The Swedish alternative to pancakes
As with all bread recipes, the method might appear lengthy at first glance, but it’s not actually that difficult and is hugely rewarding. I recommend buying your cardamom for the semlor from Spice Mountain in the Market—they sell pretty much the best ground spices I’ve tasted.
Make your own almond paste for the semlor by simply blitzing almonds, honey, milk and a little sugar. I’m not sure it’s very Swedish, but it tastes great and is a better option than shop-bought marzipan.
13g dry yeast
100g water, at body temp
60g butter, fridge cold and cubed
500g strong white (bread) flour
50g caster sugar
6g ground cardamom
150g milk, at body temp
120g whole blanched almonds
20g caster sugar
350g double cream
20g icing sugar
Icing sugar and ground cardamom for dusting
The instructions below assume you’re using a mixer with a dough hook, but you can make the dough easily enough by hand. I find the Richard Bertinet kneading method best for wet mixes like this.
Add the dry yeast to the tepid water and leave for 10-15 mins—until the surface is covered with froth.
Sieve the flour into the bowl of the mixer. Work the butter into the flour with your fingers and thumbs until this resembles bread crumbs (as if making shortcrust pastry).
Add the salt, the sugar and the ground cardamom. Mix the powders up with a spoon.
Pour in the yeast and warm milk and give the contents of the bowl a quick turn with a plastic bread scraper. Break in the eggs, then use the dough hook on your mixer to knead at medium speed for 10 mins. Occasionally stop the mixer and scrape the bowl to ensure all the dough is being kneaded.
When the dough is smooth and elastic, scrape it out onto a clean, non-floured surface. Shape it into a round and place it, with the seam underneath, in a large bowl to rest and double in size (should take about 1 hour). Cover the bowl with a slightly damp tea towel.
Once rested, remove the dough from the bowl, this time on to a well-floured surface. Push the dough out into a rectangular shape. Fold the top side (along the long length) into the middle and press down to seal with your thumb. Do the same with the bottom side. Then fold the long edges together and create a seam. You are left with a length of dough.
Divide this into 16 pieces with the dough scraper (each piece should weigh 60-65g) and shape each amount into a ball: fold the corners of the dough piece into the middle of the shape, pressing in with your thumb. This is the base of your semla roll. Place that on a flat surface and shape into a ball. I find a bread scraper really useful at this point.
Put the balls of dough on 2 baking trays, with plenty of space between them. Sprinkle a little flour over the dough balls and cover each tray with a tea towel. Leave to prove for 45 mins.
Preheat the oven to 230C and put a roasting tray full of water in the bottom. After 45 mins, place the baking trays in the hot oven. Cook at full temperature for 10 mins, turn the trays round and turn the oven down to 200C. Cook for 5 mins more until the rolls have fully risen and are lovely and golden brown. Check the bread is cooked by tapping the base—it should sound hollow. Leave to completely cool.
Make the almond paste by blitzing the almonds, honey, caster sugar and milk together in a food processer for 2 mins. Whisk the double cream and icing sugar to just past ribbon stage. Place in the fridge to firm up.
When the buns are cold, slice the top off about two thirds up the bun. Spread the base with 1 full tsp almond paste, and spoon in a healthy 25g of cream per person.
Dust with icing sugar and a pinch of cardamom.
Recipe and image: Ed Smith