That subject line should be read to the opening line of the song Do you want to build a Snowman? from Frozen – you’re welcome for me putting that song in your head for the rest of the day!
This will be a fairly lengthy post, but if you do decide to try this for yourself I promise you it’s worth it! Pete just told me today that this might nip his previous favourite, the cinnamon rolls I make to out of the top spot, and I have to admit I don’t know how I feel about that! But they are both made from the same base, so it’s all good!
Anyways, to give you a brief presentation of the Semla, it is pretty much as Swedish as it gets. Of course with anything “Swedish as it gets” it seems to have its roots in Germany. Pretend you didn’t read that!
A Semla is was usually eaten on Fettisdagen, aka Fat Tuesday,aka Shroves Tuesday, aka what you English speaking people know as p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-pancake day, however as Sweden converted to Protestantism and moved away from observing lent, they started eating it around every Tuesday between Shroves Tuesday and Easter. Why deny yourself of the good stuff when you can just keep on eating? These are actually common in the rest of Scandinavia as well, but the recipe vary from country to country so I will stick to the Swedish version.
To make these I suggest you make it in 2 stages, unless you have a whole day devoted or something. The recipe for the bun makes around 20 servings and these can be frozen, then you could take out as many as you need on the day you want to assemble your Semla. These are quite rich, and very filling, and VERY calorific, so you probably do not want to make 20 in one go. Fun fact – in 1771 the King of Sweden died following digestion issues, after having had a meal consisting of Sauerkraut, lobster, caviar, smoked herring, and 14 helpings of Semla. Don’t do what he did! Just don’t.
Anyway, on to the recipe.
For the buns
You will need:
- 7-10g dry yeast (about a pack and a half)
- 150g butter
- 500ml milk
- half a teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom, or one and a half if you use cardamom pods, release the seeds and use a mortar and pestle to crush them up
- 1 egg (plus one for brushing the buns)
- approx 1,3 to 1,5 liters of plain flour
Melt the butter, and add the milk and let this cool down until it’s sitting at or just above body temperature (it should feel neither hot or cold when you put a finger in the milk – make sure hands are washed!)
Mix all the ingredients together, preferably using a dough hook and leave to mix for at least 10 minutes, letting the gluten develop in the dough. Don’t add in all the flour at once, just as much as you need for the dough to let go from the side of the bowl. (I usually find that 1,3 litres is enough)
Leave the dough to proove for at least 30-40 minutes, until it has doubled in size. When I do this, I usually cover the bowl with a plastic bag, and leave it to stand over a sink / tray with boiling water, this really helps, but I also have a very drafty and cold kitchen, so you may not need to do this.
Once the dough has prooved, take it out, give it a bit of a kneading, and divide into around 20 pieces of equal size. Roll these out to buns, and set to proove again for about 20-30 minutes, again till they are about twice the size. Brush them with some whisked egg, and bake in the middle of the oven, at 250 degrees C for around 8 – 10 minutes. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.
Did you end up with something like this? Good – Freeze or eat or whatever you fancy!
So the next thing you will need is to transform your cardamom buns from plain buns into a Semla, I chose to use 4 because a – I do not want to die like the king did, but also b – if they were gonna end up a success I wanted to make sure there were more than one available to eat both for me and Pete.
- Approx 200grams of almond paste. (You can either make your own or be lazy and buy it from a shop, like Scandinavian Kitchen. I was lazy, and I have never tried to make my own, but I am sure it is tasty if you do)
- Whipping Cream – a small pack
- Some milk
- Icing sugar
First thing to do – grate your almond paste, cut a lid (the top) of each of your buns and dig out the dough to make a hole. The dough should then be mixed up with the almond paste, use a splash of milk until you get the consistensy you want. Then, you want to place your dough / almond / milk mixture back into each bun, like so:Whip your cream and layer on top of each bun:
Try to remember which lid goes with which bun, and put back on top, dust with icing sugar (I may have bought a brand new sieve just solely for this purpose only to realise a tea-strainer does the trick beautifully) and you are done – Ta-da!
Serve just as they are, or you can heat up a splash of hot milk for these to swim in, If you like soggy bottoms on your cakes. I definitely prefer them plain.
Next you should probably sign up for a spinning class and go for a run!
Have you ever heard of these before, or come across any traditional bakes for Lent / Shroves Tuesday in your country?