In the early days, when Sweden still was a Catholic country, people was supposed to fast for
40 days prior to Easter. This was preceded by a period (Shrovetide - fastlagen) when the
people ate lots of rich food, to be able to go through with the fast.
The last day before fast was Shrove Tuesday (fettisdagen), and originally, this day was the only
day of the year when people ate semlor. Until just a few years ago, most people ate semlor only
on the four Tuesdays leading up to Shrove Tuesday, but nowadays, we eat them from the beginning
of January until Easter...
What are semlor then? There's a photo of my homebaked semlor above. :-) The name
"semla" originates from the Latin word "simila",
which means fine wheat flour. They are big buns, divided into two and filled with whipped cream
and almond paste. Many people like to eat them in a bowl of hot milk, which is
the traditional way, while others (including me) prefer to eat them as they are.
Semlor are not originally Swedish. In old German writings, it is said that they are a Roman
invention. They probably arrived to Sweden during the 16'th century, and originally there was no
whipped cream; just the bread, almond paste and some spices. At first only rich people
ate them, since fine wheat flour was too expensive.
In the 18'th century, our king Adolf Fredrik died from eating too many hotwedges... Well, he ate
(and drank) a few other things too, like: meat, lobster, caviar, sauerkraut and lots of
I read somewhere that the average Swede eats four or five semlor each year. Before I moved to
Norway I used to eat a lot more than that! LOL
Below you find the recipe I used to bake the semlor on the photo. The recipe is good
for 12-14 semlor. Note that we use the metric system here. I used an online converter
and the values between the ( ) are American measurements. You bake at your own risk,
but mine turned out yummy so it should be OK. :-)
INGREDIENTS FOR THE BUNS:
* 50 g (1.8 oz) fresh yeast.
* 50 g (1.8 oz) butter or margarine.
* 3 dl (1.27 cup) milk.
* 1 dl / 100 g (0.42 cup / 3.53 oz) cheese curd.
* 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) salt.
* 1 dl (0.42 cup) sugar.
* 1 egg.
* 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) ammonium carbonate (Sal volatile).
* 9-10 dl (3.8-4.2 cups) wheat flour.
* 1 egg.
1. Take the yeast apart with your fingers and put it in a baking bowl.
2. Melt the butter/margarine. Add the milk and let it cool off until it's 37 C (98.6 F).
3. Pour the milk/butter over the yeast. Stir until the yeast has dissolved.
4. Add cheese curd, salt, sugar and one egg. Mix the ammonium carbonate with some flour
and stir it down.
5. Add most of the flour. Mix using an electric mixer (or by hand) until the dough starts to let go
of the bowl.
6. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes, or until it has doubled its
7. Turn the dough out on a well floured surface and knead in the rest of the flour. Make a roll
and divide in 12-14 pieces.
8. Shape the pieces of dough as round buns and put them on a greased (or use a
greaseproof paper) baking-sheet.
9. Cover with the towel and let them rest for another 30 minutes, or until they have doubled their
size. Beat the second egg and brush onto the buns for glazing.
10. Bake in the middle of the oven at 225 C (437 F) for about 8 minutes.
11. Cover with the towel again and let them cool off at a wire rack. (You can put the buns in the
freezer and fill them later.)
You can buy readymade almond paste, or create your own:
* Bread from the buns.
* ½ to 1 dl (0.21-0.42 cup) milk.
* 2.5 dl (1 cup) almonds.
* 60 ml (4 tablespoon) sugar.
* 3-4 dl (1.27-1.7 cup) whipping cream.
* Powder sugar.
1. Cut off the top of the buns. Use a spoon or a fork to make a hole in the lower part.
Put a third of the bread that you cut out in a bowl.
2. Boil the almonds briefly, until the skin is starting to loosen. Peel and grind them.
3. Warm the milk slightly. Pour some of it (start with just a little) over the bread from the
buns. Add the grinded almonds and the sugar. Dilute with milk and stir until you get a paste.
4. Put the paste in the buns. Whip the cream and put on top of the almond paste. Place
the upper part of the buns on top of the filling and decorate with some powder sugar.