For the last 6 years I’ve been hearing about semlor, cardamom-scented, almond-stuffed Swedish sweet buns. Semlor is plural, and semla singular. My husband goes to Sweden regularly, and usually in March. This normally involves a lot of semlor! I’ve been wanting to try them myself so much. When I visited Stockholm in autumn, they were not available, and I was gutted. There really is no other way – I shall have to make them myself, I realised. So when semlor came up as the topic of this month’s kuVarijacije, I simply had to take part!
Stockholm – beautiful in autumn, but sadly without semlor
KuVarijacije is a monthly game for the food bloggers from former Yugoslavia, or those who speak/understand Serbo-Croatian. The bloggers vote for a recipe and then all make the same, blogging about their experiences.
We were to use Milica’s recipe. She lives in Sweden, so knows her semlor. Her recipe was very detailed and well written. I felt I knew exactly what I was doing at various stages. I made some small changes. I replaced the fresh yeast with instant yeast, as it’s quite hard to find fresh yeast here in the UK. The conversions between different types of yeast are: 1 g fresh = 0.5 g active dry = 0.4 g instant. Also, since I keep cardamom seeds rather than powder (black seeds that are inside the green pods), I ground them finely in my pestle mortar before using them. That yielded about 1 1/2 cardamom powder, which is more than suggested by Milica, but I really love cardamom, and could have even taken a little more of it.I made the second filling, i.e. I made my own almond paste, and added a touch of cardamom to it. It was delicious!filling, i.e. I made my own almond paste, and added a touch of cardamom to it. It was delicious!
I was running out of daylight to photograph them, so I simply grabbed one and ran to the lightest room in the house to grab a few snaps before the night falls. Hence the photographs have only one semla in them.
Inadvertedly, my styling turns out to echo the colours of the Swedish flag: blue and yellow! I only just noticed it. The yellow polka dot plate comes from a 60-year-old bone china tea set filling, i.e. I made my own almond paste, and added a touch of cardamom to it. It was delicious!filling, i.e. I made my own almond paste, and added a touch of cardamom to it. It was delicious!that belonged to my husband’s grandmother. I love how bright and beautiful they are.
SOURCE: Adapted from Na tanjiru
PREPARATION TIME: 1 h 50 min
COOKING TIME: 20 min
SERVES: makes 12 – 14 semlor
75 g butter
300 ml whole milk
10 g instant yeast (OR 25 g fresh OR 12.5 g active dry yeast)
540 g plain flour (+ 60 g more for kneading)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp green cardamom seeds (i.e. the black seeds inside the green pod), finely ground
70 g sugar
1 large egg, beaten
Filling – option 1
200 g marzipan
crumbs from the buns
150 ml hot milk
Filling – option 2
200 g ground almonds
120 g icing sugar
1 – 2 tsp of water
a couple of drops of almond essence
crumbs from the buns
120 g hot milk
4 dl double or whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla essence
Icing sugar for dusting
- Heat the butter in a small pan. When nearly melted, add the milk i stir. Heat till body temperature (37 C, warm to touch).
- Place the four, salt, cardamom, yeast and sugar in a bowl and stir together. Add the egg and the milk and butter mixture to the bowl, and mix to combine. The mixture will be sticky at this point, but that’s what it’s supposed to be.
- Flour your work surface lightly and put the dough onto it. Knead the dough until smooth. Try not to add to much flour, as it’s important that the dough remains soft. It will continue being slightly sticky while you work it. Alternatively, use a mixer, which is what I did. I used my Kenwood chef to knead the dough; it took 1 minute on minimum speed, and 3 minutes on speed 1 to get it to be nice and smooth and slightly elastic. That worked a treat, and I did not need to add any more flour.
- Return the dough to a bowl, cover with a cloth and leave to proof for 20 – 30 min.
- After that, knead the dough lightly and divide into equally sized balls. To make large semlor, make 12 – 14 balls (approx. 75 g each for 14 balls, if you wish to weigh them), or around 25 for smaller buns.
- Place the buns on a baking tray covered with baking paper, slightly away from each other so that they have the time to rise. Cover with a cloth and leave to proof again for 30 – 40 min, or until doubled in size.
- In the meanwhile, heat the oven to 200 – 220 °C.
- Bake the larger buns for about 20 minutes until nicely browned, turning the tray around after the first 10 minutes, if your oven bakes unevenly (which many do). Check the buns after 15 min, in case they’re done already. (Bake the smaller buns for 7 – 10 minutes on 225 °C.)
- When the buns are done, cover them with a cloth and leave to cool.
- Semlor are best eaten on the same day, or straight away after filling. It’s best to leave the buns in a well-sealed container until you’re ready to use them, to keep them from drying out. The buns can also be frozen, and then filled later.
- When the buns have cooled, cut off the too of each bun to make a lid. Hollow the centre of the bun, and keep the crumbs for the filling, grinding them finely. You’ll need to fit about 2 tsp of the filling into the hole.
- There are several ways to make the lids. The simplest is to just cut of the top straight. The more decorative way is to cut the top in the shape of a triangle using scissors.
Filling – option one
- Grate the marzipan finely, and add the crumbs from the buns; stir together with a fork. Add the hot milk, and combine till smooth.
Filling – option two
- Stir the ground almonds with icing sugar, and add a few drops of water to help bind the mixture. Add a couple of drops of the almond essence and stir. Be careful with the almond essence, as some are stronger than others. Best to put a little, and then try what it’s like. It’s easy to add more if you want to.
- Add the bun crumbs, and the hot milk, and make a smooth mixture.
Putting the buns together
- Fill the hollow buns with the almond mixture, making them nearly level. You’ll need about 2 tsp of the filling.
- Whip the cream with vanilla extract, and pipe or stir on top of the buns.
- Place the lid on top of the buns, and press on top of the cream. Dust with icing sugar and serve on the same day while the buns are at the best, soft and tasty.
I made 14 larger semlor, and the second filling, and used double cream. I will make them again! The semlor were delicious and almondy, yum! I may increase the cardamom next time, as we love it. They do freeze well, as Milica suggested. I froze a few buns and saved some fillings for later, for my husband, the afore-mentioned semlor expert! Or more likely glutton. He came back from his latest Sweden trip having just knocked down the previous record of 13 semlor in one 2-week trip, to 15 semlor in one two-week trip! So what did the expert say? He enjoyed them a lot! He said my semlor were a little smaller than the ones he buys in Sweden, but that was no bad thing, given how many he eats. I had used double cream, while he thinks the ones he had in Sweden had whipping cream, as the cream filling was much lighter than mine. We’ll try whipping cream next time. He agreed with my suggestion to add more cardamom next time, to perhaps 2 tsps of freshly ground cardamom seeds.