Like the croissant is to France, boller are to Norway, although we eat them with coffee at parties and when walking the forests and mountains. They are a milk-based bread, lightly sweet with just a hint of cardamom. Boller are available everywhere in Norway with and without raisins but I have an overwhelming sense of disappointment when having one without, so always include them.
The most important characteristic in a great bolle is that it should be really, really soft. Up until now, I haven't managed to achieve this before but I think that this new recipe delivers that delicious soft texture. Adding a cooked starch mixture helps to give a very light soft crumb. It also uses osmotolerant yeast to make sure that the sweet dough rises well. Use an extra-strong roller-milled white flour for a very light fluffy texture.
In Norway we make these simple boller or Hveteboller (very soft sweet cardamon buns) but then all these wonderful variations can be found. You can use the same dough to make Rosinboller (raisin buns) or Sjokoladeboller (buns studded with dark chocolate pieces). Then if you want to get more adventurous you can make Kanelboller (shaped in spirals or knots layered with cinnamon and brown sugar). Finally you can get extravagant and make Skolebrød (school buns) that have a dollop of rich Madagascan-vanilla pastry cream in the middle and coconut-topped glace icing around it. Or to celebrate the return of the sun to Norway – it gets very dark from the 20th November until the 16th- 21st January – you can make Solboller: beautiful decorated buns with custard baked in the middle and glace icing around the outside.
for the cooked starch mixture
Whisk the milk and flour together in a saucepan and bring almost to the boil, beating it as it thickens. Then spoon this into a bowl, cover and leave until warm.
For the dough
Beat the milk, yeast, egg, sugar, and salt together (either in a regular mixing bowl, or better still, an electric dough mixer like our Ankarsrum Assistent Food Mixer or our IGF Fornitalia Mixer would make it easy and give a great result).
Add the ground cardamom and flour to the mixing bowl and using your mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix until the dough is almost smooth. Add the cooked starch mixture and butter then continue mixing until the dough is very smooth and elastic. This can be done by hand too but will take longer. This is a very soft dough – so don't be tempted to add more flour - it should be soft!
Remove the dough from the bowl. If you’re using raisins flatten it slightly and add the raisins giving the dough a short knead to evenly distribute them. Form the dough into a smooth ball and then return to the bowl. Either put it into a Brød & Taylor Folding Proofer with a moist atmosphere (set at 28C), or cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place.
When the dough has almost doubled in volume - which will take about an hour at 28C or depending on the temperature of your kitchen - remove from the bowl and on a work surface.
Divide the dough into 24 pieces and roll each into a neat, smooth ball and place on well-oiled baking trays, leaving plenty of room for the buns to rise. If you’re using chocolate pieces pat each piece flat and sprinkle with some chocolate pieces before rolling up tightly and shaping into balls (the raisins can also be added at this stage too). Cover the buns with a damp tea towel (or return to your proofer) until doubled in size.
Heat the oven to 180C fan. Just before putting the buns into the oven, brush each bun with beaten egg (whisked with a pinch of salt and ½ tsp sugar to make it flow and shine) ; and if your buns have raisins or chocolate you can sprinkle peal sugar on top to identify them. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Check the buns after about 8 minutes as often ovens heat unevenly, you may need to rotate the trays. When removed from the oven, slip the buns into a bread bag immediately or wrap on a cooling wire in clean tea towels until cold. Don't skip this part - it makes the buns much softer.
The buns freeze very well and make a great simple snack for packed lunches.