Say Semla

Now some might want to put me in jail, or at least spit after me. In Sweden the tradition of the semla (fettisdagsbulle or fastlagsbulle) might as well have been written into the constitutional law, as there are some restrictions to when you should eat it. "Fettisdagen" is our equivalent to Mardi Gras in France and Fastelavn in Denmark. Our pastry, however, is nothing like the "fastelavnsbolle" our neighbours are shoving down their bellies. And trust me, once you've tried a Swedish semla, you won't go back... I'm a bit early, as Fettisdagen isn't until February 13th, but hey, now you can practise beforehand!

I've used a basic recipe my mother has been using, with a few tweaks, as well as homemade almond paste. Sugar, wheat flour and lots of dairy. So please, behave...


For the buns you'll need

  • 25 g yeast
  • 2,5 dl milk, a bit more than lukewarm
  • 1 egg
  • ½ dl sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cardamom (pounded seeds or ground)
  • ½ tsp cloves (pounded buds or ground)
  • 75 g butter, room temperatured
  • 4-5 dl wheat flour
  • 3 dl whole grain flour

For the almond paste you'll need

  • 200 g almonds
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 1 egg white (save the yolk)

For the building you'll need

  • whipped cream
  • caster sugar

How to

Shred the yeast into a bowl. Warm up the milk and pour it into the bowl with the yeast, and stir until it dissolves. Mix the rest of the ingredients on another bowl, and then add the yeasty milk. Beat the dough until smooth. It's fine if it's a little sticky. Cover with a baking cloth and let it rise for one hour. Cut the dough into 15 pieces, and form into balls. Put them on two baking papers, on two baking trays, cover and let them rise yet again for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, mix 200 g almonds, just as they are, in a food processor. I prefer it not too flour like, as I like bits. Add the caster sugar, and mix again. Then add the egg white and mix until you have a sticky paste.

Put the oven to 225° (hot air oven), mix the yolk from the egg you used for the almond paste with water, and brush the buns. Bake them for 8 minutes until not too golden, and let them cool off.

To make the semla, you cut the top off a bun, and dig out the center of the bottom to form a little bowl. Mix the crumbs you've dug out with the almond paste, and add a small amount of cream, or it will be too thick.  Put the bun/almond paste mix back into the bun-bowl, and add whipped cream. put the lid back, and dust with caster sugar.

Now, whether you remove the lid before you eat it or not, is a real watershed, but what ever makes you enjoy your semla is best...

Much love,