Swedish Semlor buns, enriched sweetened dough flavoured with cardamom and filled with almond paste and cream. Light as a feather and mouthwateringly delicious. The merest hint of cardamom or cinnamon instantly triggers memories of my childhood. How smell can evoke such happy memories. My mother and grandmother always had buns of differing flavours in the freezer, along with other cakes in case unannounced guests popped by. Swedes love to chat over coffee and ‘something’ sweet. Commonly known as Fika!
Semlor, freshly baked & filled
Semlor 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 splash of hot milk, poured over the top of the bun and served as a dessert.
Now for the method. The tangzhong technique, I’ve incorporated it in to nearly all of my enriched bread dough recipes. The result is soft, fluffy buns, that stay fresh a little longer. What is it you ask? A Japanese yeasted bread technique that involves cooking a portion of flour and liquid, heated to boiling, until it thickens to a paste. It’s then cooled and added to the flour along with the other ingredients. It’s as simple as that.
I firmly believe this recipe for Semlor Buns benefits from a slow prove in the fridge overnight. The dough is easier to work with in view of the gluten having time to relax fully. There’s no need to warm the milk before adding the yeast either.
Shaping the dough into little buns can take a little practice, however cupping your hand and rolling in a circular motion at the same time will eventually create a neat ball. Once the buns are baked and cool you have two options, slice across the top or cut in a triangular shape. You then remove approximately a third of the crumb to use in the filling.
The filling is simple. Combine the crumb with milk and let it stand for a few minutes. Grate in the almond paste and stir. Add a little more milk until you have a relatively smooth pipe-able mixture, now you’re ready to fill the buns! A word of warning, when you whip the cream, take care not to over whisk, you want the cream to just hold its form. Now all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour!
Swedish Semlor (Lent Buns)
- 20 g strong white bread flour
- 60 g water
- 60 g whole milk
- 500 g strong white bread flour
- 1 tsp freshly ground cardamom
- 50 g caster sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 50 g unsalted butter room temperature & cut into dice
- 235 ml whole milk straight from the fridge, no need to heat.
- 25 g fresh bakers yeast or 8g fast action dried yeast
- 1 large egg plus extra for glazing
- 200 g skinned almonds
- 100 g icing sugar
- 1 tbls egg white
- 1 tsp water
- 200 Almond paste
- 150 ml milk approx
- 550 ml double cream
- 1 tbls icing sugar
- Pulse the skinned almonds in a food processor to a coarse crumb, don’t over mix as they will become claggy. Place in a bowl and add the egg white, water and icing sugar. Stir until it starts to come together like a dough. Press into a sausage shape, wrap and place in the fridge until needed.
- Place all three ingredients in a small saucepan. Whisk together with a balloon whisk, on a medium to high heat until it thickens and bubbles. Remove from the heat and pour onto a plate and cover. Once it’s cooled to room temperature, it’s ready to use.
- Place the flour, sugar, salt in the bowl of a free standing mixer with a dough hook attached and then add the cooled tanghzong.
- Sprinkle the yeast into the milk in a bowl and stir to dissolve. (If using dried just add it to the flour). Pour the milk into the flour and mix on a slow speed. Now add the egg. Finally add the butter, mix until you have a smooth, silky, elastic dough, approximately 5-6 minutes. You may need to add an extra tablespoon of flour if the dough sticks to the side of the mixing bowl. Place in a plastic box with a lid and seal. Pop in the fridge overnight to prove. (up to 20 hours).
- When you're ready to bake the next day knock back the dough and divide into 12 even pieces. Roll each piece in turn on a lightly floured 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 covered for a further 45-60 minutes depending on the room temperature (the dough is colder so it will take longer) or to speed the proving up you can place the buns in the oven, SWITCHED OFF with a bowl of freshly boiled water, don’t cover them. They will take 30-40 minutes to prove.
- Meanwhile pre-heat the oven 200°C fan/Gas 7.
- Brush each bun with egg wash and then bake in the middle of the oven for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Once the buns have cooled, they need to be hollowed out. You can either cut a triangle or literally slice the top off, then scoop out 1/3 of the insides and then crumble. Weigh out 200g of the almond paste. (Freeze the remainder for another time). Grate the almond paste into a bowl and then add the milk and the bun crumbs to make a smoothish paste with the icing sugar. It should be a nice soft pipe-able consistency, you may have to add more milk than stated.
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of icing sugar and the vanilla extract to the cream and whip until the cream just holds its form.
- Fill the buns with the almond filling using a spoon or a piping bag. Pipe or spoon the cream on top and then put the tops back on. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy.
Find a video on how to make Swedish Semlor buns on my IGTV channel. Click here
- Fresh bakers yeast is always my first choice however I know it’s not readily available. Just make sure if you’re using dried yeast that you convert it correctly to the quantity of flour. There are several different varieties, quick, fast action or standard dried. It can be confusing!
- Please use freshly ground cardamom, it makes ALL the difference.
If you like this recipe, then you may want to try Swedish Vanilla Buns