For a long time I’ve had a fascination with foreign baking traditions, the recipes that centre on religious or national holidays. Every country has their own and whilst there can be similarities across countries more often than not there is something new to discover. The fascination led me to write my last book Patisserie Made Simple but more than that it appears in all my work, I love the stories, the emotion behind them and the character it gives to the country they're from and I happily latch on these recipes and make the traditions my own.
Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Day, a Christian holiday to mark the start of lent. Around the world Tuesday is also known by different names: in Spanish and Italian speaking countries it is called Carnival, in Iceland it is known as Bursting Day but my absolute favourite is the Swedish name of Fat Tuesday. The best bit about Fat Tuesday, other than the name obviously, is the recipe that goes along with it, Semlor, a cardamon flavoured bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream. It sounds incredibly simple but the sum is so much more than its parts, I have a big soft spot for this recipe.
One of the reasons that I look forward to them every year is that they are a rare seasonal bake, there is absolutely no reason you cant bake them year round but despite that they only appear in bakeries for a few weeks or months around the holiday and as the saying goes, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Living in London we are lucky to have a few Swedish bakeries that sell them but generally I make them myself and they are no more difficult than making a simple bread recipe.
250g plain flour
250g strong white bread flour
1 tsp ground cardamon
50g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
50g unsalted butter, room temperature
300ml milk, lukewarm
7g dried yeast
1 large egg (plus 1 extra for glazing)
600ml double cream
To make the semlor preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
To make the dough place the flours, cardamon, sugar and salt into a large bowl and mix together to combine. Add the butter and rub into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk and the yeast to a jug and stir to combine. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the milk and egg, mix to form a shaggy dough then remove from the bowl and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a round, place into a bowl and cover with clingfilm. Set aside at room temperature for about an hour or until doubled in size. Remove the dough from the bowl and gently knock out the air. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and form into rounds. Place the rounds of dough onto the prepared baking trays and cover lightly with clingfilm. Set aside for about 45-60 minutes or until the buns have almost doubled in size.
When ready to bake brush each bun with the remaining egg and bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool fully before filling.
To make the filling slice the tops from the buns and scoop out the filling. Rip the bread into breadcrumbs and place into a bowl. Grate the marzipan into the bowl and add the milk, mixing together to form a paste. Divide the filling between the buns and set aside.
Place the cream into a large bowl and whisk until the cream holds soft peaks. Add the cream to a large piping bag fitted with a large star piping tip and pipe on top of each bun, finishing by placing the lids of the buns on top of the cream, dusting with a little icing sugar.
(ps. Semla - Singular, Semlor - Plural)