5 March 2014

Shrove Tuesday once again


Yes, I've spent most of the day baking semla buns. And although my parents sent me a new recipe for this year's trend in this department, Lundulph put his foot down and demanded the traditional stuff and implied that anything else is plain wrong. Thus I will try out the mini-semla buns with ganache some other day...

Again on Lundulph's request, I followed my first recipe, as it has been the more successful so far. Now reading through the recipe and what I did, I didn't feel I could replicate my rescue activities, so I tried to keep as close as possible to the original recipe. However, now that I'm in the process of digesting my first semla for this year, I've come to a number of conclusions, so I'm writing up a new post on this subject.

Makes 21

100 g unsalted butter
3 dl semi-skimmed milk
45 g fresh yeast
325 g strong flour
325 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cardamom
1 dl caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 large egg
milk for brushing

crumbs from the buns
300 g marzipan
3 dl milk

600 ml whipping cream
5 tbsp icing sugar
icing sugar for dusting


  1. Place the butter in a small pan and melt on low heat.
  2. Add the milk and stir. Check the temperature of the mixture and bring to about 37 °C, then stir in the yeast until it has dissolved.
  3. Mix together the two types of flour, baking powder, cardamom, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Add the liquid and the egg and bring together into a dough. Knead for a few minutes to develop the gluten, then cover and let rise for about 45 minutes.
  5. Line three baking trays with baking paper.
  6. Cut up the dough into 60 g pieces, then roll each one into a ball and place on the baking trays, cover and leave to prove for a further 45 minutes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 190 °C (do not use fan if you can). Brush each bun with a little milk, then bake one sheet at a time for about 15 minutes, until the buns turn golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  9. Cut a lid off each bun, then pinch out the middle and place the crumbs in bowl. Put the lid back on and put in an airtight container before repeating with the next bun.
  10. Dice the marzipan and add to the crumbs along with the milk, then process in a blender or food processor until fairly well mixed and sticky, but not runny.
  11. Assemble as late as possible before serving. Whip the cream together with the 5 tbsp icing sugar to stiff peaks, then transfer to a piping bag with a star nozzle.
  12. Take the lid off a bun and cut the lid into a triangle.
  13. Put some of the marzipan filling into the bun cavity, then pipe whipped cream over it and place the lid back on top.
  14. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Today I remembered to use strong flour, however, I have the Canadian Manitoba flour which is very, very strong and really good for bread. But these buns need to be light and fluffy and this type of flour turned out too strong. Which is why I've written a mixture of equal parts plain and strong flour, I think it would give better results.

Next I've used a lot more milk for the filling. Not only because it's hard to blend together, but also because last time I ran out of filling and it's supposed to be enough for all the buns.

The marzipan I used today was really posh with 60% almonds. This means a very strong almond flavour, almost like Amaretto. Generally, 50% almonds marzipan is recommended for baking. The stuff I've seen in the supermarket is around 35% - 40%. It's a question of taste of course, lower percentage almonds means higher percentage sugar and thus sweeter, possibly also softer to work with. It may well be worth making marzipan yourself.

Finally, now that I have a new and fancy electric oven, I baked at 190 ° C for 15 minutes, which gave good results. Possibly I could reduce the temperature to 180 ° to get slightly lighter buns.

On the whole, I'm quite pleased with the result, and so is Lundulph - he had two semla buns and I've no idea how he managed to fit them in, after a good portion of pork vindaloo.

We now have 7 buns left, I gave most of the buns to my lovely neighbours.

Update 5th March 2019:
This year the freezer is full and no way I can fit a load of semlas in there, so I made a third of the above recipe:

34 g unsalted butter
1 dl semi-skimmed milk
15 g fresh yeast
109 g strong flour
108 g plain flour
⅓ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cardamom
⅓ dl caster sugar
1 pinch of salt
⅓ large egg

The amount is so small, I had to knead it by hand, which was a rather nice exercise after work. This resulted in 8 buns, much more manageable.
In order to get the ⅓ of an egg, whisk well with the pinch of salt, then weigh and use a ⅓ for the dough and the remainder for the glazing.

Update on 22nd March 2020:
This year, I halved the recipe as I didn't fancy kneading by hand and thought the Kitchen Assistent machine would be able to cope. I was right.

50 g unsalted butter
1.5 dl semi-skimmed milk
23 g fresh yeast
163 g strong flour
162 g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground cardamom
½ dl caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ large egg

The machine was just about able to cope with this amount, though I did have to help a bit, by scraping down the walls. I made 10 buns at 62 g each. The really big excitement this year is that I got to try out my whipped cream dispenser - a Christmas present from 2018. It's great fun, but I do need to practice on how to use it. Also mixing the whipping cream with the icing sugar should be done before pouring it into the canister, it hasn't mixed well and I suspect the last of the whipped cream will come out super sweet.

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