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Semlor or awesome cardamom-spiced, almond paste and cream filled Scandanavian Lent buns

Semlor (singular : semla) is the Swedish name for these delectable little (OK my version was little) buns. I first saw them on a friend’s Fascebook page more than two years ago. Her Scandanavian partner had produced these around Easter time and from her pictures, they looked delicious. I remember reading at the time that the buns were full of cardamom and that’s all I needed to know. Buns with cardamom, almond and cream sounded like something that would be right up my alley.

All my semlor-related knowledge came from Wikipedia and from this page which is also the source of my recipe (s). Traditionally, these buns are meant to be eaten on Mardi-gras or Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday – the day before the start of Lent. Apparently, in Sweden there are long queues at bakeries that specialise in making and selling semlor on Shrove Tuesday. Having made semlor once, I reckon they should be an all-year bun, not just Mardi-gras buns. Just make sure you don’t eat them like the old Swedish King Adolf Fredrik did. Fable says that he died after eating 14 servings of semla in hot milk.

With this post, I have provided links to the recipes I used and have demonstrated the methdolofy in pictures. Hope you find it useful and give it a try!

Whole cardamom pods in the background. In the foreground, from left to right (1) half-open pod (2) peels (3) seeds (4) ground cardamom
Whole cardamom pods in the background. In the foreground, from left to right (1) half-open pod (2) peels (3) seeds (4) ground cardamom

Ingredients:

Ingredients for semlor. Forgot the butter – oops!

For semlor
75 g (5 tbsp) of butter
300 ml (1¼ cups) of milk
10 g (3¼ tsp) “instant” fast action dried yeast
½ tsp salt
55g (¼ cup) sugar
1 tsp freshly ground or cracked cardamon (this amounts to crushed seeds from 20 pods of cardamom)
500 g (3½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, extra may be required
1 egg

For the filling
200 g (7 oz) mandalmassa (almond paste)
120 ml (½ cup) milk
240 ml (1 cup) whipping cream
Icing (powder or confectioner’s) sugar for dusting

Ingredients for almond paste or mandalmasse - sugar, egg white, blanched almonds
Ingredients for almond paste or mandalmasse – sugar, egg white, blanched almonds

For almond paste

200 g (1½ cups) blanched almonds
200 g (1¾ cups)  icing (confectioners’) sugar
1 egg white

 

Recipe and tips:

I made 30 small semlor with the recipe posted here.  I also made my own almond paste (mandalmasse) using the recipe posted here.

 

The main changes were

1. I added lime rind to the cream prior to whipping. The citrus-y taste complimented the almond and cardamon really well and didn’t leave a cloying taste in one’s mouth that cream sometimes can.

Cream, lime rind, vanilla ready to be whipped
Cream, lime rind, vanilla ready to be whipped

2. I used 100 gms of blanched almonds, 75 grams of icing sugar and 1 egg white. So essentially, half the recommended recipe but that was enough for all 30 buns I made.

3. I used the egg yolk left over from the almond paste recipe, mixed it with 2 tbsp of milk and used it to brush the buns before baking to give them a lovely shine.

Egg wash for brushing
Egg wash for brushing

 

4. I used a really easy and fun technique for rolling my dough balls into perfect spheres using a handy video demonstration by Poires au Chocolat. Search for ‘Hot Cross Buns v.5′ and you will find it there.

Perfect little dough balls being allowed to rest and rise
Perfect little dough balls being allowed to rest and rise

 

5. I used low-fat double cream but it didn’t whip very well so stick to the full fat stuff. If you use the low fat stuff, then you might need to re-whip the cream the following day.

 

Cream whipped to be thick and stiff
Cream whipped to be thick and stiff

 

6. I forgot to add milk to the almond paste and so it was quite thick and hard to spread so don’t forget it!

almond-paste-readysmall

7. My bowl for the dry ingredients was too small to add the liquid into. So I added the dry ingredients to the wet ones which is the opposite way to what the recipe says. However, the end result was still perfect.

Flour being added to milk and butter
Flour being added to milk and butter

8. I forgot to dust the semlor with icing sugar but they were delicious anyway!

9. Semlor seemed to re-heat quite well the following day. Just keep the buns and fillings separate and assemble them whenever you want to eat them.

 

Method in pictures:

1. Melt the butter and milk into a large bowl. Add the egg to the bowl and whisk all the ingredients into a smooth liquid. Finally, sprinkle the yeast over the liquid and mix well.

2. In another large bowl (unlike mine), place the sugar, flour, salt and cardamom and mix well.

 

3. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together to make a sticky dough. Knead this dough lightly with 3tbsp mor eof flour so that it comes together into a smooth ball and is “tacky” not sticky. “Tacky” means that your finger will stick to the dough and leave a mark on it when you touch it. However, your finger itself will not have any dough stuck to it. I have some pictures to demonstrate this below.

 

4. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size.

 

5. While the dough is rising, make your almond paste. Place the almonds in a blender and grind to a coarse powder. Then add the icing sugar and give it a quick blitz. Finally, add the egg white so that the whole mixture comes together into a sticky paste.

6. Once the dough has risen, divide the dough into small (or large), evenly sized bits. Roll each of them into a perfect little ball following the video demonstration here (Search for Hot Cross Buns v.5). They are so pretty once done. To put it in words, you have to pick up each bit of dough and tuck the edges under and do that all around such that a smooth dome forms at the top and all the uneven bits are tucked underneath. Then, put the uneven side of the dough on a hard surface and cup your palm over the dome like top. Use a clockwise, circular motion to roll the dough ball against your table top or chopping board until it is a nice, smooth ball. As I said, the video is much better than my words! Allow the dough ablls to rise

 

7. Brush the risen dough balls with the egg wash and bake in the oven for 7 minutes. That’s right, only 7 minutes lie between you and the most delicious and sweet smelling buns ever. I wish I could post the aromas on this website!

8. To serve, cut the top of the buns, scoop out the inside of the bottom part of the bun. Mix the scooped out bits with the almond paste. Then fill the hole in the bun with the almond paste. Then spread some of the whipped cream on top of the almond paste.

 

9. Finally, place the other half of the bun on top of the cream and chomp down as quickly as you can! Dust them with icing sugar for further prettiness.

Cream and almond filled semla
Cream and almond filled semla

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