Semla is just immensely delicious; in fact, so delicious that one can overindulge in it.
You can eat these buns as a pastry, of course, but according to old traditions, you should serve the buns in a bowl with warm milk topped with a pinch of salt -this way of serving is called a “hot wall” in Swedish. In the western part of Sweden, use pearl sugar and chopped almonds instead of powdered sugar.
King Adolf Fredrik (father of the Swedish king Gustav III) died on February 12, 1771, on Shrove Tuesday after eating many “Semlor.” However, it was not only the “hot wall” or Semla that caused the king’s death. The bulletin issued about the king’s death states: “His Majesty’s deaths was caused by indigestion of hot wall, sauerkraut, turnips, lobster, caviar, buckling and champagne” – Anyone would have fallen head over heels after such gluttony!
Until the Reformation, Sweden was a Catholic country and followed the church order where they fasted before Easter. It was common for those who could afford to have lavish parties before fasting.
We have many names for this bun; Semla (Shrovetide bun), hetvägg (hot wall) are just a few names we use to address this delicious bun, filled with almond paste and decorated with whipped cream and flavored with cardamom. Here you get a recipe for 6 pcs. of buns that are easy to make.
Ingredients for 6 pieces
|12-gram fresh yeast =5 g instant yeast or 6 g active dry yeast* (see note at the end of this post)||Filling|
|1 barely tsp Cardamom seeds||100 – 150 g almond paste|
|75-gram milk (whole-milk)||Crumbs from the buns|
|35-gram sugar||A splash of milk|
|38 – 40-gram room tempered butter||1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground Cardamom|
|30-gram egg mixture (see note)||Decoration|
|180-gram cake flour||3 dl whipping cream|
|11/4 tsp salt||1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground Cardamom|
|Egg wash||Powdered sugar|
|One egg mixed with a splash of water|
|Homemade almond paste gives approximately 250 grams|
|125 g Almond – 110-gram sugar|
|Peel the almonds. Grind the nuts and mix with the sugar.|
- Crush the cardamom seeds in a mortar, mix them with the milk, and heat it all to 37° degrees Celsius. – (98.60° Fahrenheit)
- Pour the milk and cardamom mixture into a mixer with a dough hook attachment and add yeast, flour, eggs, sugar, and process it for 5 minutes; first slowly, increasing the speed gradually.
- After 5 minutes, add room temperature butter a little at a time, knead it for another 5 minutes, now the dough starts to come together.
- Add the salt and process the dough for another 2-3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, you can prepare the “dough cabinet” by pouring boiling water into a container and place it at the bottom of your oven. Oil a bowl and put the dough in it. Cover and let it all rest in the “dough cabinet” for 45 – 60 minutes.
- Take out the dough after the first rise (double in size).
- Divide the dough into six parts – you can weigh the whole dough and then calculate how much each bun should weigh. If you divide it by 6, each bun should weigh about 57-58 grams.
- Roll the buns smooth and place them with the seam facing down on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Cover the buns with a kitchen towel and leave to rise for another 45-60 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400° (Fahrenheit). If you use a convection oven, it is 347° (Fahrenheit) that applies.
- When the buns have risen (double in size), brush a mixture of eggs and a little water on the buns and bake it in the oven between 6 – 8 minutes or until they have a light golden-brown color.
- Remove the buns from the oven and let them cool for a short while.
- Cut off a top piece (like a lid) – scope out the inside and place it in a bowl.
- Then mix in the almond paste in the same bowl, season with a little ground cardamom (a pinch or two) and a splash of milk. Knead or mix it into a smooth mixture. It should be neither too soft nor too hard. It hardens inside the bun when you cool it.
- It is advisable to taste and add more ground cardamom or milk to achieve the taste and texture you prefer.
- Whip the cream with a little vanilla sugar and ground cardamom.
- Distribute the filling in the buns, sprinkle whipped cream on top, and put a lid on each bun. I think it looks best with a triangle lid – but it is a matter of taste.
- Powder icing sugar over the buns.
Tips and tricks:
- Allow all ingredients to reach room temperature before you start baking.
- Always add the salt towards the end of the baking process.
- Always use cardamom kernels that you crush in a mortar in the dough; when you grind the seeds, it gives off a better taste and aroma than ground cardamom.
- If you want to be creative – you can mix two drops of rose water in the almond paste.
- Creating dough cabinets is not that difficult; the bakers use dough cabinets to accelerate the dough’s proofing. Bring water to a boil, pour it into a container, and place the container at the bottom of the oven. Put the dough in the oven and put on the oven lights.
- This dough is very well balanced; you hardly need to use flour on the baking bench. Do not overwork the dough after the second proofing; this is the “secret.”
- Here I mention 35 grams of eggs. Take out an egg, crack it in a bowl or glass. Whisk it so that the egg yolk and egg white mix well. Then weigh 35 grams of egg and put it in the dough. Don’t throw away the rest – keep it in the refrigerator for later use (i.e., as egg-wash)
- A good rule of thumb for oven heating: if you set 400° Fahrenheit for a regular oven, you can reduce it by 53 degrees when you have a convection oven (347° Fahrenheit) The difference in degrees in Celsius is 25°
For those of you with nut allergy:
Fill the buns with vanilla cream instead of almond paste. You can find the recipe here Feel free to mix in a little cardamom in the cream. The recipe gives almost 2 pints of cream – you will probably need just half of that or even just 1/4.
Interesting facts about Semlor:
- More than 40 – 50 million Semlor are sold per year in Sweden.
- An estimated 30 million Semlor are baked at home.
- 55% of Swedes eat Semla on Fat Tuesday.
- By the way, the word Semla comes from “simila” – the Latin word meaning flour or rather “the finest flour.”
- Fat Tuesday falls seven weeks before Easter and can therefore vary – in 2021; Fat Tuesday falls on February 16.
- The first time Semla is mentioned in a Christian context was in Gustav Vasa’s Bible in 1541.
- Until the 1960s, it was forbidden for confectioneries to offer rolls other than Tuesdays and then only the weeks between Fat Tuesday and Easter.
*Need to convert in between different kind of yeast? This is the site to visit! Conversion