Fat Tuesday Commeth
Semla, or the plural Semlor, is yet another food tradition in Scandinavia left over from Catholic rule. Semlor are cardamom buns filled with almond paste and whipped cream, and were customarily eaten in a bowl of milk on Shrove Tuesday as a final feast before Lenten fasting began. The Finns fill their rolls with berry preserves, and the Danish use puff pastry, but I believe this recipe transcends all others.
Modern Swedes enjoy their Semlor throughout Lent, and you should too.
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees
1/2 cup sugar
1 package yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon fresh ground cardamom
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk or half-&-half plus a few tablespoons for brushing buns
8 ounces almond paste
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 - 2 tablespoons sugar
Whisk together egg yolks, butter, milk, a few teaspoons of the sugar, and yeast and allow to bubble for about 5 minutes.
Sift together remaining sugar, 4 to 5 cups of the flour, salt, and cardamom. Combine with yeast mixture until soft dough forms. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise in warm place about 30 minutes.
Sift together 1 cup of flour and the baking powder; stir into dough and knead until smooth. Add more flour if necessary.
Divide dough into 24 small balls; place at least 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and allow to rise until double, about one hour.
Brush tops of rolls with milk or half½ bake in preheated 375 degree oven until golden brown; cool on wire racks.
Cut each roll in half; scooping out center and leaving shell of 1/2 inches. Tear or crumble innards and place in large mixing bowl; moisten with milk or half& half then blend in almond paste until smooth. Add additional milk as needed until filling is pudding-like.
Whip the cream with sugar until stiff peaks form. Fill shells with almond pudding, then whipped cream; replace top of bun. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
Note: this recipe is based on the Maja Ingeman posting "Making Semlor" at Heavy Table on February 2010, although several adjustments to ingredients and technique appear here.