Swedish Tea Ring (Coffee Bread)

This Swedish tea ring is a slightly sweet yeast bread flavored with cardamom. It makes a beautiful centerpiece for Swedish fika (coffee time).

Swedish Tea Ring
Elise Bauer

A Simply Recipes reader recently informed me that Swedish coffee bread (pastry wreath or tea ring) is a Christmas tradition in Sweden, along with Swedish meatballs and other goodies served on Christmas Eve.

According to Sara Sabo, "It is a lot of work but the Swedish tomte that lives under the floorboards helps, and you better do your part or the Jul goat will butt you. This is the day all distant relatives and many friends decide they want to be Swedish."

With that kind of intro, wouldn't you be intrigued? Sara sent me her 40-year-old recipe for making this cardamom spiced yeast bread and I've now made three batches (with some recipe tweaking on my part). By the way, this pastry wreath is known both as a "tea ring" or a "coffee bread." It has neither tea nor coffee in it, but is a lovely pastry to eat accompanied by either coffee or tea.

Sara tells me that the bread is typically braided and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, but she likes to roll it up like a jelly roll and form it into a wreath. Cardamom is the essential spice in the dough, but pretty much anything goes for the filling. She recommends raisins, cinnamon sugar, and sliced almonds. Little dabs of almond paste in the filling is lovely as well.

I made the bread both ways, simply braided, and stuffed and formed into a wreath, and all of the loaves were great. You can get creative with this one. Sara has made it with a cream cheese filling too, with a little sugar, egg yolk, and a dash of vanilla, then added some diced apples or peaches.

Making a Swedish Tea Ring in Advance

Since this recipe makes 2 tea rings, you can eat one and freeze one for later. Make sure that that the bread ring is completely cooled, then wrap in plastic and again in foil before freezing. When you're ready to eat it, defrost at room temperature. You can reheat it slightly in the microwave or in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.

You can reheat it from frozen in a 300°F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, as well.

You can also shape the dough a day ahead and do the second proofing in the fridge overnight. Just be sure to cover your bread with plastic wrap to keep from drying. Alternately, you can freeze your shaped dough for about a month or so in advance. Make sure it's well sealed from the elements, and let thaw and rise on your counter at room temperature before baking.

Adaptations to Try

Here are some variations suggested by our wonderful readers!

  • Make the tea ring without the frosting glaze
  • Use pearl sugar with the egg wash
  • Put red hot candies on the glaze
  • Add 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.
  • For a festive look, decorate with green and red maraschino cherries, alternating them around the top of the ring before icing
  • Use cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice instead
  • Try a raspberry cream cheese filling
  • Fill with cinnamon and sugar

Shaping the Tea Loaves

If you want to make a braided loaf, you can do so pretty easily. If you've ever braided, hair, it's a similar process. First divide your dough into 3 equal parts. Shape each into a long rope. Then, lay the 3 strands side by side. Pinch the 3 of them together on top.

Next, take the right strand and move it over the middle strand. It now becomes the middle strand! Then, take the left strand and move it over the middle strand. So, it becomes the middle strand. Repeat, alternating from right to left strands until the whole thing is braided. Then, pinch together the other end. Voila! You have a braided loaf. Adjust the strands and tuck the end under, if you wish.

At this point, you can leave it as a long loaf or tuck the braided loaf end to end to make a braided ring. Then, leave the loaves covered in a warm place to rise for at least 45 minutes before baking.

If you're short on time or energy, just shape them into long oblongs or pop the dough into 2 greased and floured loaf pans and let rise that way. Bake them like you would any other loaves of bread.

More Recipes Perfect for Afternoon Coffee

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Swedish Tea Ring (Coffee Bread)

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Rising Time: 100 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 35 mins
Servings 12 servings
Yield 2 wreaths

It's best to start with whole cardamom pods. Peel the pods (it 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.

Ingredients

For the bread dough:

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 1/2 cup (100g) white sugar

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter

  • 2 packets (14g) active yeast (dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water)

  • About 4 cups (560g) all-purpose flour

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

  • 1/4 cup (54g) packed brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon white sugar

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 1 cup golden raisins, optional

  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, optional

  • 1/4 cup almond paste, optional

For the egg glaze:

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 2 tablespoons cream

For the (optional) sugar glaze:

  • 1 cup (115g) powdered sugar

  • 1 tablespoon water

Method

Make the Dough:

  1. Heat milk, add butter and sugar, yeast and egg:

    Pour milk into a small saucepan and heat on medium heat until steamy (but not boiling). Remove from the 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 the egg.

  2. Add the spices, and gradually add the flour:

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

  3. Knead the dough:

    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 for 7 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from being too sticky. Note: the dough should remain soft, so take care not to add too much flour.

  4. Let the dough rise and double in size:

    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.

  5. Make a simple braided bread or make a wreath:

    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.

Make the Wreath Form:

  1. Divide and flatten the dough into 2 rectangles:

    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.

    swedish-tea-ring-method-1
    Elise Bauer

    Brush the dough with melted butter, leaving at least a half-inch border on the edges so the dough will stick together when rolled.

  2. Make the filling and fill the dough:

    Mix together the brown and white sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle the dough with half of 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.

    swedish-tea-ring-method-2
    Elise Bauer
  3. Carefully roll the dough and form a ring:

    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 to make a ring.

    swedish-tea-ring-method-3
    Elise Bauer
    swedish-tea-ring-method-4
    Elise Bauer
  4. Cut the dough and shape the wreath:

    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.

    swedish-tea-ring-method-5
    Elise Bauer
    swedish-tea-ring-method-6
    Elise Bauer

    Repeat the steps with the rest of the dough, to form a second wreath.

  5. Let rise again:

    Cover the wreaths 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.

Bake:

  1. Preheat the oven:

    Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Brush with egg wash and bake:

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

    swedish-tea-ring-method-7
    Elise Bauer
  3. Let cool and drizzle with optional glaze:

    Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

    Meanwhile, whisk together the 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.

Swedish Tea Ring
Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
357 Calories
13g Fat
52g Carbs
8g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 357
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g 17%
Saturated Fat 8g 38%
Cholesterol 92mg 31%
Sodium 195mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 52g 19%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 15g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 52mg 4%
Iron 3mg 14%
Potassium 122mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.