What’s not to love about a fluffy bun filled with almond paste and topped with a feather-light whipped cream? The Swedes certainly know how to celebrate the dull, grey days of January and beginning of February before lent starts. If you just so happen to be heading to Stockholm, make sure you check out my list of fave places where you can indulge in traditional semlor.
Tip – You can knead these by hand, but because of the stickiness of the dough, you’ll find it easier in a free-standing mixer fitted with a dough hook.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes minutes
Resting / proving time: around 4 hours
Serves/makes: 8 buns
40g (1.5 oz) butter (at room temperature)
150ml (2/3 cup) whole milk
3 tbsp caster sugar
250g (2 cups) flour, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 tsp fast action yeast
¼ tsp ground cardamom
a good pinch salt
1 egg yolk
For the filling
100g good quality marzipan*, grated
2 tbsp whole milk
¼ tsp ground cardamom
200ml (7 fl oz) whipping cream
3-4 tbsp icing sugar
1 egg, beaten
Place the butter and milk in a small pan and heat until the butter has melted, and the milk is hot but not simmering. Remove from the heat. Place the caster sugar, flour, yeast, cardamom and salt in the bowl of a free-standing mixer and make a well in the centre. Add the yolk to the centre, along with the milk and butter. Use the dough hook on the mixer to start incorporating the mixture, then knead over a medium-to-low speed for 5- 10 minutes, until it is springy and coming together (it will be a little sticky, but add more flour if required). Place the dough in a clean bowl covered with a damp tea towel.
Prove for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size, in a warm place. Dust your surface with flour and remove the dough from the bowl. Knock the dough back and roll into a sausage shape. Divide into 8 same-sized buns of about 60g (if you want to make them identical weigh the individual dough balls.) Place on a large baking tray, spaced evenly apart and lightly cover with cling film. Leave to prove for a further 45 minutes in a warm place.
Preheat the oven to 200c /390F (180 fan). In the meantime, make the marzipan filling. Grate the marzipan into a bowl and beat with the milk and cardamom until you have a paste.
Once the buns have proved, brush the tops of the buns liberally with the beaten egg. Bake the buns for 25-30 minutes or until golden on the top and nicely risen.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. Cut the tops off and use a teaspoon to scoop out some of the crumb inside the bun to make room for a teaspoon of marzipan. Add this to the beaten marzipan. Repeat with all the remaining buns. Beat the marzipan mixture well again and add a spoonful to the centre of each bun. Whip the cream to soft peaks with 2 tbsp of the icing sugar, place in a piping bag and pipe over the top of the marzipan and to the edges. Place the hat back on the top of the buns and dust with extra icing sugar. Serve immediately or on the day.
*In Sweden traditionally almond paste is used which has a higher quantity of almonds vs. sugar. If you can get hold of it than use this otherwise go for a marzipan with a high quantity of almonds.