Swedish Coffee Bread

Swedish coffee bread, a slightly sweet yeast bread flavored with cardamom, and either braided or made into a wreath-shaped pastry.

It's best to start with whole cardamom pods - peel the pods (helps to crush them first) to release the seeds. Crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle or use a rolling pin to grind them.

  • Yield: Makes 2 wreaths.

Ingredients

Bread:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2-pkg active yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
  • About 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Filling:

  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup golden raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional)
  • 1/4 cup almond paste (optional)

Egg glaze:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp cream

Sugar glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp water

Method

1 Put milk into a small saucepan and heat on medium heat until steamy (but not boiling). Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and sugar until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Pour into a mixing bowl. Mix in yeast mixture and egg.

2 Mix in salt and cardamom. Slowly add in 2 cups of the flour. After the first two cups of flour gradually add more flour until a soft dough starts to form a ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl.

3 Turn out onto a floured surface and knead dough for 7 to 10 minutes until smooth, OR use a dough hook in a stand-up mixer and knead the dough that way for 7 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from being too sticky. Note that the dough should remain soft, so take care not to add too much flour.

4 Place the dough in an oiled bowl, covered with a clean tea-towel or with plastic wrap. Let rise for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

At this point you can make a simple braided bread if you want (2 loaves), by punching the dough down, dividing the dough in half, and then dividing each half into three equal parts, rolling the dough pieces into ropes, braiding them, and tucking the ends under. Or you can get more fancy, which is what we've done here, with a filling, and forming the dough into a wreath shape. The following directions are for the wreath form.

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5 Press the dough down to deflate it a bit. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Take one part (saving the other for wreath number 2) and use your fingers to spread it into a 8-inch by 16-inch rectangle on a lightly floured, clean, flat surface. If you are having difficulty getting the dough to keep its shape, just do what you can and let it sit for 5 minutes before trying again. Like pizza dough, the dough needs time to relax while you are forming it. Brush the dough with melted butter, leaving at least a half inch border on the edges so the dough will stick together when rolled. Mix together the brown and white sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle the dough with half of the mixture (saving the other half for the second batch of dough). Sprinkle on more fillings, as you like, such as raisins, slivered almonds, or almond paste. You could even sprinkle on some cream cheese for a creamier filling.

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6 Carefully roll the dough up lengthwise, with the seam on the bottom. Carefully transfer to a greased baking sheet. Form a circle with the dough on the baking sheet, connecting the ends together.

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7 Using scissors, cut most of the way through the dough, cutting on a slant. Work your way around the dough circle. After each cut, pull out the dough segment either to the right or to the left, alternating as you go around the circle. The dough circle will look like a wreath when you are done.

Repeat steps 5, 7, and 8 with the rest of the dough, to form a second wreath.

8 Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm area for a second rise. Let rise for about 40 minutes to an hour; the dough should again puff up in size.

9 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Whisk together the egg yolks and cream. Use a pastry brush to brush over the dough. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. After the first 15 minutes of baking, if the top is getting well browned, tent with some aluminum foil.

10 Remove from oven and let cool completely. Whisk together powdered sugar and water to create a final glaze (optional). Add more water if the glaze is too thick to drizzle, add more powdered sugar if the glaze is too runny. Drizzle the glaze in a back and forth motion over the pastry.

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Comments

  1. Glauco

    Hi Elise! I once did a bread just like this, only the dough was not sweet and the filling was pesto! But anyhow, thanks for another great recipe.

  2. Susan

    As a person of Swedish heritage, it’s so fun to see this recipe that’s been handed down. I just got out my little tomte collection and we’re having a huge snowstorm here today so it’s the perfect weekend to begin my holiday baking. Thanks for the recipe Elise!

  3. Rebekah Irwin

    This is what my family eats every year Christmas morning! It was fun to see the recipe on here. We call it Tea Ring. Thanks!

  4. jonathan

    This looks as thought it would feed (at most) one hungry Viking. I like working with instant yeast: faster, not so much worry about blooming in precise liquid temps prior to adding to your dry ingredients. Think that would work?

    My name is Olaf The Terrible, and working with yeast frightens me.

    There. I said it.

    Ah, you visit us again Olaf! Sorry, no idea on the yeast. ~Elise

  5. sharon

    and… if there are any left-overs (hahaha), toast it in a low oven for an even better Swedish tradition: skorpa. For the uninformated skorpa is the ultimate coffee/hot cocoa dunking deliciousness!

  6. Annika

    The traditional Lucia, bread is spiced with saffron. I don’t know if you have tasted it? It is delicious and the bright saffron-yellow dough is formed into varios shapes, and decorated with raisons, and brusheds with whisked egg before baking.

  7. Gina

    Does anyone know if this could be made the night before and popped in the oven the next morning?
    Thanks!

    I think it could be. You could let it do its second rise in the refrigerator overnight. Just tent it with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out. ~Elise

  8. Barb

    This is not the first time I’ve tried one of your recipes, but it is the first time I’ve used your version over my own tried and true.
    Wonderful! The fresh cardamom woke me up this morning, and inspired me to stray from the beaten path. Lemon zest and a hint of lemon extract in the dough, dried blueberries and cranberries in the filling, and another hint of lemon in the icing.
    I did one ring per your recipe, and one with my adulterations.
    Both are sublime! They are just out of the oven, and my husband and I are trying to curb our enthusiasm (with little success) and even enjoying some fresh ground coffee (in the middle of the afternoon! We’ll pay tonight!) with them.
    Thank you so much for you wonderful recipes!

  9. Linda Kelly

    Very similar to a recipe I clipped from a McCalls magazine nearly 50 years ago. The bread was shaped into various shapes relating to the story of the nativity: Joseph’s Beard, Ram’s horn, St. Lucia’s wreath, etc. You’ve inspired me to try again. I even know where those instructions are tucked away in the archives! Thanks! and God Jul!

  10. rina

    Thanks so much- this recipe is fantastic, even gluten free. I just used a pretty standard pizza dough mix and it worked perfectly fine! I had no almonds at home, so I filled mine with chopped pecans and apples, yum!

  11. Becky

    So nice to see traditional Swedish holiday recipes being handed down. Another one, besides the meatballs that my mother would make in bulk and freeze. I also always remember her slicing green and red maraschino cherries and alternating them around the top of the ring before icing. Always made for a more colorful cake, and the kids loved the green ones!

  12. abby

    Would either vanilla or almond extract work with the cardamom spice, or the recipe in general?

    And, assuming I don’t have cardamom on hand, is there any similar substitute? For example, allspice and cinnamon/nutmeg and cinnamon/clove and cinnamon? equal parts of both of course.

    Hi Abby, cardamom is a spice with a unique flavor. There is no similar substitute of which I am aware. You can of course use any of the spices you mentioned – cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ect. in the recipe in place of cardamom. The bread will then taste of the spice you use. ~Elise

  13. Elise Lafosse

    Though this looks a little challenging, it looks too good to pass up, so I am going to tackle this on Christmas Eve. However if I go the simpler route which involves braiding the dough, then do I skip the filling part of the recipe and just sprinkle on top with cinammon and sugar? Can I also sprinkle on top some of the other filling ingredients like raisins and sliced almonds? I am just curious how you handled the filling part when you simply braided the bread. Thanks! Can’t wait to try this…Best, Elise Lafosse

    Hi Elise, when I made the braided bread I only used an egg yolk and cream glaze. You could easily sprinkle it with a large crystal sugar too. Not sure about sprinkling with sliced almonds, they might burn, but you could try it. ~Elise

  14. Shannon

    My mother makes this for Christmas morning every year and it’s my favorite tradition. Instead of raisins, her recipe calls for diced green and red candied cherries to make it more “Christmasy” and the almond paste is absolutely not optional. ;-)

  15. Chris

    I remember waking up on Christmas morning at my Grandma’s to these wreath shaped breads! One would be filled with raspberry+cream cheese and the other would be cinnamon sugar. Just seeing the picture above brought back so many great memories!

  16. Sam

    I am of Swedish decent, married a Norsman, and was so excited to see this coffee bread featured. There is one baking in my oven as I type this and the smell is just wonderful. I can’t wait to dive in once its cool.
    Is it possible to store the dough in the freezer or in the fridge overnight? I’d like to bring a freshly baked one to a friend later in the week.
    Thanks for the recipe!

    Hi Sam, well you can freeze pizza dough, so I’m guessing you should be able to freeze this dough. ~Elise

  17. Carey

    Hi Elise
    Please advise in grams the amount of active dry yeast, we have it in 10g packets here and I’m not sure if I must use 2 of them at once?
    Many thanks looking so forward to trying this..
    Carey

    Hi Carey, one package of yeast here is 1/4 ounce or 7 grams. So two packages would be 14 grams. ~Elise

  18. sofia

    Hi to you all

    Being a Swedish girl I can inform you all that Swedish Coffee Bread as described above is not particularly a Christmas tradition it is more an everyday thing, it is almost the same as cinnamon buns, this recipe is just another way of making them. If you really want to make some traditional Swedish Christmas coffee bread you should use saffron. It is almost the same base recipe as written above. Leave out cardamom and use about 1 gram of Saffron instead, you could always use more saffron for a more powerful taste. There is no filling at all but you could always use raisins in the dough if you like or top the bread with raisins. Use the same directions when rolling the dough but without the filling of course, if you like you could also make some sort of small buns like a swirl.

  19. Tara

    Thank you so much for this recipe! Growing up my mom would always get one of these (we called them tea rings) from a baker for christmas morning. We ate it with butter and sliced gouda cheese. I asked my mom if she could send me one for the holidays and she informed me that the baker no longer makes this loaf. I was quite disappointed but when I saw this recipe I was overjoyed…I am going to make it this year and keep my holiday tradition alive.

  20. Allison Prajapati

    I am going to make this recipe but would like to freeze. Do you have any recommendations as to when it the recipe I should freeze the bread? Before the second rising of the dough? Or completely bake the bread and then freeze it? Thanks!

    Great question. I don’t know. Sounds like a worthy experiment though. I would probably freeze it after cooking it. Though maybe you could also freeze it before the second rise and then just bring it out to defrost and rise before you bake it. If you try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  21. sheryl

    Was so excited to see this recipe. My swedish grandmother always made a “swedish tea ring” for Christmas and when I became old enough I would help her with it — she added red and green sugar and little red hot candies to make it more Christmasy. After she died I made the tea ring for a few years and then with several moves seemed to have lost the recipe. When I saw this posted I got really excited and made a couple to pass around to family. Everyone was so excited and thought it tasted just as good as Grandma’s had — it was a really nice moment bringing back a very cherished family tradition. The cardomon was a good addition. We also used prunes instead of the raisins

  22. Tabi

    I’m making this for Christmas morning!
    My question: I’d like to have most of the work done so I can just pop it in the oven on Christmas morning. Do you think it’s ok to just leave it in the fridge over night while doing the second rise?
    Thanks!
    Can’t wait!

    Yes, as I’ve mentioned previously in the comments I do think that you can do the second rise in the refrigerator. Haven’t tried it yet myself though. ~Elise

  23. Gordon

    Awesome! Made this bread today – wonderful – not looking “quite” like yours, but I think it turned out just as good :)
    Thanks again for all the wonderful treats you bring us through out the year – Merry Christmas to you, your family and friends – and to all the readers of this blog as well!!

  24. Rachel

    Oh my goodness, thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Elise! So glad I found this site, I’ve gotten so many lovely dishes here. Between this and the Pear & Cranberry tart recipe… I’m shocked I haven’t gained 100 pounds. I just wanted to say that I made this for Christmas “breakfast” today (or a pre-lunch snack, if you will.) I let the dough do its second rise in the fridge overnight so it could be more or less ready by breakfast time. I would recommend against this in the future. The dough was rock-solid in the morning and needed to come to room temperature before I could even get it out of the bowl. Once done, the consistency was a bit tougher than I think it would’ve been had I not left it overnight. (Oh, but that’s not stopping me from my 4th serving!) I believe making this in its entirety the day before and warming it up in the oven the next day is a MUCH better solution if you want to avoid a full day of baking. It serves well even at room temperature.

  25. Jane

    My family is not Swedish, but we grew up eating this (calling it Swedish Tea Ring) every Christmas.
    Re freezing: bake and frost, then wrap tightly in heavy duty foil and freeze. Part of its attraction for Christmas mornng is having it all done ahead of time. The warming up in the oven simply makes it even better. We give the frozen tea rings as gifts, with instructions to heat for about 15 minutes at 300 degrees.

  26. Delishhh

    Very nice recipe, I love this bread. We eat it during “fika” which is kind of like a afternoon tea break. As you know I am Swedish and I just did a series on Swedish Christmas and all the different traditions and the food we eat including red cabbage, lucia buns, gingerbread and glogg. Hope you can come over and read about it. Love your blog.

  27. Lisa

    In response to Linda Kelly’s post (of Dec 11): I have been looking for that McCall’s recipe for about 25 years. Do you still have it? I would love a copy of it. Long family story…
    Thanks!

  28. Jeanette

    I made a double recipe of this the week before XMas. I saved one for myself, to munch on XMas Eve and XMas morning, and froze the other 3 and gave them as gifts. This bread is very easy to freeze. I used double the amount of cardamom that the recipe called for and used cream cheese instead of almond paste in the filling.

    I made the wreaths as shown, baked them, then cooled them. Then I merely put them in freezer bags and froze them. To use them after, simply thaw, and then either reheat slightly in the microwave…

    or thaw and then wrap in foil and reheat for maybe 10 minutes in a 350F oven.

    This is a very easy recipe to follow. The only challenge some might have is the cutting and shaping of the wreath.

  29. tam

    hi! i was wondering if there is a recipe like this that can be found in a cookbook anywhere. i would like to make this bread for a school project but i must choose a cookbook recipe. is it possible that something similar can be found in one?thanks!

    You might be able to find something like it in a baking book or in the Joy of Cooking. Look for “tea ring” or Swedish tea ring as well as Swedish coffee bread. ~Elise

  30. Joy

    I was so excited to see this recipe! As long as I can remember my mom has been making swedish tea ring every christmas morning. It is a tradition that is so dear to me and my three sisters. The past two years I have made it from the recipe that my mom used. I was diagnosed the beginning of this year with a gluten allergy. So I am trying to figure out how to make it gluten free. Does anyone know if there is a gluten free flour I can use in place of the regular flour? And do you think I will need to add Xanthan gum? Thanks!

  31. Lissa

    Cardamom bread, made the traditional braided way, is my absolute favorite sweet bread. I first had it on a family trip to Solvang and became a tradition every time we went. When I got older and discovered bread baking, I made it myself (fresher and with none of the preservatives found in commercial cardamom bread). Everyone who has it loves it and it’s become a special treat or gift I give people when they visit. When made at home, it will stay fresh for a good 3 or 4 days, if it lasts that long.