A semla (pl. semlor), or fastlagsbulle, is a traditional sweet roll made in various forms in Scandinavia and the Baltic. The oldest version of semla was a plain bread bun served in a bowl of warm milk. In Swedish this is known as hetvägg. Today, the Swedish-Finnish semla consists of a cardamom-spiced wheat bun which has its top cut off and insides scooped out, and is then filled with a mix of the scooped-out bread crumbs, milk and almond paste, topped with whipped cream. The cut-off top serves as a lid and is dusted with powdered sugar. Today it is often eaten on its own, with coffee or tea. Some people still eat it in a bowl of hot milk. In Finland, the bun is sometimes filled with raspberry jam instead of almond paste, and bakeries in Finland usually offer both versions. (Many bakeries distinguish between the two by decorating the traditional bun with almonds on top, whereas the jam-filled version has powdered sugar on top). In Finland-Swedish, semla means a plain wheat bun, used for bread and butter, and not a sweet bun.
Semla Recipe courtesy of MySwedishRoots.com
|5 Tbs butter||7oz. almond paste|
|1 cup milk||1/3 cup milk|
|3 pkgs dried activated yeast||whipping cream|
|3 Tbs sugar||Powdered sugar|
|1 egg, beaten||Milk for serving, optional|
|1/4 tsp salt|
|3 cup flour|
|Glaze: 1 egg white, beaten|
Melt butter in a small saucepan, add the milk and let cool until 97 degrees Fahrenheit. The mixture should be feel warm but not hot. If the liquid is too hot, it will kill the yeast. Pour the butter and milk mixture into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top, along with about a teaspoon of sugar. Let stand for 5 mins. in a warm spot.
When yeast has formed little bubbles in the liquid, add the rest of the sugar, one egg, salt, and flour. Mix well with a fork. Knead dough on a floured surface for a few minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in a bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise for about 30 minutes.
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Divide dough into two parts. Divide each part into about 5 smaller pieces and roll into balls that are a little smaller than a tennis ball. Place these balls of dough on a greased baking sheet, cover with a cloth, and let rise in a warm for about 20 minutes. Brush top of each bun with the beaten egg. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 375 until buns are a light golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and let cool on a rack.
When cool, cut a small slice off the top of each bun and set aside. Using a fork, scrape out the center of each bun and put in a bowl. Add the almond paste the milk, a tablespoon or two at a time, stirring until smooth. Spoon paste back into the buns. Whip cream until stiff. Spoon or pipe the whipped cream on top of the filling. Place lids back on each bun and sprinkle the top of the bun with powdered sugar. Semlor can be served at room temperature on a plate or, more traditionally, in a bowl with hot milk.