A Scandinavian Tradition: Semlor Lenten Buns

How often during your busy workday do you take a break (besides lunch)? For Swedes, the time-honoured ritual of fika—translating to something like “coffee break”—remains strong. Once to twice a day, the Swedes step away from their work to sip a coffee, nibble a pastry, and socialize with their colleagues.

As it is Easter, I’ve made Semlor, delicious Swedish sweet cardamom buns with whipped cream and marzipan for the weekend fika. They are a seasonal treat originally designed to be eaten at the start of Lent as a last indulgence before Lenten abstinence.

However, I believe at some point Lenten abstinence was discouraged as religious practices shifted, and they are now enjoyed in the period between New Year and Easter these days, much like the Hot Cross Bun. And, like the Hot Cross Bun, people in Sweden bemoan how early the Semlor arrives in their bakeries each year, as we in the UK grumble at the sight of Hot Cross Buns and Easter themed chocolate goodies in our supermarkets on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas day).

My favourite recipe for Swedish Semlor? I’ve tried several different recipes by now, but I keep coming back to this one from Waitrose. I can’t stress enough the importance of using freshly ground cardamom for these, so do buy cardamom pods and grind by yourself.

These are best served the same day they are made but if you have leftovers, you can eat them in a bowl with hot milk. in Sweden they call this ‘hetvägg’. You can also freeze the buns as soon as they have cooled and fill them later on.

I have to say I was very pleased with their appearance and, even more, with their taste. The buns had a wonderful soft and fluffy texture, gently warmed by the addition of cardamom. Inside, the almond paste added more flavour and texture to each bite. As for the cream, it completed the ensemble.

At the moment it is still not done to bake them after Easter! So, enjoy this Easter weekend!!
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