Semlor Buns

Pancake Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday. Call it what you will- it’s an annual day with it’s roots in guilt-free indulgence before the long Lenten period of abstinence prior to the Easter celebration of faith. Having grown up in Ireland it usually meant pancakes. Stacks of pan-fried, chewy batter usually soaked in cheek-puckering amounts of Jif lemon juice and liberally sprinkled with caster sugar.

Times change and I guess so do tastes. Piles of pancakes no longer ignite childhood delight. So this year I decided to try something different and was not disappointed! Hailing from Nordic regions the “Semla bun” (Semlor pl) is a spiced bread bun, predominantly filled with an unctuous almond paste, topped with whipped cream, and dusted with a snowy layer of icing sugar (because you can never have too much decadence on Fat Tuesday!)

As with the etymology of  so many pastries and breads there are numerous versions and methods out there depending on how deep you dig. I went with the classic, and probably best known, Swedish version with some slight tweaks. The dough I use is my “go-to” enriched dough with the addition of the required ground cardamom. The inclusion of this spice not only gives the dough a depth to it’s sweet taste, but also a heady fragrance which whafts of indulgence.

The finished and filled buns are exceptional when eaten fresh and on the day. Should the need arise they can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days. But some words of caution here – the longer they are kept in the fridge the drier and tougher the buns will become. If you do this they’re best removed from the fridge about an hour before eating so they are allowed to come to their ideal serving at room temperature. Guess this means all the more reason to eat them all in one go?

Makes 12

Ingredients

Buns

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup tepid water
  • 4 cups strong bread flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg, beaten for bun wash

Filling

  • Crumbs from bun centres
  • 3 1/2oz marzipan, cooled to fridge temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Finish

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar to dust

Method

  1. Heat the butter and milk together in a pan until until butter is melted. Remove from heat add vanilla extract and leave to cool, stirring occasionally
  2. Combine yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in a jug. Add tepid water, mix and leave to active for 10mins until frothy
  3. In a bowl of stand mixer combine flour, salt, cardamom, cinnamon and whisk together to combine
  4. To the flour mixture addd cooled milk mixture, yeast mixture and egg
  5. Set on low to combine the ingredients. Once combined continue to form a dough and knead in mixer for 6 mins on low, or knead  by hand for 10 mins
  6. Remove from stand mixer bowl and place in an oiled bowl to proof for 45-1hr until doubled in size
  7. Remove from bowl and on an oiled surface punch down and knock air back. Divide dough batch into 12 equal pieces and roll into balls
  8. Set equally and well spaced on a lined baking sheet and allow to second proof for 30-45mins
  9. Preheat oven to 400
  10. Brush the proofed buns with egg wash and bake in oven for 10-12mins until golden
  11. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack
  12. When buns have completely cooled, use a sharp serrated knife and cut the tops from them (about 1/2 inch from top). Set aside for later
  13. Remove the insides from the buns whilst leaving the outer shell intact and place crumb filling into a bowl
  14. Grate in cooled marzipan and add milk and cream. Mash/ stir until a paste is formed. Depending on the amount of crumb filling used from the buns, you may need slightly more liquid- what you want is a thick, spoonable paste
  15. Divide and spoon the marzipan crumb paste into each of the buns
  16. Set aside when each of the buns has been filled
  17. In a bowl add the vanilla extract to the whipping cream and whip until stiff peak stage
  18. Fit a piping bag with a star tip nozzle, fill with the whipped cream and pipe in a circular motion to cover over the filled bun holes
  19. Top with the saved bun lids from earlier
  20. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy!

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