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This recipe for Swedish Semlor comes from the renowned master of Nordic cuisine, Chef Mikko from Finland. His recipe includes instructions for both the Finnish raspberry/strawberry jam filling the and Swedish almond paste filling. Make sure you listen to Chef Mikko's episode A Fat Tuesday Semla Competition while you make his Semla Buns.
What's better than a soft cardamom bun? A soft cardamom bun with strawberry or almond filling piled high with whipped cream, finished with a dusting of sweet, snowy confectioner's sugar on top of each bun!!
These Swedish cream buns crop on social media accounts from Scandinavian countries right around Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) every single year.
In my mind this Swedish Lenten bun is better than other Shrove Tuesday recipes - pancakes, king cake, or even beignets. But! It's not only the Swedish that make these famous filled buns. This recipe from famed Chef Mikko of Finland includes options for two popular fillings.
Chef Mikko's Annual Semlor Competition
As a Finnish-born chef who first worked at a family restaurant in Stockholm Sweden, Chef Mikko was the perfect person to tell us all about the differences between Finnish and Swedish semla!
Each year, he and his Swedish pastry chef hold a competition to see which sells more - the Finnish or Swedish versions. I'm absolutely thrilled and so grateful that I can share his recipe for these lovely cardamom buns!
Listen to Chef Mikko's story here: A Fat Tuesday Semla Competition
Look, Flavor, and Texture
- Bottom: Soft golden brown rolls
- Middle: Tall soft peaks of whipped cream
- Top: Tiny little triangular shaped lids on the buns
- Sweet buns with gentle cardamom spice
- Rich, sweet whipped cream
- Fruity sweet jam OR rich almond flavor
- Soft chewy buns
- Fluffy whipped cream
- Sweet sticky jam
- Chef Mikko says the most important thing is to allow ample time for the buns to rise. I emphatically agree.
- Since you will probably be making these in a cooler February kitchen, leave plenty of time for the buns to rise. They will double and you will see the airiness
- I've halved Chef Mikko's recipe, which still makes 24 80g buns.
Does the Swedish Semla include marzipan filling or almond paste? (And are they the same?)
Almond paste is grittier and more spreadable than the very smooth, thick, shapeable marzipan. For more details on the differences, read this article from AllRecipes: Almond Paste, Marzipan, Frangipane
You can use this recipe from Foodtasia to make your own almond paste from 1.5 cups whole blanched almonds, 1.5 cups powdered sugar, 1 large egg white (I used meringue powder instead), a pinch of salt, and optionally ½ teaspoon almond extract.
Does Chef Mikko's recipe use the Tangzhong Technique?
Tangzhong is a Japanese Yeasted Bread Technique that creates a softer roll. While delicious, this is the not traditional way to create Semla rolls. Chef Mikko's recipe is the one he learned in Finland.
Fresh Yeast vs. Dry Yeast
While fresh yeast is more readily available in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, dry yeast (either active dry or instant) is what this recipe calls for. Although Chef Mikko was raised and trained in Finland, he has lived and cooked in America for decades, first as head chef at the Finnish embassy and now, as owner of his own restaurant in Washington DC.
Semla vs. Semlor -
- That's an easy one - Nothing complicated here! Semla is simply the singular version of Semlor 🙂
- Other different names
- Norway: Fastelavnsbolle
How do you eat Semla?
- One of 3 ways:
- Pour a splash of hot milk all around the buns
- Use the lid of the semla to scoop the whipped cream into your mouth, then eat the bottom of the bun
- Cut into the bun with a fork and knife to get a little bit of caradamom bun, a little bit of filling, and a little bit of whipped cream in each bite
When do you eat Semla?
The answer to this question is constantly evolving, as Semla season has crept from strictly Shrove Tuesday to the Tuesdays of Lent to the entire season from Christmas to April. Lucky for us, there are no Semla police checking when we make this recipe 😉
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Dry yeast - Active or instant
- Melted butter
- Caster sugar - This is finer than granulated sugar.
- White flour - All purpose flour works just fine.
- Whipped Cream
- Powdered Sugar
Swedish Almond Filling
- Buy a 7oz tube of almond paste OR
- Make your own using
Finnish Semla Filling
- ½ cup Raspberry or Strawberry Jam
- Dissolve the sugar in the milk over heat. Do not allow the milk to boil. Allow the mixture to cool until you can withstand testing the heat with your finger for several seconds. (You don’t want to kill the yeast!) When cool enough, add the yeast to the warm milk. Let sit for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter and allow to cool for a minute or two. Add the eggs. Add the egg/butter mixture to the milk/sugar/yeast mixture.
- Add the salt, cardamom, and flour. Run in a mixture with a dough hook or knead until smooth and only slightly sticky.
- Place bowl in a large bowl, cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size.
- Weigh your buns. I used 110 grams for very large buns and 35 grams for smaller buns. (I prefer the smaller as the large are very difficult to eat.)
- Roll each bun until smooth. Let buns rise until doubled. You will really be able to see the lightness. Use a pastry brush to brush each bun with an egg wash.
- Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes, depending on the size.
- For Swedish Semlor Buns
- Cut off the tops of each bun.
- Scoop out a pocket of bread. Preserve the breadcrumbs.
- Mix the bread crumbs with almond paste – to taste. I used a food processor. Add in enough whipped cream to moisten and make it all hold together.
- Refill the pockets with the almond paste mixture.
- Cut each top into a triangle.
- Replace each top.
- Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the bun.
- For the Finnish Semlor Buns
- While baking, whip the cream.
- Cut the top off each bun.
- Spread a generous amount of jam onto each bun.
- Top with whipped cream.
- Replace the top.
- Parchment Paper
- Baking Sheets
- Large piping bag, couplings, and large star-shaped tip (I recommend this kit.)
Storage & Freezing
- If you want to split this over two days, you have two options:
- First, after the first rise, punch the dough down and leave it in the fridge overnight. You'll need a lot of time (about 4 hours in a cool kitchen, less in a warmer and more humid kitchen) to let it rise again before forming the rolls.
- Second option: After you form the rolls, freeze in a very airtight bag up to 3 months. When you remove, they'll need a very long time to rise until doubled in height.
More Recipes from Scandinavia
More Bread Recipes
Listen to Chef Mikko's Episode