7:40 am

    While I do love a good sugary pastry, these look wonderful! I thinks a few scattered on a Christmas cookie platter would be very cute! Do they freeze well?

    • jenna
      November 3, 2010 at 7:53 am

      they freeze beautifully! And they are delicious reheated with a side of greek yogurt, honey and pecans….because that’s what I’m currently eating right now.

      • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday
        November 3, 2010 at 8:04 am

        Do you freeze pre or post baking?

        • jenna
          November 3, 2010 at 8:07 am

          if you want to freeze leftovers, you freeze post-baking

  • Jen
    November 3, 2010 at 7:40 am

    oh those look so good!! I’m actually thinking about making them –they look pretty easy! 🙂

    ps: I’m reading the American Wife right now after your recomendation on the blog and I LOVE IT!!!

  • Alayna @ Thyme Bombe
    November 3, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Those are beautiful, and they look easy to make. I like this message of guiltless indulgence with correct portions!

  • rebecca lustig
    November 3, 2010 at 7:45 am

    i LOVE making miniature pastries. there’s something elegant, detailed, beautiful and UNIQUE about capturing the essence of all the flavors in just a few bites.

  • Michele @ Healthy Cultivations
    November 3, 2010 at 7:45 am

    I so appreciate your step by step how to posts on baking topics that sound difficult… but in the end turn out to be rather simple. This looks wonderful.

  • Alina @ Duty Free Foodie
    November 3, 2010 at 7:46 am

    In high school, I enjoyed ginormous sugary cinnamon rolls almost daily. I would like to think my palette has since matured away from sugar coma desserts. These look like they would be a lot of fun to try!

  • Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun
    November 3, 2010 at 7:46 am

    That is SO true! Food isn’t truly appreciated here. It’s something to be inhaled as quickly as possible before getting to the next to-do on our list, meeting on our schedule, etc. It’s used to hide stress and emotions instead of be enjoyed for its basic beauty and fulfillment in our lives. Keeping things in a perspective of enjoying REAL food and really savoring it makes such a difference. And gives room for delicacies such as these.

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat
    November 3, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Those are so unbelievably cute!! You never fail to make me hungry Jenna!

  • Amanda (Eating Up)
    November 3, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Beautiful! I agree with you about the size. Making things big can be a cop out for creating something worth talking about!

  • Gloria
    November 3, 2010 at 7:59 am

    People always wonder how I eat cookies, pastries, and desserts all the time and stay so healthy – UHHH that’s because I’m not eating 10 at a time and they are all homemade and not out of a bag from Publix! As an aspiring (vegan) pastry chef, I love your blog because it gives me such inspiration. Don’t kill me for using coconut butter and flax eggs 😉

    November 3, 2010 at 8:00 am

    They are so so cute! I am salivating onto my keyboard! What a great idea to put those in a Thanksgiving bread basket! You are my baking/cooking hero!

  • Cathy B. @ Bright Bakes
    November 3, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Yeast baking is my favorite thing in the whole world.
    And my second favorite thing in the whole world is getting to eat the yummy, homemade, preservative-free, delightful little things that come out of my oven. All I can say to this post is AMEN! People seem bent on either stuffing themselves silly with way too much processed and poorly made food…or existing on nothing more than protein bars and carrot sticks.
    I love your outlook! SO refreshing…
    cathy b.

  • Alexia@ Dimple Snatcher
    November 3, 2010 at 8:07 am

    almost too cute to eat!
    nom nom nom!

  • Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf
    November 3, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Mmmm. Cardamom! I’ve got a jar of cardamom that I’ve used only once. These look wonderful!

    I agree on your outlook. I gained 20 lbs in one summer from living off processed “danishes” that were available to me for free at the hotel where I was working. The crazy thing is that I really didn’t like them all that much! Those danish, before eating them, made me think of the wonderful kolaches (the pastries with the fruit or cream filling. Pigs-in-a-blanket are not kolaches! UGH) I can get in West (the town called “West”), Texas. Mmmm. Processed breakfast danishes cannot compare.

  • Lindsey @ Morningstar Project
    November 3, 2010 at 8:18 am

    These look perfect for when my family visits for Thanksgiving. I don’t like stuff super sweet, or complicated to make either. Thanks for always sharing good stuff 🙂

  • megan @ whatmegansmaking
    November 3, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Jenna, they look beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I want to make them just because they’re so pretty 🙂

  • Clare@ Fitting It All In
    November 3, 2010 at 8:22 am

    A fantastic reminder!! That the “petite vanilla scones” and starbucks shouldn’t have to be labelled “petite!!”

    And those look awesome. WHEN will you have a cookbook/bake book??

  • Miranda
    November 3, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Wow, those look amazing, going to have to add this to the ‘make ASAP’ list. We have to travel for Thanksgiving and these look like they would travel well. I could not agree more abou the size of our food it just seems to be getting bigger and bigger along with our waistlines.

  • Kelly
    November 3, 2010 at 8:24 am

    YUM! YUM! These looks incredible!

  • Jenny
    November 3, 2010 at 8:25 am

    I am so thrilled that you just made some rolls like this! I’ve been looking for a lighter version of sweet rolls so this seems perfect!

  • R @ Learning As I Chop
    November 3, 2010 at 8:33 am

    The proof is in the pudding. For something sweet, they are cut low on sugar and butter

  • monicanelsonfitness
    November 3, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Stunning Jenna! You are on a *roll*, hehe. 🙂

    I still want to make the Pumpkin Rolls too.

  • The Blue-Eyed Bakers
    November 3, 2010 at 8:45 am

    These look sublime. What a fabulous idea for a bread basket…although I’m sure all the other rolls would be jealous…

  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    November 3, 2010 at 8:52 am

    These look so good. And you’re right, we do like everything super-sized. I’m trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to teach my husband about portion size.

  • Erin
    November 3, 2010 at 9:02 am

    I gasped when I saw the first picture. I really, really did.
    These are just perfect. In every way.
    I must find cardamom I can afford.

  • marlee
    November 3, 2010 at 9:08 am

    love it!!! any chance that in the future you can include directions in your recipes for the lowly among us without a kitchenaid mixer?

  • Lauren at KeepItSweet
    November 3, 2010 at 9:13 am

    we do seem to supersize things here! although, i can’t say that i don’t enjoy extra large cookies:-)

  • katie
    November 3, 2010 at 9:14 am

    these would be great for xmass morning. do you know how to make popovers? those are my dad’s thing to make on xmass day morning. make those next please!!!

  • Erin
    November 3, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Hi Jenna,

    I’ll be visiting Charleston next week with my boyfriend for the first time and was wondering if you could recommend some spots that can’t be missed? Figured you are pretty much an expert at this point.


  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey
    November 3, 2010 at 9:24 am

    You are so right – pastries should not be as big as your head and weigh 500 pounds! I loved all the pastries in Europe!

  • Tab - Just Weighing In
    November 3, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Those rolls look amazing (as usual)!

  • Lauri (
    November 3, 2010 at 9:41 am

    I LOVE your outlook on food & life!!!!

    These rolls look SO delish!! Might have to try them for Thanksgiving like you suggested!! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Krystina
    November 3, 2010 at 9:46 am

    These look wonderful; I love cardamom. I’m reminded why I love European cuisine every time I visit your blog.

    Funny enough, my nutrition professor asked my class which country (aside from America) has the highest obesity rate, and someone said Italy. Little did they know that Italy has one of the lowest!

  • Sana
    November 3, 2010 at 9:48 am

    That is exactly what I love and miss about Europe!!! Real FOOD

  • Laughter-Loving Stacy
    November 3, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I love the simple things. :-p

  • Sarah-Mae @ Eat, Run, Knit
    November 3, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Besides the obvious health benefits, micro-sized baked goods are just so CUTE! Not to mention they beg the patron to savour and love every bite, rather than taking advantage of quantity over quality.

  • Kate
    November 3, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Jenna, STOP making us fat !!!! LOL !

  • Heather (Heather's Dish)
    November 3, 2010 at 10:30 am

    i’ve never been to Europe (not yet anyway) but i love the European style of eating really great food, but smaller bits of it. that’s all you really need with great food anyway! i love this recipe, and these really couldn’t be more beautiful 🙂

  • karent
    November 3, 2010 at 10:40 am

    These are amazing…when I was a little girl my girl friend’s grandmother would bake them every Saturday morning, sadly she got alzheimer’s before she could write down the recipe, they tried to duplicate it for years. I am so going to make these this Saturday, and hope that they bring me back to my childhood.

  • Megan (Braise The Roof)
    November 3, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Yum, cardamom- you must have some Scandinavian blood in you. 🙂

  • Stephanie Rose
    November 3, 2010 at 11:24 am

    ah! I’m about to head to practice, and now all I want to do is eat one of those! They look amazing!…and very true about our portion sizes.

  • Jenn @ LiveWellFitNow
    November 3, 2010 at 11:26 am

    My husband and I spent half of our honeymoon in France this summer. I continue to talk about how much I learned from the French appreciation, love and enjoyment of food. It is meant to be celebrated! It is meant to be full of lush flavor. It is not meant to be thrown in your mouth with no thought to savor every piece.

    The morning we left we split a croissant. I flaked apart every layer and ate that glorious piece of food for over 10 minutes. It was so perfect. 🙂

  • Hope
    November 3, 2010 at 11:32 am

    They all look so perfect! I wish I could get over my fear of flour being alllllll over my kitchen – usually tends to happen when I bake anything lol

  • Camille
    November 3, 2010 at 11:51 am

    These are, hands down, one of the most beautiful things you have ever posted. They just look… perfect!

  • Munching Mamacita
    November 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I can relate to this post more than ever right now! I’ve been studying abroad here in Spain for the past few months and before I left, I was the girl afraid of anything-pastry like, anything made with butter, whole milk or anything that wasn’t being publicized on a healthy food blog. I know, I was missing out on so much! Now that I’ve started to accustom myself to the Spanish culture, breakfasts usually consist of the most delicious fresh-baked croissants I have ever encountered, a hot cup (and by cup I mean a NORMAL serving size, not Venti anything) of cafe con leche, or cafe au lait as they say in France, and a small glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. I haven’t had nearly as much time to exercise and I’ve been eating foods that I had thought I’d sworn off for the rest of my life back home but, ironically, my bod is lookin’ it’s best, I feel great and less weighed down with heavy foods and I’m truly taking the time to enjoy every bite of food. If there’s anything I’ve learned from the Europeans and must bring back to the states with me, it’s their eating lifestyle. And I know just the thing to make when I get home…your cardamom rolls!!!! 🙂

  • Becky
    November 3, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    While in general I agree with your sentiments about Europe and the supersizing of America, what you say about food in Europe is not true across the board. I live in Europe, and have for going on 7 years. I have also lived in America. Its true that when i go back to visit America, i am horrified by the portion sizes and the amount of processed junk you all eat. But there are plenty of Starbucks, McD, etc in Europe and the huge food that goes along with them. It’s important to remember that Europe is not a mythical fantasy land where everyone sits in Parisian cafes sipping coffee and nibbling on reasonably sized pastries all day! By the way, those cardamom rolls look delicious!

  • Gina
    November 3, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    These are in the oven right now and smell amazing! Can’t wait to try one with a cup of tea!

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss
    November 3, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I’ve been seeing so many sweet rolls around the blogosphere lately, I’ll have to join in on the fun!! These look fantastic!

  • Sheri
    November 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    These are the prettiest rolls I’ve ever seen! Can’t wait to make them : )

  • Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef
    November 3, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Beautiful & delicious as always! Well, I haven’t made them so I don’t know they are delicious but I am 99.9% sure they are. 🙂 And I am so with you on the size thing… American food drives me nuts. But, at least at many restaurants you get lots of meals out of one dish 🙂

  • Camille @ La Bella Vita
    November 3, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    These look too good to eat, so perfectly sized all in rows. I love your motto of quality over quantity.

  • maya @ finding balance in tokyo
    November 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Those look fantastic!

    I have to agree with you about the differences in pasty size/sweetness between America and the rest of the world. I live in Japan, and have noticed similar differences here. When it comes to pastries and such the Japanese -usually- seem to draw on the European standard for influence rather than the American. That’s not to say that all pastries are smaller and less sweet, but there are a lot more options to choose from, rather than row after row of gigantic, coma-inducing danishes.

    One thing I find interesting is that even American chains like Starbucks offer different items over here. We do have a few of the big American pastries available, but they are mixed in with smaller and more reasonably sized ones unique to Starbucks Japan. My friends and family are always surprised at the quality of these when they visit, as well!

  • jenna julia
    November 4, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Hi Jenna!

    I’m reading your blog from Finland and those cardamon rolls are a classic pastry here. we never drizzle them with icing, just have them like that with coffee or even plain milk. You can find those rolls also in Sweden, Norway and Denmark 🙂

  • Marika
    November 4, 2010 at 5:34 am

    I agree with the previous commenter– I made Finnish cinnamon rolls a few weeks ago and the recipe was pretty much the same! Cardamom makes things taste so Scandinavian.

  • Ahn Ei @ FlatironFlavor
    November 4, 2010 at 6:32 am

    Oh wow! Those look absolutely fantastic! Beautifully done.

  • bergamot
    November 4, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    The sweet rolls look great, perfectly done.

  • Natalie
    November 13, 2010 at 7:59 am

    these looks so good! I am in the dark ages here and don’t have a kitchen aid…are mixing times same for hand held?
    thanks Jenna for your great recipes:)

  • Ingrid
    November 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    wait jenna… did you get a ROLLING PIN?! no more wine bottle? love it, and am jealous of your marble roller. mine is just a plain wooden roller :o)

    • jenna
      November 14, 2010 at 7:15 pm

      Yes!!! Haha finally!

  • Taz
    January 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    mm, these look tasty. I’ve noted them down on my ‘things to make’ list. Now to finally go and buy a rolling pin…

  • Sonia
    February 11, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Quick question. I’m living in Europe (Denmark) and the only yeast available is the Fresh active yeast. Any idea how much of it I would use in the recipe?

    • Heather
      January 30, 2015 at 6:58 am

      One teaspoon of dry yeast is equal to 10 grams of fresh yeast.
      I hope this helps!

  • jessica
    April 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I just made these tonight and they came out delicious. I cheated a bit and used my bread maker to make the dough but they came out great.. Perfect for have with a nice espresso. Thank you so much!

  • Sara
    November 11, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Love these! Can’t stop eating them. Thanks.

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  • Heather
    January 30, 2015 at 6:50 am

    Just and inside tip from a baker:
    The rolls themselves are a laminated dough, not a traditional sweet roll dough. That is what makes them so unique, flaky and creates those layers you see.