If You Love Cinnamon Buns, You'll Really Love Kanelstang

This variation on the sweet Danish bread uses sourdough starter.

January 20, 2022
Photo by Maurizio Leo

The Perfect Loaf is a column from software engineer turned bread expert (and Food52's Resident Bread Baker) Maurizio Leo. Maurizio is here to show us all things naturally leavened, enriched, yeast-risen, you name it—basically, every vehicle to slather a lot of butter on. Today, a sourdough version of Danish kanelstang.

If you’ve ever baked pain d’épi, which is a classic French baguette made to look like a stalk of wheat, you’re familiar with the charm of rolling, snipping, and twisting, yielding a baked good that livens up any dinner table. Instead of scoring the dough with a razor blade and letting it rise straight up, the bread is cut with scissors into alternating petals. The Danish kanelstang (which translates to “cinnamon stick”) has the same vibe as the pain d'épi, but just filled with sugar, butter, and warm spices. Think American-style sweet cinnamon roll with fancy French shaping—a mix of flavor and aesthetic that’s perfect for a morning or afternoon treat.

Use your sourdough starter

Typically, kanelstang is made with commercial yeast, but in my version, I went with 100 percent natural leavening. With most sweet baked goods, I tend to make a dedicated levain to ensure minimal sourness and ample yeast activity (for more rise). However, in testing, I found this kanelstang tasted fantastic and rose sufficiently well when I simply used my ripe sourdough starter in the mix. And while you could always make a dedicated levain if you’d like (I’d go with 100 percent all-purpose flour and a quick 3- to 5-hour ripening time), it’s hard to beat simply waking up in the morning and, with little to no planning, starting a dough and ending up with a delicious snack later in the day. Just be sure you use your sourdough starter when it’s ripe, meaning it has fermented for some number of hours (for me, that’s overnight). At the time you’d typically give it a feeding (refreshment), simply pour off some into your dough mix. From there, feed the starter with fresh flour and water.

Use alternate fillings

While I adore a cinnamon-sugar filling, the enriched dough base for my kanelstang would do well to house just about any sweet (or savory, like a Parmesan and ricotta) filling. One of my favorite additions is a pinch of ground cardamom, which brings a special warmth to the filling. In my kanelstang recipe, I’d start with ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom added to the cinnamon filling. Then, if you want more cardamom flavor, add ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom to the flour when mixing the kanelstang dough.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Well, I know what I'm making this weekend! Thanks for this, flexible sourdough recipe using ripe starter! ”
— Liz

Or perhaps you’re drawn to chocolate-filled pastries? For something similar to a chocolate babka filling, I’d start with my cinnamon filling from the kanelstang recipe and add 10 grams of unsweetened cocoa powder. If you want even more chocolate, add in 50 grams of mini semisweet chocolate chips to the filling along with the cocoa powder.

Finally, if you’ve ever eaten a Danish kringle, you know how wonderful marzipan can be inside of an enriched and baked dough. So again, starting with my cinnamon filling from the kanelstang recipe, add 50 grams of marzipan to the filling and omit the cinnamon.

Use alternate toppings

In my sourdough kanelstang recipe, I mix up a typical white icing (a mixture of confectioners' sugar and milk), but this treat could be topped after baking with just about anything you think would sound delicious. I’m thinking melted chocolate, Nutella, an orange-infused cream cheese icing, or even a mixed berry compote. Instead of the sliced almonds, my first choice would be pecan meal for a rich, buttery twist. Another typical Danish topping often seen on a kanelstang or kringle is pearl sugar; when sprinkled on top, it brings an extra punch of sweetness and visual flourish.

What would you fill and top your kanelstang with? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Trisha Johnson
    Trisha Johnson
  • Margie Laughlin
    Margie Laughlin
  • Liz
  • Maurizio Leo
    Maurizio Leo
Maurizio is the software engineer-turned-baker behind the award-winning sourdough website, The Perfect Loaf. Since baking his first loaf of bread, he's been obsessed with adjusting the balance between yeast and bacteria, tinkering with dough strength and hydration, and exploring everything sourdough. His New York Times Bestselling sourdough cookbook, The Perfect Loaf, is now available.


Trisha J. February 6, 2022
Made it exactly as written and it is FANTASTIC. 10/10 would make again, maybe even every week. I almost wish I never made it because it's one of those things that you end up pulling off tiny pieces all day until you realize you've eaten half the loaf. Am inviting people over for coffee ASAP to help me finish it before I eat the whole thing myself. Excellent recipe Maurizio and I can't wait to work thru the rest of your recipes!
Maurizio L. February 6, 2022
Thank you for the feedback, Trisha! Yes, this is a dangerous one, isn't it? 🙂 I found myself in exactly the same situation, it was gone before I realized what was happening—enjoy!
Margie L. February 1, 2022
Hi Maurizio,
Could I use WW pastry flour, instead of Sonora?
Maurizio L. February 1, 2022
Hey, Margie! I would say it would work but expect more sourness in the result. Which might be just fine since this is sweeter, anyway!
Margie L. February 6, 2022
Also, recipe calls for 1 egg, but uses it in 2 places. Do you not use the whole egg in the dough?
Maurizio L. February 6, 2022
Only 1 egg in the dough, then 1 for the egg wash before baking!
Liz January 21, 2022
Well, I know what I'm making this weekend! Thanks for this, flexible sourdough recipe using ripe starter!
Maurizio L. January 21, 2022
You're welcome, Liz! Let me know how you like it, this is a fun one 🙂