Swedish Semlor (Cardamom Buns with Almond Paste and Whipped Cream)
Swedish semlor are one of the top ten baked goods in the Nordic region (IMHO).Jump to Recipe
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If you like baked goods with cardamom, almond, and whipped cream, then Swedish semlor are a must-try. Personally, I find this an irresistible combination.
Semlor: A Swedish Food Tradition
Traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday, before the start of Lent, these days semlor are enjoyed from January through Easter in Sweden. (But not during the other months of the year–at least not yet!)
You will find variations of the semla (singular version of semlor) in bakeries all over Sweden and other Nordic countries. They are typically eaten as a dessert or with coffee for a classic Swedish fika.
While I only spent my young childhood years in Sweden, lucky for me, my mom continued to make Semlor every year even after we moved to the United States.
When I decided to blog about these photogenic delights, I realized it would be interesting to learn more about how my mom enjoyed these as a child in the 1950’s and 60’s. So I asked her.
She told me that back then they had Semlor once a week during the whole period of Lent. Many people enjoyed them in a bowl filled with warm milk. “You know, almost like having it with hot cocoa”, she said.
Ingredient Spotlight: Almond Paste
When my mom was young you also had to make your own almond paste. These days, many people, including my mom and me, purchase premade almond paste. It’s easier and still delicious.
Our go-to almond paste is made by Odense, which is available at many grocery stores but can also be ordered online.
If you want to try making your own there are many great recipes out there. Most of them entail combining a 50/50 ratio of almonds and sugar in a food processor until the almonds are finely ground and the mixture starts to stick together.
A Note on Yeast Breads
Don’t shy away from this recipe because it requires yeast. Like anything, the more you work with yeast, the easier it will become and the better your end result will be.
A few pointers are:
- use fresh, unexpired yeast; I buy this kind and keep it sealed airtight in my refrigerator or freezer; if you prefer a smaller amount, this one works too and can usually be found at the grocery store
- follow the instructions on the yeast package
- make sure the water or milk that you use is the right temperature (refer to yeast package)
- let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot
- when making the dough it’s better to use too little flour than too much; if the dough is to sticky, add more flour one tablespoon at a time while kneading
Ok, who is ready to make some semlor? If you make them, be sure to tag me on social media, @halsanutrition. Enjoy!
Classic Swedish Semlor (Lenten Buns)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons active or instant dry yeast refer to yeast packet instructions for best way to incorporate it into the recipe
- 2 large eggs, separated (one will be used to brush the tops of the buns before baking)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 cups flour (plus more as needed)
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
- 7 ounces almond paste
- ½ cup milk (plus more as needed)
- powdered sugar, for dusting
Part 1 – Baking the Buns
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then add the milk. Heat until "finger warm", about 110° F (or the temperature called for on your yeast packet).
- Add a few tablespoons of the milk and butter mixture to a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 5 minutes or until bubbles start to form.
- In a large bowl, whisk together one egg and the sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture, the rest of the milk and butter mixture, the flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to combine the mixture and then transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead with hands until smooth, about 3 minutes. The dough should be a little "wet", but if too sticky, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Place the kneaded dough back in the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- When the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured surface and divide into 15-16 pieces. (Note: You could also make 10 larger ones or 20 smaller ones.) Form each into a ball and place it onto the baking sheet. Cover with the tea town and let rise for another 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400° F.
- In a small bowl, whisk the second egg. When the buns have finished rising, brush the top of each with the egg mixture and then bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden colored. Remove and let cool on a wire rack covered with a tea towel.
- Once cooled you are ready for part 2, adding the filling and finishing touches! Important: If you don't plan to eat all the semlor right away, only make as many as you will eat. The rest you can put in an airtight bag freeze until you are ready to assemble and enjoy more semlor!
Part 2 – Making the FIlling & Assembling the Semla
- Whip the heavy whipping cream until it forms stiff peaks. (If not making all the semlor, adjust and whip as much cream as you think you will need).
- Cut off a small "lid" from the top of each bun. Put it down next to its bun. Then scoop out about a tablespoon worth of filling in each bun and place the filling in a large bowl. Use your fingers or a fork to crumble the scooped out bun parts into smaller pieces.
- Use a grater to mix the almond paste (use the whole 7-ounce container if making all the buns, and adjust as needed if making less) into the bowl with the scooped out filling. Add ¼ cup of milk (adjust if not making all the semlor) and mix until it forms a batter-like consistency; add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed until desired consistency is reached.
- Fill each scooped out semla bun with filling. Then top with whipped cream. (You can get fancy and pipe out the whipped cream, but I usually just spoon it out!) Finally, place the lids on top of whipped cream and sift powdered sugar onto the top of each semla. Enjoy!