This weekend turned out to be a baking-filled weekend, all without my meaning to! I kicked it off with some blueberry muffins and had planned to make a batch of semlor for Martin.
Have you ever had semlor before? The first time I ever heard of it was not from my own Swedish husband, but from my Swedish teacher. March was nearing and she mentioned that it was now semlor time. Immediately, everyone in our class began raving about how wonderful semlor was. Later that night, I asked Martin about them. His eyes lit up and he became almost poetic about these almond-paste filled funs. It was the closest to infatuation I had ever seen stoic Martin get about food.
Fact (according to Wikipedia): Swedes eat an average of five of these suckers from a bakery. This does not include however many homemade ones they ate.
Another fact: Bears eat beets. Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.
This is probably the size of a “normal” semlor. It is a good 4 – 5″ across and packed full of cream and almond paste.
What’s a girl to do? Last year, I bought some at a Scandinavian bakery for Martin’s birthday. The buns, traditionally served the day before Lent and designed to fatten you up, was literally the size of two of my fists. I couldn’t finish mine but Martin happily finished it for me. Such a hardship for him. ;)
This year, I decided to make my own. Armed with several recipes (some of which were from his mom), I chose the one that made dainty, hand-sized buns. Filling-to-ratio, peeps. It’s all about the filling-to-ratio. Unfortunately, it’s also all about how I probably chose the least authentic recipe out there.
A few not-great things happened in the making of mine. Mistake #1, I seriously overbaked my buns. I think the issue was that my bread did not rise as much as it should have, so these buns are smaller than typical semlor (and small, period) but I didn’t realize that and didn’t change my cooking time to compensate for that. Rookie mistake.
After I’d baked the buns and made the cardamom cream came the realization that my particular recipe did not call for almond paste of any kind. Anywhere. It was a pretty tragic realization, as Martin is a huge fan of almond paste. Also, since this is a key semlor ingredient, it did not bode well that this recipe forgot it. Mistake #2 and #3 (major enough to count for two mistakes!).
I served them cream puff style the first night to lukewarm results. Mistake #4, I didn’t whip my whipped cream enough so the filing was runny rather than stiff.
So this morning, in an effort to salvage things, I bought some almond paste at the store. I scooped out the insides (a melon baller works great) and mashed them with a bit of the runny-cardamom-vanilla-cream and almond paste. I stuffed it all back inside and topped it with more whipped cream.
This was more like the semlor I remembered and I savored every bite. In the end, it’ll go back to a personal preference. I actually preferred these and even the harder bread to my only other semlor experience. The portion was half a bakery semlor but the perfect size for me. The harder bread held the almond paste mixture in well. I think Martin has childhood nostalgia on his side and holds strong preferences for what he grew up with. He still prefers a softer, bigger bun and the verdict is out on whether he likes the cardamom added to the dough (most recipes I’d seen, including his mom’s, do not include that but I rather liked it). We’ll see whose tastes prevail. :)