Semlor (Swedish Lenten buns)

Cardamom buns with whipped cream and marzipan are a huge tradition in Sweden and other parts of Scandinavia. Traditionally associated with Shrove Tuesday, they are now enjoyed from January until Easter. You can freeze the unfilled buns, but once filled, they should be eaten on the same day. 

  • Preparation time: 45 minutes, plus proving and cooling
  • Cooking time: 20 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour 5 minutes, plus proving and cooling

Makes: 16

Ingredients

80g unsalted butter

250ml whole milk

13g dried active yeast

40g caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

400g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

½(half) tsp fine salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp freshly ground cardamom seeds

vegetable oil, for kneading and greasing

 

FILLING

200g golden marzipan

about 2 tbsp custard or whole milk

250ml whipping cream

1 tsp caster sugar

½(half) tsp vanilla extract

icing sugar, for dusting

Method

1. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan with the milk, heating until lukewarm (about 38˚C), then stir in the yeast until dissolved. Mix in the sugar and ½(half) the beaten egg (reserve the other half for glazing); transfer to a large bowl. Mix in the flour, salt, baking powder and ground cardamom until you have a smooth and slightly sticky dough.

2. Knead the dough on a lightly oiled work surface for 10 minutes (or 5 minutes in a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook). Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size – about 30-40 minutes.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead again for a 2-3 minutes. Divide and shape the dough into 12 uniform balls (about 65g each), then space well apart on a parchment-lined baking tray. Cover with oiled cling film. Leave to rise for another 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 200˚C, gas mark 6. Gently brush each bun with reserved beaten egg and bake for 10-15 minutes, until a rich brown colour and baked through; keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly. Remove from the oven and immediately cover with a clean, slightly damp tea towel to prevent the buns from forming a crust.

5. When the buns are completely cool, cut a ‘lid’ off each one (about 1.5cm from the top). Scoop out about 1/3(one-third) of the inside of each bun and tear into a bowl. Beat in the marzipan and custard (or milk) until very sticky and spoonable.

6. Spoon the filling back into the buns. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until just firm, then use a piping bag – fitted with a star nozzle if you have one – to pipe it into all the buns. Put the lids back on and dust lightly with icing sugar.