Cardamom Buns and the WI Walks

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As some of you may know, I joined the Islington chapter of the Women’s Institute back in the Fall. The WI is a women’s charitable organisation that is now celebrating its 100th year. Originally founded during the First World War to support rural women and assist the war effort, the WI has evolved over the years into a well-known cultural institution. In particular, in recent years it has become more popular in urban areas and with younger women who have the same desire to form communities, learn new skills, contribute to charity, and advocate for positive change that the original founding members had.

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I know the WI has rather a reputation of being for little old ladies in small villages who like to make jam, but I assure you N1WI is active and dynamic and we have plenty of younger members! In the six months or so since I joined, I have felt incredibly welcome in this group of women and I have participated in many interesting meetings, including a lively debate hosted by Evan Davis, a balloon modeling workshop with Miss Ballooniverse, a lino printing workshop, and a lesson in genealogical research. For the WI’s centenary year however, things are really ramping up and the members, chapters, and federations are all doing amazing things to raise money, recruit new members, and support our campaigns and charities.

Two local members, Anna from Stoke Newington WI and Louise from N1WI have decided to take on the infamous Thames Path Challenge in order to raise funds for their respective chapters’ centenary projects as well as their two main charities, Shelter from the Storm and The Refugee Women’s Association. Anna and Louise started in Kemble on Tuesday morning and will walk an astounding 184 miles to the Thames Barrier in eight days, meeting local WI members along the way. You can follow their progress on Facebook and Twitter!

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Louise and Anna at the top of Horsenden Hill during one of our training walks in April

I am an avid walker/hiker myself and have had so much fun with these ladies on their training walks in and around London over the past couple of months. I will be joining them for two days this weekend, walking around 40 miles myself from Tilehurst to Egham along the Thames and providing some moral support. If you can, please support these inspiring women on their Thames Path Challenge by donating a few quid here. They are aiming to raise £10 per mile walked and all the funds will be split evenly between the two WIs and the two charities.

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So, why cardamom buns? Well, Anna is quite a keen baker and she brought these buns on the first training walk I did with them. They are an unusual twist on a Swedish cinnamon bun, spicy and refreshing and not overly sweet. I asked her for her family’s recipe and she has kindly given me permission to share it here. If you don’t care for cardamom (or can’t be bothered to de-seed and grind all those pods!), these would be just as fantastic with ground cinnamon…in fact I will make them that way next time as Sam is not a cardamom fan.

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Cardamom Buns (Kardemummabullar)

Makes about 18 buns, depending on your rolling and cutting

Dough

400g bread flour (plus more for dusting)
40g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground Cardamom seeds
75g butter
250g whole milk
14g or 2 sachets instant or dried active yeast

Filling
75g softened butter
2 tsp Cardamom
60g sugar
1 beaten egg
Pearl sugar or chopped nuts to decorate (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, salt, and cardamom. In a separate bowl, melt the butter and add the milk. If using dried active yeast, add to the (warm) milk mixture and let it activate for a few minutes before adding the liquid to the dry ingredients. If using instant, add the yeast to the dry ingredients, then mix in the liquids. Mix until it just comes together, then knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and shiny. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it out onto a floured surface and knead lightly until it is soft and easy to handle. Grab your rolling pin and roll it out to about 1/4 inch (1 cm) thickness, aiming to make an even rectangle of dough. Now for the filling: spread the softened butter over the rolled out dough. Mix together the sugar and ground cardamom and sprinkle evenly over the dough. Starting with one of the long ends, gently roll the rectangle of dough up on itself like a jelly roll, keeping the roll tight and even. Slice the roll into 1 inch (2-3 cm) slices and lay them flat in a buttered baking tin. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the rolls rest for another 30 minutes.

When they have puffed up nicely, preheat your oven to 200 C (180 C for fan ovens). Gently brush the tops of the rolls with the beaten egg and sprinkle with a little sugar or another topping of your choice. Bake for about 10 minutes (I actually found this was not enough time, but my oven is a bit finnicky. I would recommend covering the buns with foil for the 10 minute baking time, then removing the foil and putting them back in the oven for a couple of minutes until the tops have browned.)

Enjoy and please consider supporting Anna and Louise!

– Helena

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