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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Swedish Semla

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 Semla
From Rebecca and David Montag, our great Swedish neighbors
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. To prepare for serving:
  5. 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.)
  6. 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!


  1. 1

    These look absolutely delicious!! I will definitely be trying these sometime. Also, love the touch with the IKEA napkins. 😉

  2. 2

    Heja Sverige!

  3. 3

    Yay Semlor! I’m also Swedish, even though I currently live in Iceland. I wrote a blog post two days ago with a recipe for vegan semlor, I loooooove it.

  4. 4

    So happy to see this! I’ve never made semlor, though my roots are part-Swedish; but I have the family recipe for the cardamom dough (we use it to make braided loaves, sprinkled with pearl sugar, at Christmastime). Now I have another great use for that recipe, and an excuse to make it at a different time of year!

  5. There’s a Polish dish similar to this, but not as yummy. Of course.

  6. OH YUM!! My hubby’s family is all Swedish….I think I’ll gain some major points if I whip these up! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Those are such cute little tasty noms – yummy!
    Well done on the hard work of doing the conversions – well worth it.
    🙂 Mandy

  8. 8

    I LOVE those! My mom is Swedish, and though I went to Svenska Skolan (Swedish school) on Saturdays in my early teens, I don’t really speak the language. Darn … hard to learn when you’re twelve and little five year olds are running around and speak it fluently 😉

    But we did make these at Svenska Skolan, and I just loved, loved how they tasted 🙂 That and Pepparkakor (basically gingerbread cookies, but better)

  9. 9

    I split my time between Vancouver (where I’m finishing my degree) and Stockholm (where my husband is working and our home is) and I LOVE semla! On my most recent trip back from Stockholm I picked up a copy of Sju Sorters Kakor (seven kinds of cakes), which is a classic Swedish baking book, I think over 100 years old. There are some great recipes I can’t wait to try out, including semla!

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