This recipe originates from my love of Swedish baked goods, especially Swedish Apple Pie, sometimes called Apple Cake. Here, I’ve stuffed a good old-fashioned apple pie filling into a rich, sweet bread dough, making the buns charmingly individual and portable yet traditional and familiar at the same time.
To give it that extra Swedish touch, I’ve infused bun dough and filling with a quintessential Swedish baking spice…cardamom! These sweet buns are soft and slightly chewy, reminiscent of a cinnamon roll without the over the top sweetness.
This dough is so silky soft and easy to handle, it’s one of my favorite sweet doughs to work with. The secret to its tender and silky texture? Half and half. Yes, it’s not common to use half-and half-to make bun dough, but it works like a charm in this recipe.
For the apple pie filling I’m using the same filling I used in my Crisp Apple Strudel recipe. The only change I suggest making is to use a slightly sweeter apple like a Fuji or Gala. You could also fill the buns with some spiced applesauce, which will make the buns a bit harder fill and different in texture but still equally delicious. An optional ingredient that makes these buns even more amazing is crumbled marzipan, which adds rich almond flavor and creaminess to the buns after it melds with the moisture from the cooked apples.
I think the perfect finish to these buns is pearl sugar, which remind me of wintertime snow. You can also top them with a dusting of powdered sugar or even a regular cinnamon-sugar mixture. If you make apple filling a few days ahead of time, and start the dough the night before you plan on baking the buns, it will make the process that much easier. Just let the dough complete their first rise in the fridge overnight. On the day you plan on serving them, portion out and stuff the buns, then bake them off after a second rising. Imagine a fresh, warm Swedish Apple Pie Bun in your hand on a chilly Christmas morning…nothing could be better with a cozy cup of good tea!
Apple Pie Buns
Makes 16 small buns.
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp half and half
2 Tbsp butter (at room temperature)
1 Tbsp SAF yeast
3 Tbsp white sugar
1/4 cup Bird’s custard powder
1 egg (at room temperature, beaten)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cardamom
3 baking apples ( I suggest Fuji or Gala)
2 Tbsp butter
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp Calvados or other apple brandy (optional)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
3 oz marzipan crumbled (optional)
1 egg, mixed with 1 tsp half-and-half
Swedish pearl sugar, powdered sugar, or cinnamon sugar
stand mixer with dough hook
12 cavity bun pan or regular half-sheet pan
1.) Make the Apple Filling. Core and dice the apples into 1/2 inch cubes. Place aside in a medium bowl. Meanwhile, melt the butter on medium heat. After the butter has melted, add the diced apples and spices and cook for about 5 minutes until slightly softened. Make a cornstarch slurry mixture by placing cornstarch in a small bowl and mix in 2 Tbsp of water to it. After 5 minutes and the apples and butter have had a chance to mingle, add the Calvados. Let the alcohol cook out and then mix in the brown sugar. After the brown sugar has been incorporated, mix in the cornstarch slurry and let it cook until you have a thick, glossy apple filling mixture. Turn off the heat and mix in the lemon juice. Add marzipan crumbles and mix in. Place this apple filling in a medium bowl, cover, and let it cool completely.
2.) Make the Dough. Using the bowl of a stand mixer, place the half-and-half, softened butter, and egg into the mixing bowl. Place the bowl in the stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and start to mix on low-speed. Add the yeast, custard powder, and flour gradually, scraping down the insides of the mixing bowl periodically. Increase the speed to low-medium and continue to mix until the shaggy mass becomes a soft and supple ball of dough. This will take about 5 minutes. Transfer the ball of dough to a non-stick sprayed bowl to proof, lightly coating all sides of the dough with some of the same oil spray. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough proof in a warm, draft free place for 30-40 minutes or until the mass has doubled in volume.
3.) Portion Out the Dough. After the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and transfer it to a work surface lightly dusted with bench flour. Give the dough a few light kneadings, then portion dough out into 16 equal pieces (see below).
4.) Make the Buns. Roll out each of the 16 dough pieces into a roughly 4″ round or square, making sure to keep the thickness of the dough even throughout in each piece. Fill each flattened piece with 1 1/2 Tbsp of apple filling. Gather the edges to pinch and seal, then flip the bun over so that the smooth side faces up. Transfer to a 12 cavity bun pan or half-sheet pan sprayed with non-stick spray, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the buns rise for 30-40 minutes, or long enough for them to have doubled in puffiness. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
5.) Finish and Bake. After the second rising, brush the tops of the buns with egg wash, then sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake in oven for about 17-20 minutes, or until buns turn a light golden brown. Remove from oven, transfer to a cooling rack to sit for a few minutes before serving.
*** Tip: These buns can be stored at room temperature for 2 days or in the fridge for up to 5 days. When ready to eat, reheat the buns in microwave for 10 seconds or until warm and soft again.
Love buns? Please check out my recipe for Honeyed BBQ Pork Buns, a Chinese dim sum favorite!