Friday, April 27
My Grandma Wallin was a wonderful cook. A reluctant American, she never stopped eating and cooking like a Swede, despite living in the United States for the last 45+ years of her life. Many of my memories of her are centered around food. Amazing ham for Christmas Eve dinner, rice pudding with a hidden almond for dessert. Swedish meatballs for Sunday dinners. Cheese and hard bread every single day of her life. Despite all these food memories, my strongest by far is of cardamom bread. Officially called vetebröd, our family calls Swedish cardamom bread “bulle,” which means “roll” or “bun” in Swedish. Every time I taste cardamom, no matter what dish it is in, I immediately think of my grandma and her bulle.
Grandma Wallin served bulle pretty much every time we saw her. My memories of Grandma’s bulle involve buns that looked like cinnamon rolls, but flavored with cardamom rather than cinnamon. I remember one time when I was around 9 years old she came to visit and baked a batch, specifically making a cinnamon version for me. I laugh when I think that I would have asked for cinnamon bulle since I always liked the cardamom version anyway. Crazy 9-year-old Jane.
My mom has continued the tradition of making bulle, especially at Christmastime. While the little rolled buns remind me of my grandmother, the beautiful braided version of the bread reminds me of my mom and Christmas. Since I’ve been married and have started a family of my own, I always make bulle on Christmas Eve so we can have it Christmas morning. Like my mother, I braid the dough.
I was thinking about my grandmother’s version of the bread the other day, so I gave my mom a call to find out how Grandma Wallin made her bulle. My mom started to describe the process for making the braid. I stopped her and said, “Yeah, I know how to do that. That’s how I’ve always done it. How did she make the buns?” My mom laughed and said, “She switched to the buns when she was older. My memories of her bulle are of the braids!” While we both had the same Grandma Wallin bulle memories, it was funny to us that the shape of her bread was so different in our minds.
I was talking to my sister about these memories the other day. She’s nearly nine years younger than I am, so her memories are not always the same as mine. When I was telling her about how my recollections of Grandma Wallin’s bread were similar but different from our mom’s, she laughed and said, “I always thought that Grandma made cinnamon rolls…but now that I think about it, I’m certain it was bulle. I never even realized those buns were the same as the braided bread Mom makes.” I love that one type of food in the same family can have such different associations for the different family members.
As I write this, I have a batch of bulle baking, the familiar scent filling our home. I am delighted that my daughters love bulle as much as I do. I look forward to teaching them how to make the bread and then watching them one day make it for their own children. It remains to be seen what shape of bulle they will associate with me and ultimately make themselves!
Please share your own family food memories! Would love to hear them!
Note: I’ve shared the vetebröd recipe previously, but I’ve only ever made the bread into a braid. This was the first time I made bulle into buns like my grandma did and they turned out deliciously. I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit here to tailor to the bun shape. If you want to try your hand at the braid, click here!Grandma Wallin's BulleMakes 48 buns…I promise you can eat them all.Author: Jane MaynardRecipe type: DessertIngredients
- 2½ cups milk
- 2 cakes compressed yeast OR 2 packets active dry yeast OR 4½ tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 cup sugar
- 8 cups sifted flour
- 1 cup melted butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ~3 teaspoons ground cardamom
- ½ cup or so of butter, melted
- Powdered sugar
3.2.2708Vanilla GlazeAuthor: Jane MaynardRecipe type: DessertIngredients
- Scald milk and cool to luke warm. Crumble yeast in bowl: add ½ cup luke warm milk and stir until yeast is dissolved. Add remaining milk and ¼ c sugar. Beat in 3 C flour and continue beating until smooth. Cover and set aside to rise until double in bulk, ¾ – 1 hour.
- Add remaining sugar, 1 cup melted, cooled butter and salt. Add about 1½ teaspoons of the cardamom and 4½ C flour to yeast mixture. Place remaining ½ C flour on board or pastry cloth for kneading. (I let the KitchenAid do the kneading, so add 5 cups of flour at this point if you are going to do the same.)
- Turn out dough and knead until smooth and elastic. (If you are using the KitchenAid to knead, use the dough hook and knead for 10 minutes or so on low.) Place dough in greased bowl. Cover with cloth and let rise until double in bulk, ¾ – 1 hour.
- Divide dough into four even pieces. Roll each piece out into a rectangle, about 15″ x 20″. Brush rectangle with butter, then sprinkle evenly with sugar and cardamom (dividing the remaining 1½ teaspoons of cardamom between the four rectangles…it may be more than that). Roll the dough up so you end up with a 20″ long roll. Slice off pieces so you end up with 12 pieces per rolled rectangle. Place rolls in buttered muffin tins. Let rise until double in bulk, 30-40 mins. Brush with egg. Bake in moderately hot oven (400 degrees F) 12-15 minutes, until tops and bottoms are golden.
- Drizzle rolls with glaze (see below).
- 1¼ cups sifted powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Milk or half-and-half or light cream
- Whisk sugar and vanilla together. Stir in enough milk/half-and-half/light cream to make drizzling consistency (a little goes a long way!).
Thursday, March 10
Our neighbors are Swedish and they invited us over this past Tuesday night to enjoy some semlor (plural for semla), a cream-filled bun with almond paste. The pastry is a Fat Tuesday tradition in Sweden. Rebecca and David told us that people love the buns so much they start appearing as early as Christmastime and are enjoyed for months rather than just one day. Click here for a fun article about semla.
The semlor were scrumptious. Essentially it’s a cardamom bun with almond paste and cream. You slice off the top, scoop out the insides, mix it with almond paste and milk, then add it back to the bun. Top with whipped cream and some powdered sugar and you are ready to party it up Fat Tuesday style. Cate, like a true Kindergartener, barely touched hers. Which means I ate two. And only an unusual amount of will power kept me from finishing off Anna’s as well!
Rebecca and David did a great job making the buns and Rebecca kindly translated her recipe for me to share on the blog. My brain almost exploded converting the measurements, so I hope you appreciate all the hard work that went into this recipe. Translating, converting…Rebecca and I are ready for a nap! (Also, big thanks to Nate the scientist for making sure I kept my decimals in the right spots!)
I’m including Rebecca’s original measurements so that you can’t blame me if I got the conversions wrong. Which I’m pretty sure I got right. Remember, I didn’t even take one math class in college. But Nate helped, so we should be good.Swedish SemlaFrom Rebecca and David Montag, our great Swedish neighborsAuthor: Jane MaynardIngredients
- Buns (12-16 pcs):
- 75 grams of butter = 5.3 tablespoons butter
- 2.5 dl of milk = 1 cup milk
- 25 grams by weight soft yeast = 1 pkg dry active yeast (Rebecca used one envelope dry yeast, which was 7 grams)
- 1.5 ml salt = ⅓ teaspoon salt (so, a little more than ¼ tsp)
- 0.5 dl sugar = ¼ cup sugar
- 7.5 dl flour = 3 to 3¼ cup flour
- 5 ml ground cardamom = 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 beaten egg for “coating”
- Bun Filling:
- 300 grams almond paste = 1⅓ cup (Rebecca used half a tube of almond paste from Safeway, which was less than 300 grams)
- ~1 dl milk = ⅓ – ½ cup milk
- For serving:
- 3 dl of whipped cream = 1¼ cup whipped cream
- Powdered sugar for sprinkling on the finished product
- Melt the butter, add milk and heat to 37C / 98.6 F (optimal yeast temperature). Put the yeast in a bowl and add a little bit of the butter/milk mix to dissolve the yeast. Then add the rest of the mix, along with salt, sugar, cardamom and most of the flour (save some for making the buns). Work up a good dough that’s not too sticky. Let it rise under a towel for 40 minutes.
- Make 12-16 round buns and place them on a baking tray, which preferably has been covered with parchment paper. Cover them with a towel and let them rise for another 30 minutes.
- Set the oven heat for 225C / 437 F. Brush the buns with the egg. Bake the buns in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes. Let them cool off under a towel.
- To prepare for serving:
- Cut a lid off each bun, quite high up on the bun. The lid should only be a flat hat. Take out some of the insides of the buns and put them in a bowl. Crumble the almond paste into the bowl and work it together with the bread. Add milk until the mix is very moist and gooey. Put the filling in the cavity in the buns. Whip the cream and put a large scoop on each bun. Put the lids back on and sprinkle some powdered sugar on top. (Rebecca found this link so you can see a traditionally-made semla bun.)
- We asked Rebecca and David how to eat the semlor. They said many people have strong opinions about this and laughed. They like to eat the top and then just pick the bun up and bite right in, which worked well for us!
We asked Rebecca and David how to eat the semlor. They said many people have strong opinions about this and laughed. They like to eat the top and then just pick the bun up and bite right in, which worked well for us!