I first tasted Scandinavian semlor Lenten buns – featherlight sweet cardamom dough buns, filled with marzipan, topped with whipped cream and covered in icing sugar – a few years ago from local Swedish bakery, Söderberg. Ever since, I’ve wanted to try baking them myself and I have to say they are well worth the wee bit extra effort – I have it on good authority that they were judged the best thing I’ve ever baked! They were a particularly lovely dough to work with and I will definitely be using the recipe again and again. Traditionally, they are only eaten up to and during Lent, particularly on Fat Tuesday – Shrove Tuesday or Mardis Gras. So make the most of them until Easter! To make them, you will need:
25g fresh yeast or 12g active dry yeast
80g melted butter
250ml whole milk (warm – body temperature is best)
40g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp ground cardamom
300-400g plain bread flour
1/2 egg for brushing
100 g marzipan
A good dollop of crème pâtisserie or custard
500ml whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla sugar or extract
Icing sugar to dust.
If using a mixer, set it up with the dough hook attachment. Melt the butter and add the milk, ensuring it is body temperature. Add the yeast and stir until dissolved.
Add sugar and stir again. Add half of the flour as well as the salt, baking powder and ground cardamom. Add half the egg (saving the other half for brushing the buns before baking). Mix well until all ingredients are incorporated and then start to add more of the flour, bit by bit, until you have a dough that is only a little bit sticky, but not adding too much or the buns will be dry.
Knead the dough for at least five minutes in the mixer, or longer by hand. Leave to rise in a warm (not hot) place until doubled in size (30-40 min).
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead again for a few minutes, adding more flour if needed. Cut the dough into 12 equal sized pieces and work into round, uniform buns. Place on baking tray with good spacing between them. Leave to rise for another 25-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C.
Gently brush each bun with the remaining egg wash and bake for 8-10 minutes or until baked through – keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly. Remove from oven and cover the tray with a lightly damp tea towel immediately – this will prevent the buns from forming a crust.
When the buns have cooled completely, cut a ‘lid’ off the buns – about 1 1/2 cm from the top. Scoop out about 1/3 of the inside of the bun and place the crumbs in a separate bowl.
Mix the almond paste with the crumb until it forms a very sticky mass – add a dash of milk, custard or crème pâtisserie at this point to help it along (thick set custard works well!). You want a spoonable, even mixture.
Spoon the filling back into the buns, equally dividing it among them. Whip the cream with the vanilla sugar until stiff and use a piping bag to pipe cream on all the buns’ tops.
Put the ‘lids’ back on, dust with icing sugar and serve.
What are you baking this Lent?
Recipe via my fave London bakery, ScandiKitchen.