Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Heavenly Semlor: Swedish Lenten Buns


Well, it's that time of the year again - Fat Tuesday! While neither O nor I observe any of the religious traditions, we are always willing to use the days leading up to Lent as an excuse to indulge in all our semlor dreams!

Semlor (semla is the singular form), or Swedish lenten cream buns, are commonly eaten throughout Scandinavia around this time of year, enjoyed either plain with whipped cream (as we prefer it) or in a bowl of warm milk known as hetvägg ("hot wall"). They are slightly sweet, cardamom-scented buns (bit similar to brioche), filled with a delicious almond paste (mandelmassa) filling and topped with freshly whipped cream. Semlor are heavenly and I can eat them non-stop!

These buns are pretty straightforward to make, but they are time consuming - mostly in inactive cooking time as you wait for the dough to rest and rise multiple times. It's a perfect way to while away a weekend day with loved ones. O really took charge in test driving a couple of different recipes from Swedish sources recently and we were quite happy with the results. Unfortunately, with fresh yeast being so difficult to find around here, I'd really like to create and perfect a version that uses your everyday dry packet version. Here is a recipe that's not too unlike ours with good reviews, for those keen on trying these out for themselves soon!

Swedish Semlor
Adapted via AllRecipes - to test and perfect this version soon!

2 eggs
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups warm milk (70 to 80 degrees F)
1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (we always grind fresh pods here, makes all the difference in the world!)
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup, or as needed
5 ounces almond paste, or mandelmassa (see below)

2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons white sugar
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Almond Paste / Mandelmassa
2 cups blanched almonds
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 TB butter
*Grind almonds to a powder in a food processor. Add confectioner's sugar and butter, and process to paste consistency.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs with butter and milk. Sprinkle yeast over top and allow to soften for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift together 5 cups flour with 1/2 cup sugar, salt, and ground cardamom. Once yeast has softened, stir flour mixture into milk mixture until a soft dough forms. Cover bowl with a towel, and allow to rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes.

Sift together flour and baking powder. Stir into risen dough, then knead until smooth. Form into 16 balls (or 24 if you'd like smaller semlor) and place onto greased baking sheets. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, 35 to 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake in preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown and the center has firmed. Cool buns on a wire rack to room temperature.

Once cool, cut a slice about 1/2 inch thick off of the top of the bun and set aside. Scoop or cut out the center of the buns, leaving a shell about 1/2 inch thick. Tear the removed bread into small pieces and place into a bowl. Moisten the bread with milk, then mix in almond paste until smooth. Add additional milk if needed until the almond paste filling is nearly as soft as pudding.

Whip cream with 2 tablespoons sugar to medium peaks (not too hard!). Fill each shell with a spoonful of marzipan filling. Pipe or spoon whipped cream on top of the filling to 1/2 inch over the top of the bun. Replace the tops onto the buns, and dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.







Enjoy them before they disappear!

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