Semlor – Swedish sweet buns

Semla

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!

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2013 in my Kitchen: Bread & Turkey

My bread

Two things have left the strongest mark on my cooking in 2013: bread and Turkey.

Bread took me by surprise. I didn’t think it was my kind of thing. Too laborious, I thought, and like many, I was wrong. I found in it a rhythm of life that I didn’t even know existed, let alone that I fitted into it. It only goes to show that you never know what you’re going to find and love, even when you think you know yourself pretty well. I look forward to whatever lies ahead.

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The Cake

The cake

For many years now, this cake has accompanied every celebration in my family home. A sponge cake, one half made with ground walnuts, the other left plain, with a filling of rum, vanilla and lemon. It is only fit that it follows my third blogiversary. 🙂 I’m sure my mum would approve.

Sorry about the atrocious photos. They were taken with very little light coming from a very weak tungsten bulb, handheld.

Mum's torte

Mum’s Walnut

Cake

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SOURCE:  Mum, recipe adapted from the one she got off a family friend

PREPARATION TIME: about 1 h

COOKING TIME: about 30 min for the filling, and 1 h for baking

CUISINE: Croatian

SERVES: A crowd!

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INGREDIENTS:

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PLAIN SPONGE

6 medium eggs

6 tbsp of sugar, heaped

10 g vanilla sugar, or 1 tsp of good quality vanilla extract

6 tbsp plain flour, heaped

6.5 g baking powder

a pinch of bicarbonate soda

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WALNUT SPONGE:

6 medium eggs

6 tbsp of sugar, heaped

10 g vanilla sugar, or 1 tsp of good quality vanilla extract

7 tbsp finely ground walnuts, heaped

2 tbsp plain flour, heaped

6.5 g baking powder

a pinch of bicarbonate soda

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FILLING:

7 dl milk (full fat, or semi-skimmed)

3 tbsp corn flour, heaped

3 tbsp flour, heaped

250 g butter, at room temperature

300 g icing sugar

20 g vanilla sugar, or 2 tsp of good quality vanilla extract

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tbsp rum, or to taste

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TO DECORATE:

About 20 – 30 whole walnut halves

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METHOD:

Note: It’s a good idea to start with the filling, so it has time to cool while you prepare the sponge cake.

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I. FILLING

1. Stir in the corn flour and plain flour into the milk, until smooth, and with no lumps.

2. Put the milk to boil, stirring constantly, avoiding lumps to form. When it thickens, leave to cool. (It’s supposed to be fairly thick, barely leaving the spoon when you tap it.)

3. Meanwhile, beat the icing sugar, butter, vanilla and lemon with an electric whisk until smooth. Add rum to taste, and possibly more lemon if you like it more lemony.

4. Combine the butter and milk mixtures, and mix well together.

5. Leave to cool again. (Mum says this makes it easier to spread later on.)

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II. SPONGE

Note: both the walnut and the plain sponge are made in the same way. Ground walnuts are added at the same time as the flour.

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1. Preheat the oven to 180 C, and grease and flour a 25 cm tin, or two. Sift the flour and baking powder and bicarbonate soda together.

2. Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla into a mixing bowl, and beat with an electric whisk until the volume doubles in size, and when you lift the mixer out of the bowl, the egg mixture that drops from it traces a ribbon on its surface.

3. Add the flour to make the plain sponge, or flour and walnuts for the walnut sponge. Fold in with the mixer turned off, and then switch the mixer back on and mix briefly, until combined.

4. Pour the mixture in to the prepared baking tin, and bake until the cake is risen, and a toothpick or skewer inserted inside it come out clean. This should take about 20 – 30 min.

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Repeat the process to make the walnut sponge, using flour and walnuts in place of flour only.

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III. ASSEMBLING THE TORTE

1. When the sponge cakes have cooled, cut them both in half, and then spread the filling on top, alternating the the brown and yellow cakes. Decorate with the remaining walnut halves, and chill.

This cake gets better with keeping, and can ‘survive’ in the fridge for about 4 – 5 days, provided it’s not eaten before that!

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Notes:

Instead of walnuts, you could use almonds or hazelnuts, but we usually use walnuts. I think the original cake might have had 1 chocolate layer, 1 walnut, one hazelnut and one plain.

The cake

Photos updated 7 May 2014.

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More sweet Croatian recipes on this blog:

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Festive Food from Dalmatia: FRITULE

At Christmas time, upon entering my Dalmatian home, you will be greeted by a bowl of fragrant and sweet fritule. Shrug off the cold, and close the door behind you. Come in. We will exchange Christmas greetings, and have a chat over fritule, and perhaps a little brandy to warm you up. The next guest will be also greeted by fritule, and by our laughter.

 

For this year’s Festive Food Fair hosted by Anna of Morsels and Musings, I present you –  fritule, a traditional Dalmatian sweet that can be found on every Dalmatian table at Christmas! Fritule (pronounced ‘freetooleh‘) are aromatic bite-sized dough balls, flavoured with lemon zest, orange zest, grape brandy (loza in Croatian) and/or dark rum, and sprinkled with icing sugar. Everyone has a winning recipe of their own, and this one is my mum’s tried and tested version! We made these together this summer. These days, whenever I go home, I use this as an opportunity to learn a new Croatian dish or sweet from my mum, and rediscover the good old familiar dishes. 🙂

Fritule

 

 

SOURCE: My mum’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 5 – 10 min + the time the dough will take to rise

COOKING TIME: 20 – 30 min

CUISINE: Croatian – Dalmatian

SERVES: Loads!

Ingredients:

50 g of raisins, rinsed and soaked in warm water (this softens them)

1 kg of all purpose flour

3 eggs

3 tbsp sugar

2 sachets of vanilla sugar (or two tsp of vanilla essence)

1 1/2 cube of fresh yeast (40 g), or 3 sachets of dried yeast

1 dl vegetable oil for the dough + more for frying

zest of 1 – 2 lemons

zest of 1 – 2 oranges

2 tbsp dark rum (or loza, grape brandy, or why not both!)

warm water as necessary

METHOD:

1. Put the eggs, sugar, vanilla and vegetable oil in a bowl, and beat together with a wooden spoon for a little. Add lemon and orange zest, and raisins.

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2.  If you are using dried yeast, mix in the yeast in one part of the flour. Then, add this to the eggs.  OR If you are using fresh yeast, melt the yeast in 2 dl warm water. Then add the yeast to the egg mixture, and then the flour.

3. Mix with the wooden spoon. Continue mixing until the dough stops sticking to the wooden spoon.

IMG_7500  4. Leave the dough to stand, until it almost doubles in size. The mixture is going to be warm, but it mustn’t be too warm otherwise it will ruin the yeast (says mum). If your pot/bowl is cold, put it in another bowl/pot filled with warm water. IMG_7560

5.  Pour some oil in a pan – you need to have enough so that the fritule don’t touch the bottom of the pan when you add them to the oil. Heat the oil until fairly hot.

6. Dip a spoon in the oil. This will stop the dough from sticking to it. Then, take a bit of dough in your hand, squeeze it in your fist, and scoop off what comes out between the thumb and the index by using the spoon. IMG_7586

7. Put the dough ball into very hot oil. And repeat the process: dip the spoon into hot oil, then scoop the dough, then put the dough ball into hot oil. Fry until golden brown. IMG_7574 

8. Turn the dough balls over. Start taking them out when they get this (see below) nice light brown colour. IMG_7564 9. Take them out in batches and put on some tissue paper which will soak up some of the oil.

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10. Put the fritule in a pan and cover with a lid to keep them a little warm.

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11. Repeat the process until you use up all the dough. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving. Fritule don’t need to live in the fridge, and can last for a few days.

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NOTES:

Surfing the net for some background info on fritule, I came across this interesting idea: add prunes instead of raisins, and slivovitza, plum brandy instead of loza/rum! Which gave me another idea: use apricots and loza, or any apricot brandy! 🙂 Not traditional, but I’m sure it would be tasty! As you can see,the basic dough lends itself to creativity well. Excellent!

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Chocolate Brazil Soft-Baked Biscuits

 I’ve never been big on biscuits, so I was never much impressed with cookies, either, that is until I discovered Ben’s Cookies in Oxford! They were freshly baked on site, and so lovely and gooey and chocolate that I was swiftly won over! There is something comforting about them, which makes you feel fantastic straight away! I suspect is part the effect of chocolate, and part psychological! In any case, if you happen to be in Oxford, do go to the Covered Market (which is amazing in itself!) and have some Ben’s Cookies! In the meantime, try making the below fantastic Chocolate Brazil Soft-baked Biscuits! They’re from my favourite book for now, Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes, and of course they’re delicious!

Chocolate Brazil Soft-Baked Biscuits

 

SOURCE: Green & Blacks Chocolate Recipes; recipe sent by Lorna Dowell

PREPARATION TIME: 15 min

COOKING TIME: 20 min

MAKES: 20

 

Ingredients

75 g unsalted butter

60 g caster sugar

1 large egg, beaten

175 g wholemeal self-raising flour

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 – 2 tbsp milk

75 g dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids, roughly chopped

75 g milk chocolate, preferable 34% cocoa solids, roughly chopped

50 g brazil nuts, chopped

pinch of salt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 C/gas mark 4. Grease a baking sheet with melted butter, or use baking parchment.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.

3. Beat in the egg.

4. Sift the flour once, returning the bran to the sifted flour, then fold it into the mixture. The bran gives a distinctive flavour and texture to the biscuits.

5. Beat well, adding the vanilla extract and sufficient milk to make a pliable dough. Mix t wit your hands, adding the milk in stages until the dough is fairly soft, but not sticky.

6. Add the chopped chocolate, nuts and salt and distribute evenly through the dough.

7. Roll out on a lightly floured board to a thickness of about 5 mm. Stamp into rounds and place the biscuits, spaced well apart, on the greased baking sheet.

      What a great bowl to lick! Yummy!  

8. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 min. Watch them carefully so they don’t overcook. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

HINT: All flour should be sifted before you use it. Sifting flour is important, not just to remove any little foreign bodies that may be in the flour, but also to aerate it.

VERDICT

The biscuits were delicious, and very easy to make! They were even better the next day, when we had them for breakfast, with some coffee and milk. This is the first time ever I made biscuits, and I really enjoyed it! I will be making these again, and I definitely recommend them to everyone! The combination of bran, nuts and two types of chocolate is brilliant! The bran also gives them a slightly dark colour, making them very attractive.

Instead of rolling them out, I took a small amount of dough in my hand and shaped it with my fingers, which worked well. Also, I didn’t have any brazil nuts, so I used hazelnuts instead, which was fine. You can use any nuts you want, and experiment with the types of chocolate you use, too. Almonds and white chocolate would work nicely, for example.

 

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