I am infatuated by Scandinavian dessert lately but learning about them outside of their native countries is not so easy. While there is an over abundance of recipes on French, North American, Italian, and to some extent, Austrian style dessert, the popularity of dessert from other culture hasn’t caught on in Toronto. That’s too bad because based on limited exposure in my travels, there are lots to admire. Especially if you love marzipan as much as I do!
I had the privilege to visit parts of Denmark and Sweden in the company of locals with the biggest sweet tooth. They introduced me to various dessert made famous in different parts of towns on our sugar-filled road trips. Unfortunately, I visited in the warmer time of year with plenty of sunlight and missed out on the annual semla craze. This Swedish treat is only available between new year and Easter. I invite you to find out more about semla in the Sweden Tourism website. It’s a really fun read on the dessert’s history and current popularity. Swedes take their semlor seriously.
My own search for semla began with an enticing photo in Saveur magazine. I love the haunting taste of cardamom in baked goods and it led me to that recipe. Upon a closer look, my enthusiasm dampened. The proportions and directions of that recipe just looked wonky. The scathing reviews did not help either but I learned one important thing. Aside from cardamom and cream, a semla is not a semla without marzipan.
I revisited the Sweden Tourism website and decided to try their recipe. The recipe was developed using fresh yeast and metric units. I adapted it for North American kitchens and my favourite way of handling bread dough. The recipe is available below.
I tried my homemade semla with a cup of coffee (decaf, sigh) for fika today. The soft buttery bun was fragrant with green cardamom. The hollowed centre was filled with a milky marzipan paste and topped with a festive swirl of whipped cream. It was at once decadent and rustic. Please forgive me for indulging in semlor after Easter. I am just rebellious this way. Daydreaming about returning to Sweden begins in 3…2…1…
Previously on my Scandinavia travels:
Semlor (Swedish Cardamom Almond Cream Buns)
adapted from the official Sweden Tourism website
makes 16 buns
- 100g unsalted butter
- 300mL whole milk
- 85g granulated sugar
- 500g all purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoon (1 package) instant yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground green cardamom
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- 200g marzipan, grated
- 100mL whole milk
- 300mL heavy cream
- icing sugar for dusting
- In a small saucepan, melt butter and warm 300mL of milk until bubbles start to form at the edge. Stir in sugar. Cool until the temperature drops to 100-105F.
- If you have a stand mixer, pour hot milk mixture into mixing bowl. Top with flour, yeast, salt, and cardamom, taking care to keep the yeast and salt separated. Using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until homogenous. Switch to a dough hook and mix at medium speed for about 2 minutes until dough clears the side of bowl. If you do not have a stand mixer, you can mix by hand using large mixing bowl and a sturdy wooden spoon until dough forms a rough ball. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Lightly oil your work surface and rub your hands with mild vegetable oil to keep from sticking. Knead the dough for 15 seconds and return to bowl to rest for 10 minutes, covered with plastic wrap. Repeat two more times so you knead your dough 45 seconds in total. The dough should be smooth by this point. Let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes until double in size.
- Line two 11x17 inch baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces, about 60-65g each. Round into tight balls and place 8 on each prepared baking sheet, evenly spaced. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let it rise for about an hour until almost double in size. In the last 15 minutes, preheat oven to 430F.
- Make egg wash by stirring egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water together. Brush buns with egg wash. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans after 8 minutes for even baking. Remove from oven when golden. The inside of the buns should reach 190F. Cool on wire rack until the buns come to room temperature.
- When the buns are completely cooled, slice off a small piece off the top. Cut it into a triangle. Scoop out inside of the buns using a melon baller to make a mini bread bowl. Put reserved crumbs in a mixing bowl with grated marzipan.
- Stir 100mL milk into bread crumbs and marzipan until it forms a soft paste. Alternatively, you can mix using paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Divide filling evenly to fill the buns.
- Rinse your mixing bowl with cold water and wipe dry. Whip 300mL heavy cream to stiff peak. Fit your pastry bag with large star tip and fill with whipped cream. Pipe an attractive swirl of whipped cream on top of each filled bun.
- Top with a triangle of bread and dust with lots of icing sugar. Serve immediately or store in fridge for up to a day. Let it come to room temperature before serving.