Shrove Tuesday or 'Fat Tuesday' as the Scandinavians would have it!! Whether you're planning to fast or not, a day to indulge. Countries across Scandinavia celebrate with variations of this Semla bun. Semlor are delicious sweet cardamom buns, enriched with butter and milk, then filled with a delicious honey almond paste and fresh cream. If you're a pancake traditionalist, why not try this alternative. Or if you're really planning on fasting, have both!
(Makes 14-16 buns)
Semla buns are a traditional Scandinavian treat, varying slightly across the region, but always served as part of a feast on ‘Fat Tuesday’, at the start of Lent. Much like our hot cross buns, although associated with a particular festival, they are so popular they can be found in bakeries for weeks beforehand.
For the dough:
Strong white flour 500g (or substitute for all or part white spelt flour)
Fresh yeast 25g
Sea salt 10g
Butter, cubed 60g
Caster sugar 60g
Eggs 100g (2 medium, beaten)
For the almond filling
Ground almonds 120g
Caster sugar 20g
Plus, 350g double cream, whipped with 20g icing sugar
Measure out your flour, sugar and cardamom into a large mixing bowl, then rub in crumbled yeast on one side of your bowl (for dried yeast use half the amount). Now place the salt on the other side of the bowl. Keeping your butter to one side for now, add your milk and eggs and mix with your scraper until all ingredients are combined and a rough dough has formed. Turn out onto your work surface and knead for 10 minutes or so, until you have a nicely elastic dough. Now add your butter and knead for another 5 minutes until your dough is fully developed. Form the dough into a ball and place back into your lightly floured bowl. Cover with a large plastic bag or a baking cloth and leave to rest for about an hour.
After one hour, your dough should have roughly doubled in size. De-gas your dough and divide into two, take each half and divide into 8 pieces of approximately 60g-65g each. Being careful to slap any excess gas out of each piece and, using the friction of a flour-free workbench, form each piece into a tight little ball, being careful to place the seam on the underside, before placing on a lined baking tray to prove. Ensure you leave enough space between each roll to allow it to double in size. You may need to use two baking sheets.
Cover and leave at a warm room temperature for about an hour (ideally, 22°C - 25°C), but do not place anywhere too warm. If your kitchen is a little cooler, just leave a little longer. After one hour, your rolls should be roughly double in size and will return slowly back to shape when depressed gently with a floury finger.
Preheat your oven to 200°C.
Just before baking, sprinkle a little flour over the top of each roll. Place them into your hot oven and then turn the temperature down immediately to 180°C. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The sugar content in the rolls will cause them to brown quicker than ordinary bread rolls, so do check they are not browning too quickly. If they are, you may need to turn your oven down by 10 degrees or so.
Leave your buns to cool on a wire rack and meanwhile you can prepare the almond and honey filling and whip your cream in preparation for assembly.
For the filling:
Place your ground almonds, honey, sugar and milk in a bowl and combine until you have a kneadable paste. Divide your mixture into 16 (approximately 13g each) lumps, roll into tight balls and put to one side.
Now take your cream and whisk together with a little icing sugar until you reach soft peaks, taking care not to over-whip your cream.
Once your buns have cooled, cut most of the way through your bun about one third of the way down, creating a ‘hinged lid’. Inside insert a disc of honey and almond paste made by flattening the balls you made earlier, and then spoon or pipe fresh cream on top, before gently closing the lid a little. Finish with a little sprinkled icing sugar.
And there we have it! A delicious alternative to pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Or any day!
Our workshops are run by award-winning sourdough baker Helen Underwood.