According to Wikipedia, the average Swede consumes 5 bakery-made semlor a year. This figure does not account for homemade semlor consumed. If I lived in Sweden, I can guarantee that I’d be an above average consumer of these sweets. Yesterday a batch of these pastries were on my counter and I couldn't help but eat three of them throughout the day, one bite at a time whenever I passed through the kitchen. Those three do not include those semlor I sat down to eat when friends came for fika in the morning and afternoon.
The first semla I enjoyed was four years ago at Ikea. A powder-sugared bun filled with piped pastry cream is a simple choice for me, and to discover marzipan and cardamom on the inside made it epically memorable. There after, whenever I would visit Ikea I would look about the cafeteria hoping to see them without any luck. It felt like an unforgettable one-time lover that leaves a deep impression on the heart and in the headiness of discovering, gasping, nibbling, licking, loving, we forgot to exchange the pertinent information—I didn’t even know its name… What was its name?
Two years later I was at a local café and perched between cardamom rolls, jam bars, and cookies were my unmistakable cardamom buns filled with cream—I’d recognize them anywhere. “Those! I’ll take all of those, please.”
That day I learned two important things. First, they are called semlor, one is a semla. Second, by tradition they are only served in the season between Shrove Tuesday and Easter--the religious type, I would have never guessed.
I would go back often during those weeks and after sweet talking the pastry chef, I finally managed to get semla’s numbers and this recipe is the single reason I purchased a baking scale. Since then these buns make their way out of my oven year round. I fill them with a simple whipped cream, dust them with confectioner’s sugar, serve them with coffee, and say a little prayer of appreciation. Semlor are found across Scandinavia and the eastern Baltic states; in Finland in addition to marzipan-filled laskiaispulla you can find them filled with raspberry jam.
Semlor Recipe: Yields 32
Notation: This recipe makes use of a scale which is an excellent investment and insures consistency. As well, it makes 32 semlor, which unless there is a party I find to be a bit much. I recommend cutting the risen dough in half, making 16 semlor, freezing the other half for later, rolling it out and making cinnamon rolls, or baking buns to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a versatile dough and one of my favorite recipes. Lastly, if you need them to last more than a day consider piping whipped cream as needed or utilizing a crème diplomat for longevity.
2 egg yolks
1437g bread flour
16 oz of marzipan (filling)
2 quarts of cream (filling)
confectioner's sugar (dusting)
Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
In a saucepan melt the butter and warm the milk. Whisk in the eggs and yolks. With a wooden spoon mix or a stand mixer, combine the dry and wet ingredients. Turn onto the counter and knead for five minutes or until the dough is supple and well formed. Place into a bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise for thirty minutes. Punch down the rising dough and once again knead it (2 minutes), before returning it to the bowl and covering until doubled in size (about one hour).
Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit. Cut dough in half (save half for later if you wish) and portion dough into 90g pieces. Roll pieces into balls and place 3 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with towel and let them rise until almost doubled. Brush buns with egg or milk and bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
Allow buns to cool.
Cut the tops off and with a spoon scoop out a basin from the center of the buns.
With a mixer combine equal weights of marzipan and scooped bread. Add enough cream to make the filling slightly tacky but not wet. Distribute mixture amongst the cardamom buns.
Whip the remaining cream with a touch of vanilla and sugar and pipe on top of the marzipan filling. Replace with cut tops and dust with confectioner's sugar.