A month ago, I was driving to work one early morning when I received an SMS from Joanna. She had just queued at Ikea for this Swedish bun and she was having this over the moon satisfaction after eating it. Having lived in Sweden for a while, she really misses this bun big time. I called her and we had a good fifteen minute conversation about Semla, a cardamon spiced bread that has a creamy almond filling and whipped cream topping. I was so entralled by her description of it that I wished I was driving to Ikea and not to work. I have never visited Sweden before, must less heard of this bun and good ole Jo aroused enough curiosity in me to do some googling.
The Semla, originated in Sweden as far back as the 16th Century and it is usually eaten on the last day before Easter fasting starts. As the fasting could last as long as 40 days, the Swedes would indulged in a super rich feast which is topped off with the Semla.
I managed to google for the recipe which looks easy enough. However, not having seen nor tasted the real thing, I really did not know what to expect. I then made a trip to Ikea, where this special treat is sold at their restaurant for a limited period. The bun cost S$3.50 each. Pricey I would say. The bun was light and fluffy. The cardamon nuance was not overpowering and the almond fillings was smooth and creamy. My only grouse is that they are stingy with the fillings. It would have tasted better, in my opinion, if there were more of the fragrant almond paste.
So having tasted the real McCoy, I attempted the Semla today.
A triangular piece is cut off the top of the bun and the insides hollowed out to be filled with the almond paste. The lid is replaced on a ring of whipped cream and then dusted with snow sugar.
A cut-up viewed of the Semla
The Semla fillings, made with ground almonds, sugar, thickend cream and mashed potatoes.
Oh, if you are wondering why the Semla is a King Killer, it was said that on 12 February, 1771, Swedish King Adolf Frederick, had consumed a huge feast of seafood and champangne. After that, he had topped off the meal with 14 servings of Semla as this was his favorite dessert. He later died of stroke that day. What a way to go!
For those interested to try this, here is the recipe:
1 cup milk
11gms instant yeast
Pinch of salt
380gms plain flour
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 egg, beaten (for glazing)
Whipped cream for decoration
Icing sugar or snow sugar for dusting
200gms ground almonds
55gms icing sugar
100gms fine sugar
250gms mashed potatoes (use the fluffly Russet Burbanks)
2 tbsp coffee creamer powder
120 – 150ml cream
1 tsp almond essence
1) Melt butter in a small saucepan, add milk and heat till lukewarm.
2) Mix a small amount of the milk mixture with the yeast into a paste before mixing it well with the balance of the milk.
3) Remove approx 2 tbsp of the flour to be used for dusting the table and add the balance flour to the yeast-milk mixture.
4) Knead dough will smooth and shiny. Form into a ball and proof in a covered bowl for 40 minutes.
5) Punch down and shape into 50gm ball and place on baking tray to proof for a further 30 minutes.
6) Glaze with beaten egg and bake in a preheated oven at 250degC for 10 minutes.
7)Leave to cool on a rack.
1) Combine all ingredients for fillings together.
To Serve the Semla:
1) Just before eating, cut a triangular flap from the top of the bread. Hollow out the bread.
2) Fill with the almond fillings.
3) Pipe a ring of whipped cream around the hole.
4)Replace with the lid and dust with icing sugar.
a) You may wish to halve the ingredients for the fillings as this recipe yields quite a big portion.
b) The bread recipe is the actual one which I goOgled online. I found that it hardens substantially by the next morning and was not as fluffly. I would suggest you just use your own favorite soft (sweet) bread recipe but add a some ground cardamom to it.
c) I use canned Nestle sterilized cream for this. The amount of cream used would depend on how ‘wet’ your mashed potato is.