The days are getting longer and I don’t have to take pictures in the near-dark anymore! Longer days also means we’re getting closer to Fat Tuesday. This day right before Lent is often used to “fatten up” in Christian cultures, and it is no different in Sweden. There it is celebrated by eating the delicious “semla”(plural semlor), a sweet roll made of enriched dough spiced with cardamom, which is filled with almond paste, milk and a good dollop of whipped cream. Sounds good, no? By eating one of these, you’ll definitely be living up to the name Fat Tuesday. But really, Christmas fattens us up plenty before Lent these days(we should call Christmas “Fat Two Days” instead), but there you have it. Traditions are not to be messed with and so we’ll have to break our newly vowed diets – at least with a fantastic excuse.
I first had one of these while I was living in Sweden, a couple of years back. The Swedes go mad for them. I got mine a day ahead, but be assured that bakeries were stuffed with semlor and people on the day itself. Many Swedes opt to bake semlor themselves to avoid these queues, which is only to be applauded! When I took a bite of mine I was sold. So if you feel like immersing yourself in some Swedish eating culture, bake a batch of these soft and creamy rolls and eat them while watching House of Cards (or another series you can binge-watch). I know I will.
Reserve Fat Tuesday to bake these soft Swedish rolls!
Servings: makes 6 large semlor
Prep time: 25 mins + 90 minutes waiting time
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes active + 90 minutes inactive
8gr instant yeast
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baker’s ammonia (optional)
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 egg, beaten (one half for the dough, other half for the glaze)
50 gr unsalted butter, softened
75gr almond paste
2 tbsp milk
200ml whipped cream
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste, vanilla sugar or extract (optional)
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, salt , cardamom and baker’s ammonia (if using), keeping the yeast and salt separate at either side of the bowl. Add half the egg, butter and milk and combine into a dough.
2. Knead on a working surface until you have a smooth dough, this shouldn’t take much longer than a few minutes. Transfer back to the bowl, cover bowl with a damp tea towel or cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
3. Once rested, knead dough on your working surface for another 10 to 15 minutes. Then shape the dough into six equal sized rolls and place them on a greased baking tray, or a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Leave to rise for an hour.
4. While your dough is rising, preheat the oven to 230C/446F. Once risen, brush the buns with the remaining egg and bake them in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Leave buns to cool.
5. Once cooled, use a bread knife to cut the top off the buns and set them apart. Make a hole in each of the buns, reserving the crumbs for the filling.
6. To make the filling, mix the bread crumbs with the milk and almond paste until they are well combined. Fill each bun with this mixture. Whip the cream with the sugar and the vanilla if using until you have soft peaks. Spread or pipe the whipped cream eavenly over each bun, then put the “cap” back on and dust with icing sugar.
Alternative: With a few tweaks, you can also make one extra large semla out of this recipe, which is then a semlacake. To do this, shape the dough into one large 18cm/7inch diameter bun at step 3, and bake on 200C/390F for 15-20 minutes. Follow the rest of the steps as above.