A hint of cardamom hangs in the air, homemade almond paste and fresh whipping cream sit tantalizingly inside our fridge. It’s that time of year again – the season for semlor.
Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to visit Sweden during Lent, or you know some amazing Swedes who like to bake delicious desserts for you, you’re probably wondering, “What is a Semla?”
Semlor (or “Semla” in the singular) is a traditional Swedish dessert served during Lent. This rich, cardamom infused bun is sprinkled in icing sugar and filled with creamy whipping cream and sweet almond paste. It’s heavy and delicious, and way too tempting to resist. It’s probably a good thing that this calorie packed pastry is only served until Easter.
Buns: (Makes 16 medium sized buns.)
– 1/3 cup unsalted butter
– 1 1/4 cups milk
– 3 1/4 tsp quick rise yeast
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1/2 tsp cardamom
– 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
– 2 eggs (one mixed in, one for brushing)
Almond Paste: (Skip these ingredients if you’re using store-bought Almond Paste.)
– 2 cups Almonds
– 1 egg white
– 5 tablespoons cream
– 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
– 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
– Almond Paste (Either store-bought or homemade: see above ingredients for homemade recipe.)
– 1/2 cup cream
– 1 cup whipping cream
– icing sugar for dusting
1. Start by making the buns: In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add milk and heat until the liquid is warm (steaming but not boiling). Remove from heat and stir in yeast.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (salt, sugar, cardamom, and flour).
3. Add one egg and milk mixture to the flour. Knead dough. If necessary, add more flour until dough no longer sticks to your hands.
4. Cover the dough and let rise for 30 minutes.
5. Divide dough and work into individual balls, adding flour if necessary. (The size of bun is mostly personal preference, but keep in mind that these desserts are quite filling. We found this dough divided nicely into 16 medium sized buns.) Grease two cookie sheets and place buns on the trays to rise.
6. Cover the buns with a towel and let them rest for 45 minutes.
7. Begin creating almond paste. (If you are using a store bought almond paste, skip this step.) Combine almonds, egg white, cream, almond extract, and icing sugar in blender. Blend together until thoroughly mixed. Add extra cream if necessary but do not let it get too watery. The paste should be fairly smooth and quite thick (you should be able to pull it apart / crumble it with your fingers). Watch to ensure that your blender does not overheat. Place finished paste in an airtight container and store in fridge until ready to use.
8. Preheat oven to 400 F. Brush the tops of each bun with egg and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes (depending on size.) The top of each bun should be a golden brown. Once cooled, store in an airtight container until ready to eat.
9. Assembling the dessert (complete steps 9-13 immediately before serving): Slice the top off each bun and set aside. With a fork, gently hollow out crumbs from the center of each bun. Save these crumbs in a bowl.
10. Crumble or grate the almond paste into small pieces and add to bowl of crumbs. Slowly add cream as necessary and stir until it creates a thick paste.
11. Place a spoonful of filling inside each of the hollowed buns. It should fill the inside without overflowing.
12. Using a hand mixer, whip the cream until stiff. Add a spoonful of whipping cream on top of each bun.
13. Place the lid on the bun, sprinkle the top with icing sugar, and enjoy!
Until I married my Swedish husband, I’d never even heard of Semlor. And yet, this extravagant dessert has quickly become a February staple for our household. I love homemade pastries and this is no exception. Serve these for Fika (coffee time) and enjoy the perfect Swedish experience!
A Few Extra Tips:
Wait, how do I eat this?
You don’t need cutlery for this dessert – just use your hands! Eat the top off the bun first and then enjoy the rest!
Can I stuff the buns in advance?
To keep this dessert fresh, store the ingredients separately until ready to serve. It’s best to eat them within a couple hours of filling them.