Sourdough Cardamom Knots

cardamom buns
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These cardamom buns or knots are inspired by the Swedish ‘kardemummabullar‘ which is a popular treat served during their tea or coffee break which is often referred to as the ‘fika’. I got to work briefly in a small town called Linköping in Sweden about 8 year ago (didn’t realize it’s been that long) and remember seeing all sorts of traditional buns in supermarket isles and hotel buffets. I even remember having warm cinnamon buns or ‘Kanelbullar‘ with hot chocolate in an outing on the snow.

I wasn’t into baking like I am now, but definitely food (specially cakes, bread and pastry) sparked my curiosity even back then. I tried as much food varieties as I could fit in to the three meals, everything ranging from popular to absurd.

sourdough cardamom knots

Making these buns or knots brought memories right back! And as you already know, I’ll be using natural yeast to leaven these little gorgeous buns.

A bit about Cardamom

There are two varieties of cardamom out there, black and green. If the recipe doesn’t mention specifically then it is often the green cardamom which is commonly available and used is most recipes.

cardamom pods

Green cardamom has an intense flavor, when freshly ground. With time however, the smell and the intensity fades away. So most cardamom powders that are being stored at supermarket isles for months if not years, lack the real aroma and the intensity. It could be harder to source authentic spices when they are imported. So if you want the best results, make sure to find good quality authentic cardamom. Spices like these are only seasonally available at specialized spice agents.

Back in Sri Lanka, I had no trouble sourcing good quality, fresh spices. Some even have these growing in their back yards. After moving overseas I always relied on a trusted spice suppliers.

Best way to grind cardamom is to extract the seeds from the pods and crush them using a mortar and pestle. I know it sounds time consuming, but it is worth it!

stiff starer

Make the stiff starter 10-12 hours prior to mixing the dough. Preferably overnight.

When mixing the ingredients for the stiff starter, make sure to knead it until smooth. It will look like a small dough ball. Place in a small container cover and leave at room temperature until it becomes spongy. Usually will triple in volume.


Prepare all the ingredients
Flour (AP or bread flour)
Soft butter
stiff levain
ground cardamom
room temperature milk
room temperature water
1 teaspoon salt

mix everything

Place flour, sugar, cardamom, salt in a bowl of a stand mixer. Add milk and water and start to mix. When most of the flour start to hydrate, add the stiff starter(levain) and mix to combine. Increase speed to medium and mix until a dough is formed

add butter

When you see a sticky dough, add the butter a bit at a time and mix to incorporate. Scrape the bowl to encourage mixing. Once all the butter is added, let the dough rest for about 10 – 15 minutes. then mix on medium speed for 3-4 minutes until dough feels elastic.

silky dough

Dough will start to get stronger and will start to pull off the sides of the bowl. Use a light dusting of flour around the edges of the bowl to encourage this. At this stage stop mixing.


Bring the dough onto a nonstick surface. Wet your palms and perform several slap and folds to finish off kneading.

half kneaded dough

Dough will start to look a lot smoother. Now cover and leave to rest for about 15 minutes and do a few more slap and folds until the dough is considerably smooth, like shown in the next picture.

smooth dough

The dough is a lot smoother now. At this stage, it is ready for the bulk fermentation.

ready for bulk

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and place in a warm area to bulk.

This will take about 4-5 hours at 26°C. It should grow considerably (almost double in volume)

bulked dough

This is the bulked dough. Notice how it has grown to almost double the size.


Bring the bulked dough on to a floured surface and degas slightly and round up into a tight ball like shown in the next picture

degassed dough

The dough will feel strong and elastic now and not sticky like it used to be. Degas and round up to a tight ball and place in an air tight container and refrigerate for the long slow fermentation (retardation)

Same day bake
For a same day bake, refrigerate for about 2 hours and move onto shaping


When you are ready to shape the rolls, make the paste.

If you use freshly ground cardamom, 1 tbsp. is enough. If it is sore bought and doesn’t have a strong smell/flavor use about 1.5 to 2 tablespoons. If you are worried about the strong flavor, use 1/2 tablespoon and see how you like it.


Mix butter, light brown sugar and ground cardamom to a paste and set aside.

You can mix this by hand using a spatula/spoon or use a mixer. Do not over mix or whip. We don’t want this fluffy.

retarded dough

If you retard the dough, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour, until it is soft enough to roll out but still cold to the touch.

It is a lot easier to roll out when the dough is still cold

roll out dough

Flour the bench and the dough and roll out using a rolling pin to a rectangular shape.

about 21 inch by 10 inch


This is the thickness. It’s roughly about 3mm, but doesn’t have to be exact.

Use flour to stop dough from sticking when rolling

divide to three

Divide the length to three sections and just mark it so you can see.

apply paste

Apply an even thin coasting of the paste on 2/3 of the dough.

Don’t go overboard with the paste, it’ll be slippery when shaping later.

Once done, follow the steps to fold the dough so there will be three layers.


Fold the empty section (that doesn’t have paste) over the center section.


Fold the top section on to the center

roll out

Roll out the dough to increase the width a bit and flatten the dough so it will end up roughly about 10 inch by 10 inch or 12 inch by 12 inch

The size doesn’t have to be exact. Use your instinct and increase the width a bit so the dough is not very thick and is roughly square.

If the dough seems too soft, place in the fridge for 5-10 minutes.

cut in to stripes

Once you rolled out, cut into 12 stripes. Split each stripe in to two but not all the way.

form a knot

Twist the two ends slightly and form a knot. Check the video below.

If it is difficult, just form in to a knot without twisting or wrap like a cinnamon roll and tuck the end underneath.

I’m showing the whole process here, cutting a stripe, splitting it to two stripes, twisting and forming the knot

place on a tray

Once done Place the knots on a tray lined with parchment and leave to proof.

Cover loosely to prevent drying out and let this rise until almost doubled in size. This would take about 3-4 hours. Do not place in a too warm area as the butter and sugar in the paste may melt.

You can bake these in a muffin/cupcake tray too.


Towards the end of the proofing, preheat the oven to 425 °F (conventional)

Proofed knots will look considerably puffier and bigger.

egg wash

Whisk an egg with a tablespoon of water or milk. Apply a thin layer over the proofed rolls.

pearl sugar

This is completely optional. If you have pearl sugar, sprinkle some on to decorate.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown all around.


Once baked, leave on a wire rack to cool completely. Of course you can devour one or two while still warm

cardamom knots
The crumb

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  1. Hello! After step 32 or before the final rise, do you think the dough could be refrigerated and baked the next morning?

    1. Yes. Cover and refrigerate. The next day, let them thaw and then let rise in a slightly warm place.
      This may add a little bit of sour flavor, but it wouldn’t be noticeable.
      Hope this helps

  2. These were delicious! The perfect level of sweetness, not too much, just right. I used a mixture of freshly ground and store ground cardamom because I ran out of enthusiasm for removing them from their shells and it was plenty cardamom-y. I used turbinado sugar on the tops because it was what I had, and though they looked different from yours they were still very pretty. Thank you for the inspiration to challenge myself!

  3. Your cardamom knots looks scrumptious and I’m planning to try. Do you use regular (salted) butter or unsalted butter?

    1. Hi Yumiko,
      Yes it’s regular butter in both dough and the paste. But you can use unsalted butter too and may be add a pinch of extra salt.

  4. Hi!
    Is it possible to leave the stiff starter in the fridge and for longer? And can you leave the dough to rise for longer With following all the steps you get to bake the rolls in the evening, what if you want to have them in the morning?

    1. Yes, stiff starter can be left in the fridge, but this might increase the sourness. The whole point of using a stiff starter is to get minimal sour flavor in the bake.
      The dough can be left in the fridge for up to two days.
      If you want to have them in the morning, you can shape, cover and leave them in the fridge overnight and bake in the morning. If they haven’t proofed enough, leave at room temperature for about an hour before baking.
      Also, you can bake these the night before and refresh in the morning by baking them for 10 minutes in a 180C oven.
      Hope this helps!

  5. Hi!
    Love your site. What is the difference between a mature starter and an active/fed starter? You mention both in your recipes.

    1. It is the same. You feed and let the starter get fully activated which is then also called a mature starter

  6. Hello. I can’t watch the videoof forming the cardamon knots. Could you help me? Thank you in advance!

    1. When you click on the video, it will start to play. I just checked and its working fine. Check your browser settings (if video playback is not turned off etc.)
      If that didn’t work, Google ‘Swedish cardamom knots/buns’ and check videos. Use any one of those videos to guide you.
      Hope this helps!

  7. Hi Vindi,

    as we speak, I’m making these knots. I was a bit cocky probably, because I doubled the dough, then did not add refined sugar in half of it, but homemade apple’sugar’ from dehydrated apple peals & cores. The dough came stiffer out of the fridge, probably because the apple’sugar’ wanted to rehydrate, so I decided to grate apple & pear and covered them with freshly ground cardamom & unsalted butter as a filling. I retarded the dough a lot longetr aswell: it went in the fridge on Sunday evening 6pm and I got it out of the fridge only this morning at 8.45, so it’s quite an adventure. To the other half of the dough I added the refined sugar as you mentioned in your recipe + home dehydrated orange skin, lavender and cardamom. I’m really excited and will let you know how they eventually got out of the oven / tasted. Somewhere this week / weekend I’ll post my results on my instagram account (samserveert), referring to your recipe, of course! Big hanks for the inspiration from Sam (Bruges, Belgium)

    1. I also ran into the issue of bottoms burning, even with extra parchment I also had some sugar weeping during the final proof – maybe this is contributing to the bottoms burning? Any tips on avoiding both ? They were delicious though! Going to try again this week

      1. If the bottom is burning, use two parchment layers and place the rack in the less hot area of the oven (different ovens have different heating setups) if yours is a convection, reduce baking temperature by 20 degrees. If sugar is leaking, probably it’s probably the sugar caramelizing at the bottom rather than burning. Use less paste next time and see if it stops leaking. Also try proofing at a lower temperature.
        Also-these are sourdough and need a longer proofing time and that could cause some sugar leaking as opposed to yeasted ones that need only 30-45 minutes of proofing
        Hope my answer helps and the next batch turn out better!

  8. I’ve made these three times, twice normal and once non dairy and they are delicious. One issue for me is the sugar quickly burns the bottoms unless I take them out before they brown. This doesn’t happen when I do a savory version with zaatar evoo paste. Any tips on how to avoid burnt bottoms?

    1. Use several layers of baking paper/parchment (4 minimum) to line the pan. This will stop bottom burning too much and catching.
      Hope this helps

  9. I’ve been searching for an eggless sourdough cinnamon roll recipe that uses weight measurements and not cups- do you think the dough of this could work as a base for cinnamon rolls if the cardamom was omitted?

    1. Technically you could, but this dough is a little on the dry side for cinnamon buns.
      Tip: when the rolls are proofed, pour a generous amount of cream on the rolls just before it hits the oven. This will yield softer buns.
      Or else you can use my sourdough-apple-spice-cinnamon-rolls/”>Sourdough Apple Spice Cinnamon rolls recipe and replace the eggs with cream/milk

  10. These look amazing, and I have started the process this morning. When does the ‘dough’ 1/2 Tbsp of cardamon get added? Step 2? Thanks

  11. Wonderful recipe! Thanks fo the detailed explanations! Far better than those in my Swedish recipe book I bought at Stockholm! One question. Can they be frozen and baked later? In what stage do I do that? Thanks a lot!

    1. Thank you.

      Yes they can be frozen just before the second proof. So you make the knot and place on a tray, wrap with cling film or food grade plastic wrap and then freeze.
      To bake, pull them out and bring to room temperature, let them proof and bake.

      Hope this helps.

  12. … and another question please! I just brought one out of the oven; on the outside it’s already brown and looks great, but inside it’s a little raw! I fear that if I leave it longer in the ovencitvwill be too brown outside. Besides, how can you tell then WHEN it’s well cooked inside??

    1. If the outside is browning too fast, you can cover the tay with foil and continue to bake. Adjust the oven temperature next time, some ovens are hotter than the others and might need minor adjustments (we do this in bakeries too). Also placing them at in the center rack or lower might help with too fast browning.

      If you want to make sure if they are done, you can check the internal temperature (of the baked bun) using a probe thermometer and it should be 180-190°F (82–88°C).

      Usually, 20 minutes is enough to fully cook the dough. And remember once out of the oven, as it cools down, a lot of moisture will evaporate (dry out). If you check while they are still very hot, the centers might be too moist and might give the impression that they are underbaked.

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