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Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar) | Let the Right One In

Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar) | Let the Right One In
It's time for the August edition of the All Vampire Book and a Movie Challenge! This month's picks were Let the Right One In, a novel by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist and the Swedish movie adaptation by the same name (screenplay also written by the author). There was also an American remake of the book/film called Let Me In. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about all three.

I'd seen both movies, each when they first came out on dvd, but I only remembered bits and pieces. This was my first time reading the book. Also worth mentioning is that there have been a couple of stage adaptions of the book, as well as a comic book series, and a reported television adaptation.

Let the Right One In - the book (2004):

Deeper, darker, racier, and much more chilling than either movie comes close to being, this 472-page novel is set in a suburb of Stockholm in the early 1980's. The main story revolves around the relationship of 12-year old Oskar and forever-12-year old Eli. Oskar, who parents have separated, lives with his mom in an apartment. He is mercilessly and endlessly tortured by some bullies at school and imagines how he will get his revenge almost constantly.
Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar) | Let the Right One In
One night, he sees what he believes to be a father and daughter moving into the apartment next to his. Oskar spends a lot of time by himself in the courtyard of the apartment complex, which is where he eventually meets and befriends Eli one evening. While he thinks there is something strange about her, such as that fact that she only wears a thin sweater and is barefoot when it's freezing cold and snowy outside, and that she kind of smells and looks dirty, he's also drawn to her. The two form a bond over time, through puzzles and emotional support.

Since Eli makes him feel stronger, Oskar asks if she will go steady with him. Eli tries telling him that she is not a girl, which is confusing to Oskar, since that is how she appears. Over time, he starts to put things together and conclude that she is a vampire, but his feelings for "her" don't really change. We eventually learn a shocking truth about Eli, that she really is a boy, but was genitally mutilated at the same time he was changed into a vampire so many years ago. I took that to mean that he never really went through puberty, and he's got very pretty, delicate features, so he's been passing himself off as a girl to make life easier. I'm not really sure that he identifies as either, though...rather as nothing. "I'm nothing. Not a child. Not old. Not a boy. Not a girl. Nothing."

While these are the two main characters, there is also a huge supporting cast of characters that have fairly major roles throughout the book. Here's a little introduction to them:
  • Håkan is the man that most peple believe is Eli's father. He's actually a middle-aged loner who carries out horrible murders in order to procure blood for Eli, who he is in love with. A lot of the darkest parts of the story revolve around him, including one of the hardest parts of the book to read, pedophilia. He makes a mistake and gets caught trying to drain a boy of blood and pours acid over his face in order to escape detection, however he does not die, but instead turns into a whole nother kind of monster.
  • Jonny, Micke, and Tomas are the bullies who terrorize Oskar. Jimmy is Jonny's older brother, who is even worse than they are.
  • Lacke, Jocke, Larry, and Morgan are local barflies, one of which is Eli's first victim when she moves into the area. Gösta, a recluse and cat-hoarder who is also an acquaintance of these guys, is a witness to the attack. Virginia, who is in a relationship of sorts with Lacke, is another victim; she isn't killed, but is transformed into a vampire.
  • Tommy lives in the same apartment complex as Oskar. He's older, but he's cool to Oskar, and Oskar sort of looks up to him. His mother is Yvonne, and her boyfriend is Staffan, a policeman who has been investigating the local murders.
Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar) | Let the Right One In
Because of the subject matter, there were parts of this that were very hard to read, but it was so well written that I wanted to keep reading it, and actually finished it in just a few days.

The vampire portion of the story was actually pretty understated. It was really interesting to see the lore that Lindqvist included, though. There was a lot of traditional things like stakes through the heart (though the "why" of this was new to me, and very interesting), burning up in daylight, being able to sort of hypnotize or "glamor" humans, and being sensed and hated by cats. Also interesting was that the transformation went beyond a pair of fangs popping out; skin changed, eyes changed, feet and hands shifted into scary claws and wings would appear if Eli willed them to.

What about the food? There was actually SO MUCH food in this book. I have a super long list that included coconut-frosted cookies (first line of the book), candy of all sorts, liverwurst, cinnamon buns, hot cocoa, cod, crepes with shrimp filling, Bacardi and coke, gin and tonic, whisky, vodka, popsicle, rice, deep fried shrimp, soy sauce, gummy bears, bananas, sandwiches, marinated chicken with rice, hot dogs, luffare (a grilled hot dog bun with only mustard, ketchup, hamburger dressing, and raw onion inside), crackers, wine, a cheese plate, fish, ground beef, crushed tomatoes, stew beef, pie, potatoes, beer, instant soup, eider duck, grape tonic, cheese sandwich, mushrooms, mussels, tuna, ravioli, beer sausage, pea soup, pizza, gravy, fried herring, licorice boats, mashed potatoes, macaroni with ketchup, milk, french fries, lasagna, mazarin cake, blueberries, chewy candy bars, and a shrimp sandwich.

Let the Right One In - the movie (2008):

Basically, after reading the book and rewatching the movie...I didn't like it at all. The Oskar character was horrible, cold, and utterly unlikeable (as was his mother). There was no buildup. Most of the characters were either left out or undeveloped. It basically told a story about Oskar and Eli, but it wasn't very complex and it left out the supporting cast almost entirely. Maybe it would be better if you hadn't read the book and didn't know what you were missing, but I doubt it with such unlikeable characters.

There wasn't much to be said for food in this movie, either. We saw Oskar and his mom sitting at a table and eating something which could have been soup or porridge. There was still "mixed candy", which was an important moment between Oskar and Eli. I saw a banana, some booze, and maybe some bread.

So yeah, I didn't care for it.
Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar)

Let Me In - the other movie (2010):

I liked this American remake a lot better. Although most of the names were changed, the Oskar character (Owen) was much better. You did feel sorry for him in this one, however, while the bullies and bullying were present, that part of the story wasn't as well-developed in the movie. And his relationship with his mom took a backseat, as well (she always seemed to have fallen asleep after drinking a bottle of wine or alcohol...don't remember her drinking in the book at all).

The Eli character (Abby) was good...but I guess not any better or worse than the one in the first movie. I do like the makeup job they used when she transformed to a vampire in this film, though. And she wore a KISS t-shirt at one point, as a nod to a scene in the book, which I liked. They removed the local drunks and transferred the names of a couple of them to neighbors in the apartment complex.

There was not much food in this movie, either, but Owen still had an affinity for candy, his favorite being Now & Later. He and his mom seemed to enjoy macaroni and cheese, since they showed it a couple of times. I saw orange juice and some alcohol. While they still had to cut a lot from the book to make it fit into the time-frame of a movie, I thought it was a good stand-alone movie.

Swedish Cinnamon Buns:

It's probably no surprise that I chose to pull my food inspiration from the book. Of all the food that I mentioned above, it was the cinnamon buns that best represent the book since they were mentioned at least five times as the food that Oskar and his mom enjoyed together in the evenings as they chatted and caught up, with a cup of cocoa.

At nine he had seen his mom standing in the window and he had gone inside, filled with anxiety. Dallas and hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls and his mom asking questions and he almost spilled the beans, but didn't.

So, I did a little search for "Swedish Cinnamon Buns" and found out that cinnamon buns are a pretty popular pastry in Sweden, and most homes will name them as a traditional favorite. They are much like "regular" cinnamon buns, except the dough is beautifully perfumed with cardamom and the tops and strewn with crunchy bits of pearl sugar (though, of course there are variations). They remind me a lot of these cinnamon-cardamom buns that I make every once in a while.

Large, soft and sweet, they went over very well in my house. I can see sitting down with them and a cup of hot cocoa in the evening, chatting about the day.

Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar)
These Swedish sweet rolls are delicately laced with cardamom, topped with crunchy pearl sugar, and twisted around cinnamon and sugar.
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Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar)
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 3 hours (largely unattended)
Cook Time: 18-20 minutes
Keywords: bake breakfast bread vegetarian soy-free nut-free Swedish

Ingredients (16 large buns)
    for the dough:
    • 2 tablespoons lukewarm water (110° F)
    • 1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon (84 g + 5 g) granulated sugar, divided
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 g) instant yeast
    • 1 cup milk
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
    • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons (5 grams) ground cardamom
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 4-5 cups (520-650 g) bread flour
    for the filling:
    • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, at soft room temperature
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    • pinch of salt
    for the top:
    • 1 large egg + a dribble of milk or water, beaten until frothy
    • Swedish pearl sugar
    Make the dough:
    Combine the water and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl. Stir in the yeast and let sit until foamy, ~5 minutes.

    Combine milk, butter, and vanilla in a large (4 cup) glass measuring cup. Microwave until the milk is warm and the butter is mostly melted (varies depending on microwave, mine took ~2 minutes), then stir until the butter has melted all the way and the milk is lukewarm (110° F). You could also do this in a pot on the stove.

    Whisk the egg, yolk, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, cardamom, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined. Add the milk mixture and the yeast mixture and stir to combine.

    Add the lesser amount of flour, adding more as you knead, until you have a soft, silky dough (I wound up using about 600-610 grams in total). Form dough into a ball and set in an oiled bowl, turning to get oil on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean, non-fuzzy kitchen towel and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 60-90 minutes.

    Make the filling:
    Combine soft butter, both sugars, cinnamon, and salt; blend until thoroughly mixed and you have a thick paste.

    Putting them together:
    Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Divide the dough into 2 even sections. Pat and roll each section into a 15 x 11-inch rectangle (keeping the other half covered while you work).

    Spread half of the filling over each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border along one short edge. Use your finger to lightly wet the open edge of the dough. Starting at the short edge opposite the border, roll the dough into a tight log; pinch seams together.
    Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar) before final rise
    Use a serrated knife to cut into 8 equal rolls, placing them evenly apart (leaving 2-3 inches of space between each) on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with second half of dough and filling, placing these on the second baking sheet.

    Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean, non-fuzzy kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

    Preheat oven to 350° F.

    Brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Slide into oven and bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully slide the buns, parchment paper and all, onto a wire rack to cool.

    -adapted from Marcus Samuelsson

    The All Vampire Book and Movie Challenge is hosted by Kimberly at Coffee and Casseroles, and meets monthly to discuss a predetermined book and movie relating to vampires. Sometimes the book and movie may be the same (or an adaptation), others they may relate in a more obscure manner.

    Once we've read the book and watched the movie, we write a blog post discussing them and how they relate or differ, and perhaps share something that it inspired us to make.

    This month's assignment was Let the Right One In (book) and Let the Right One In (movie). If you'd like to join the discussion next month, we'll be watching The Dark Crystal, the book is "participant's choice" and our posting date will be Sunday, September 25.

    Until then, let me know if you'd read this book and/or seen the movie - and what you thought about either. And check out the posts from this month's other challenge participants: