Ubiquitous across Finland, often eaten as a snack with a glass of cold milk, these buns are translated literally as ‘slapped ears’ – some say because of their slightly squished shape, and others because children who tried to steal them hot from the oven were told they would get their ears slapped.
Note: you will need to begin this recipe several hours before you want to eat, or even the day before, to allow time for the dough to prove.
Start by making the dough. If using whole cardamom pods, bruise them with the flat of a large knife, peel and discard the skins, and place the seeds into a spice mill or pestle and mortar. Grind to a powder then tip into a food mixer or large bowl. If using ground cardamom, simply place it straight into the food mixer or bowl.
Add the flour, sugar, yeast and salt and, using the dough hook of the mixer, or with a wooden spoon if you are making by hand, mix together thoroughly. I would not advise attempting the next stage by hand as the dough is very wet, so place all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food mixer and add the milk, eggs and butter. Mix on a low speed until combined. Turn the motor up to medium and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Lightly grease a large, clean bowl with a little soft butter and scrape the dough into it. Cover and leave to prove until doubled in size – about 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge; I prefer a slow overnight prove so they are ready for breakfast the following day. For the filling, beat the butter, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl to form a smooth, soft paste. Set aside.
Tip the dough on to a lightly floured worktop and cut it in half. Roll each piece out to a large rectangle, approximately 50 x 30cm in size and 5mm thick. Spread the spiced butter thinly and evenly over the 2 sheets of dough, then roll each up snugly to form a long sausage shape. Cut each length into triangles by slicing through on the diagonal, first one way, then the opposite (you should get about 26). You want the tip of the triangle to be about 2cm wide, and the base to be about 6–7cm. Then, with a triangle in front of you, base side closest, press your finger firmly down the centre from the tip to the base. This will flatten the top and squish out each end to reveal the spirals of spiced butter. Repeat with the other triangles. Arrange them, well spaced out, on 2 or 3 baking trays and leave to prove once more for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas Mark 7. Just before you bake, brush the surface of each bun with a little beaten egg and sprinkle on some pearl sugar (or granulated sugar). You can freeze them at this stage: leave on the baking trays to freeze, then pack into a bag or tub and leave in the freezer until ready to cook.
Bake in the hot oven for about 15 minutes, until deep golden brown. If cooking from frozen, give them an extra couple of minutes. Serve warm.