Traditional Nordic cardamom buns filled with almond paste and cream (Semla)
Semla, fastlagsbulle or vastlakukkel - this delicious cardamom- spiced bun has many names and has its roots in the Nordic countries and is traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, although it can be found in most bakeries from just after Christmas until Easter. It is traditionally filled with a marzipan paste filling, however this home made almond paste, without refined sugar, is equally delicious and super easy to make. Other alternatives for filling include custard or a compote of berries.
Dough (this recipe will make around 18 buns)
125 g butter (I normally use salted)
320 ml cups milk (use either whole milk or plant based option of choice)
50 g of fresh yeast (or 12 g dried)
2 tbsp cardamom seeds (crush with pestle and mortar- do try and get seeds to crush as it makes a big difference compared to using ground cardamom)
1/2 tsp sea salt
80 ml golden caster sugar
Approximately 5 cups of strong bread flour
125 g blanched almonds
100 g pitted dates
1 tbsp maple syrup
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cardamom (alternative)
Milk or cream of choice to create a smooth texture (approx 3-4 tbsp)
250 ml cream of choice (whipped)
Melt butter and add milk and warm until luke warm (37 degrees).
In a big bowl add the yeast and around one third of the milk and butter mixture and let the yeast dissolve. Leave for a couple of minutes.
Add the rest of the milk and butter mixture as well as cardamom, sugar and salt and mix until combined.
Add the flour in stages and either work by hand for around 10-15 minutes until the dough is easy to handle and smooth (it should still be a little loose but manageable) or work the dough in a machine for around 10 minutes until it comes together. Leave to prove covered for around 1 h.
Once proved, flip the dough out onto your kitchen bench and add a little flour if needed. Cut the dough into 18 equally sized pieces and roll and shape them to smooth buns. Leave to prove on baking trays for around half an hour. Brush the buns with whisked egg and bake in the middle of the oven on 200 degrees (fan) for around 7 minutes or until golden brown (do watch them as they they can burn easily).
Leave to cool.
In a food processor blend almonds, dates and maple syrup and a pinch of sea salt and cardamom (if using) until smooth. Add milk of choice to create a smooth texture (you don’t want it to be runny but smooth)
Once buns are cooled, cut off the top third of the bun like a lid. Take out some of the inside of the bun and add around 1 tbsp of the almond filling and top with whipped cream.
Add the lid and sprinkle with powdered sugar, or eat just as they are.
A couple of tips:
It may not be every day that you need 18 of these filled buns- so one thing I like to do is to make a whole batch of the buns and freeze the ones I don’t need as soon as cooled to be used later.
Alternatively, I use half of the dough and make buns and use the second half to roll out and spread the leftover almond paste filling on top, add some additional butter and cinnamon and make cinnamon buns (pictured in the background). Before baking these, it is nice to brush with whisked egg and add some flaked almonds.