A Semla is a Swedish sweet bun traditionally only eaten on Fettisdagen (Shrove Tuesday) before the period of fasting during Lent. With the Protestant Reformation, the semla became available from Christmas until Easter. The base is a slightly sweetened cardamom bun with a bread, milk, almond paste filling. It is topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar. They evolved from the hetvägg– simply a bun soaked in warm milk. Semlor (plural of semla) are also known as Fastlagsbulle (Fastlagsbullar) or Fettisdag Buller. There are versions of this bun throughout Scandinavia.
These were definitely some of the more time-consuming pastries I have made recently. They aren’t difficult at all to make, just a lot of steps. Being a Shrove Tuesday treat, these Semlor were very, very rich. I could only eat one in a sitting and Chad only ate about half of his. Hollowing out the bread and filling with the almond paste and whipped cream would be a fun activity to do with children.
Semla (Swedish Almond Bun)
Adapted from Allrecipes
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cup warm milk 105 degrees Fahrenheit
- 6 cups all-purpose flour divided
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter melted
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup milk
- 5 ounces almond paste
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Powdered Sugar
- In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm milk and let sit for a minute before stirring. Let sit until frothy, 5-10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a dough blade, combine 5 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, cardamom, and salt. Add softened yeast, milk, eggs, and butter. Process until a smooth dough forms. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1 cup flour and baking powder. On a lightly floured surface, knead remaining flour and baking soda into risen dough. Separate the dough into 16 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or lightly grease. Place the balls of dough on the prepared baking sheets. Cover with towel and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.
- Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.
- Once the buns have cooled, cut a 1/2 inch top from each bun and set aside.
- Scoop out the center of each bun, leaving about 1/2 inch around the edges, and place into a medium bowl. Stir milk into the bread pieces in the bowl to soften. Add the almond paste. Add more milk, if needed, to make a smooth paste. Fill each hollowed bun with a spoonful of the almond paste.
- In a medium bowl, beat together the cream and 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Pipe the whipped cream over the filling and 1/2 inch high over the buns. Place each top on the whipped cream and sprinkle with powdered sugar.