The semla

The Swedish semla

The semla! It’s difficult to have just one of these famous almond paste and cream filled buns! How do you say a semla in plural? In swedish it’s semlor. In english, I don’t know… Semmels? Semlas? I need to find out that, because semla is almost every time in plural for me!

Many cafes in Sweden sell a “normal” semla, and a mini version of it. The mini is if you think the normal is too big. When I bake, I always make them smaller. Then everyone can eat at least one instead of dividing one big in the middle. Most of the time my friends end up eating 2-3 semlas. A normal semla bun (the dough) will weigh around 60 grams. I have tried both 30 g and 45 g, and I like the 45 g best.

This recipe will give you around 18 normal size semlas. If you have a scale, you can weigh the buns when you are dividing the dough, or you can just divide the dough into 18 same size pieces. You will of course get twice as many semlas if you make 30g semlas instead.

I have tried many recipes but have always changed many things to get a perfect result. My recipe is mostly inspired from this recipe. The buns are perfect fluffy and soft, and the filling is easy but delicious. The dough requires some extra time, but it’s absolutely worth it.

By the way, if you don’t know, semla is only eaten January-February. The day to eat the semla is the Fat Tuesday (in February), but most cafes starts selling them in January. So swedes have a reason for looking forward to the winter. If you don’t live in Sweden, you can pretend that you don’t know this fact, and start baking them today, whatever month or day it is!

Want some other bun then the semla?

Don’t like cream or almond paste? Try the easy Swedish vanilla bun!

Recipe for delicious Swedish semla (Swedish semlor)

  • 300 g (about 5 dl) flour
  • 2.5 dl milk
  • 25 g fresh yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 200 g (about 3.4 dl) flour
  • 1 dl sugar
  • 1 tbsp grinded cardemom seeds
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 100 g salted butter, room temperature
  • 400 g almond paste
  • 50 g almonds, chopped
  • 1 tbsp vanilla sugar or 1 pinch of vanilla powder
  • 1 dl icing sugar (more for sweeter)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 dl milk (approx.)
  • Crumbs from the buns
  • 5 dl (approx.) whipping cream
  • Icing sugar

The dough:

Heat the milk to lukewarm. Crumble the yeast in a bowl and stir the milk in it. When the yeast is dissolved, add the rest of the ingredients to the pre-dough and let the kneading machine work for about 10 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave to rise for about 1 hour.

When you have a nice fluffy predough, add rest of the dough ingredients. You can use ground cardemom but I use whole seeds which I grind myself with a pestle and mortar. Knead for about 10 minutes and cover with plastic wrap again. Let rise for about 1-2 hours.

Making the buns:

Divide the dough into 18 pieces (approx. 60 g/piece) for normal size buns. Shape them then into round buns and place them on two baking sheets.  Leave to rise again for about 1 hour (lightly covered with palstic wrap).

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and bake the buns for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Let them cool. That will make the cutting of the lid easier. Cut triangular lids and dig out some of the crumbs. Save the crumbs for the filling. These will give you the perfect almond cream.

Mix all the ingredients for the filling (including crumbs). If you use a mixer for this, save the chopped almonds until the end. Dilute with more milk to get the desired consistency.

Fill the buns with the almond mixture. Whip the cream and pipe it out nicely on each bun. Put the lid on and sift a thin layer of icing sugar on it. Voila! You have made yourself the perfect semlas. Enjoy!

Variation ideas for this fika

Many swedes who don’t like almonds or almond paste fill the semla with other fillings. Nutella and vanilla custard cream are common, but you can try with other pastry creams you like. Some bakers also add some flavour to the whipped cream, like raspberry and blueberry. Goes well with the vanilla filling.

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