The merest hint of cardamom or cinnamon instantly triggers memories of my childhood. The smell of meatballs sizzling in butter and the comforting feeling when the air is scented with pepparkakor fresh from the oven. How smell can evoke such happy, mouthwatering memories. My mother and grandmother always had buns of differing flavours in the freezer, along with other cakes in case unannounced guests popping by. Swedes love to chat over coffee and ‘something sweet’. Commonly known as Fika!
Semlor buns, enriched sweet dough flavoured with cardamom and filled with almond paste and cream. Light as a feather and mouthwateringly delicious, they usually appear in bakeries in Sweden as near after Christmas as deemed decent but traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, (Fat Tuesday) Swedes gorge themselves on these enticing cream buns. Some like semla served with a jug of hot milk, poured over the top of the bun and served as a dessert.
This is my mother’s recipe, it’s a fairly standard one although she combines strong and plain flour which makes for a more stable dough, it also contains a little baking powder, for extra fluffiness and it has the addition of egg to make the dough more elastic.
- 1 tsp Cardamom Seeds
- 225 g Plain Flour
- 225 g Strong white Bread Flour
- 55 g Butter, diced, room temperature
- 55 g Caster Sugar
- A Pinch of salt
- 240 mls Whole Milk
- 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 30 g Fresh Bakers Yeast
- 1 Large Egg beaten
- 300 mls Double or Whipping Cream
- 120 g Almond Paste (mandelmassa) available at Ocado UK or good quality Marzipan
- a little Milk
- 1 tsp (level) Icing Sugar and to decorate
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
- Crush the cardamom seeds finely in a mortar. Heat the milk in a saucepan with the cardamon to 38°C. Combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt and place in a free standing mixer with a dough hook attached.
- Sprinkle the yeast into the warmed milk and stir to dissolve. Pour this into the flour and mix on a slow speed. Now add 3/4 of the egg (reserve the rest to glaze the buns). Finally add the butter, mix until you have a smooth, silky elastic dough, approximately 4-5 minutes.
- Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 30-35 minutes or until doubled in size.
- When the dough is ready knock back and divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece in turn on a work surface using your cupped hand until it forms a smooth bun. Place the buns on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. leave to prove for a further 30-45 minutes depending on your room temperature. Meanwhile preheat the oven 225°C/Gas 7.
- Brush each bun with the remaining egg (add a little milk to the remaining egg) and then bake in the middle of the oven for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack. Grate the almond paste into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of icing sugar and the vanilla extract to the cream and whip until the cream holds its form.
- Once the buns have cooled cut the tops off the buns and scoop out 1/3 of the insides and crumble, add to the grated almond paste, add a little milk to make a paste, I use a balloon whisk for this.
- Stuff the buns with the almond filling, pipe the cream on top and put the tops back on. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy.