One of the great things about foodie blogging is all the great people and wonderful new foods that you can discover, from all over the world. This year my friend Görel introduced me to semla - a lightly sweetened yeasted bun with a creamy filling. It is flavoured with cardamom and incredibly light and delicious.
A semla is a traditional pastry in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Estonia, associated with Lent and especially Shrove Tuesday. The name derives from the Latin semilia, which was the name used for the finest quality wheat flour or semolina. In the southernmost part of Sweden, Skåne and by the Swedish-speaking population in Finland, the pastries are known as fastlagsbulle, in Denmark they are known as fastelavnsbolle (fastlagen and fastelavn being the equivalent of shrovetide), and in Norway fastelavensbolle. In Finnish it is known as laskiaispulla, and in Estonian as vastlakukkel.
The oldest version of the semla was a plain bread bun, eaten in a bowl of warm milk. In Swedish this is known as hetvägg (literally meaning "hotwall") and originates from middle German hete Weggen (hot wedges) or heisse Wecken (hot buns).
Semlor - from Grain Doe
Makes 24 semlor (could easily be halved if needed)
150 g/5,2 oz butter
500 ml/2,1 cups milk
50 g/ 1,8 oz fresh yeast
150 ml/0,6 cups sugar
2 tsp ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
1/2 tsp salt
1500 ml/900 g/6,3 cups/2 lb wheat flour
1 small egg lightly whipped, for washing
Melt the butter. Add the milk and heat the mixture to 37° C/98 ° F. Crumble the yeast into a bowl, add the milk mixture and stir until dissolved. Add sugar, cardamom, salt, and almost all of the flour. Combine into a dough and knead 5 minutes by machine or 10 minutes by hand. Cover the dough and let rise for 40 minutes.
Pour out the dough onto a floured counter, give it a few kneads and divide into 24 peaces. Roll into balls and put them on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Heat up the oven to 225° C/435° F.
Wash the rolls with the whipped egg and bake in the center of the oven appr. 10 minutes or until they are golden brown. Let cool on racks covered with a cloth.
The traditional filling consists of almond paste, a small amount of milk and some bread crumb, which you of course get from inside the very buns that you are going to fill. If you can't get almond paste where you live, or if you don't like to buy it ready-made, you can easily make your own:
250 ml/1 cup sweet almonds
250 ml/1 cup confectioner's sugar (approx.)
0,5–1 egg white 2 bitter almonds 2 tsp water
Blanch the almonds and grind them finely. Combine the ground almonds with the sugar and egg white, add a little water if the paste is too thick, or more sugar if the paste is too thin.
400 g/14 oz almond paste
150 ml/0,6 cups milk
600 ml/ whipping cream
Cut off a lid on each bun and carve out some crumb to make a hole. Grate the almond paste coarsely. Combine the crumb, almond paste and milk. Adjust with a little more milk if you think the mixture is too stodgy.
Divide the filling into the buns. Whip the cream and pipe or spoon it on top of the buns. Put the lid back on and sprinkle a little confectioner's sugar on the lid.
I absolutely loved these, and have plans to play with different fillings with my next batch.
Also fun to be a Swedish Chef for a day, Bork Bork Bork!
I am exactly like him in the kitchen, just ask the puppies!