Fatten up with a Semla on Fat Tuesday!

Well my friends, once again, it is Mardi Gras, Fettisdagen, or Fat Tuesday – whichever moniker you prefer! Back in the day, that meant that this was the last day of Shrovetide, and your last chance to gorge yourself on various protein rich delicacies in anticipation of Lent – a 40-day stretch of fasting. I think it’s fair to say that we’ve grown a little soft in our resolve since then, but Fat Tuesday is still a great time for young and old to pig out.

For the sake of showing scale, photo borrowed from Nordiska Museet's website.

For the sake of showing scale, photo borrowed from Nordiska Museet’s website.

In Sweden, the treat of choice on this special day is the Semla – a marvelous kardamom wheat bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream – often served swimming in warmed milk. Sooo yummy! The name Semla is derived from the Latin word for fine wheat flour – simila. Cooks might also recognize ‘semolina’ in there as the finest of all the wheat varieties. These buns were far different from coarser fare of rye and barley. This kind of fine, expensive flour – where available – was reserved only for celebrations and holidays, and certainly more common in society’s upper echelons than in the humble kitchens of farming culture.

While the roots of the bun consuming tradition reaches far into antiquity, the Semla is said to have arrived in Sweden via Germany. The 18th century Germans enjoyed buns filled with almond paste, which were served in a bowl with warm milk. They called the buns “Heisse Wecke” which translates to “hot wedges”. The wedge lives on in the modern interpretation of these buns, as the shape of the bun’s “lid” is often in the form of a wedge covered in powdered sugar.

The unfortunate king who reportedly died from eating a Heisse Wecke.

The unfortunate king who reportedly died from eating a Heisse Wecke.

On February 12, 1771, the Swedish king Adolf Fredrik collapsed after a massive meal of nearly Roman proportions. Later, he was said to have died from eating too many semlor. In reality he suffered either a stroke or cardiac arrest, but no matter – it gave the Semla a bad rep, and a contemporary poet by the name of Johan Gabriel Oxenstierna indignantly suggested it be banned, since it had indeed caused the death of a king. However, the love for these delectable buns remained. By the early 1900’s, they were made with the white flour, the almond paste and the whipped cream we recognize to this day.

 

They are pretty easy to make. For the dough, use the same recipe as for Swedish Cinnamon Rolls. Instead of twisting the dough into knots, simply roll the dough into 2.5” rolls. Easy-peasy…

Cut a wedge out of the top of the roll. Scrape out as much of the interior as you can, without puncturing the wall.

Cut a wedge out of the top of the roll. Scrape out as much of the interior as you can with a fork, without puncturing the wall. Collect the scrapings in a bowl.

Whip some cream.

Whip some cream.

Mix the scrapings with shavings of almond paste and a little milk (or cream) to soften it up.

Mix the scrapings with shavings of almond paste and a little of the whipped cream to soften it up.

Fill the hollowed-out buns with the mixture.

Fill the hollowed-out buns with the mixture.

Top with whipped cream, and plunk the wedge back on top. Use a tea strainer to coat the buns in powdered sugar. If you are feeling ambitious, by all means use a spritzer to apply the cream. I'm usually too lazy, but it truly looks much better. Tastes the same, though...

Top with whipped cream, and plunk the wedge back on top. Use a tea strainer to coat the buns in powdered sugar. If you are feeling ambitious, by all means use a cake decorating tube to apply the cream. I’m usually too lazy, but it truly looks much more professional. Tastes the same, though…

There! You’re done! Heat up some milk, and serve in a bowl with a spoon. Or, eating it like the little girl in the picture is fine too, if you prefer it that way. Either way, it’s yummy. Enjoy!

Advertisements

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
This entry was posted in Culture, Food and Drink Recipes, Scandinavia and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Fatten up with a Semla on Fat Tuesday!

  1. Alison says:

    Oh My! Fatten up is right! These look delectable. It’s interesting how so many Christian cultures each have their own Shrove Tuesday treat.

    • annamadeit says:

      Yeah, no wonder Adolf Fredrik caved under the calorie load. He reportedly LOVED these, and ate them with abandon and gusto! And I can see why… They are really, really good!

  2. linda says:

    So much fattier and yummy than the pancake day in the Uk !

  3. banner6 says:

    I’m not much of a baker, but these look well worth the effort.

    • annamadeit says:

      You’ll probably find that they are pretty easy. 🙂 I usually make the dough the night before, so it has time to rise properly. After you roll them, they will have to sit again for a couple of hours before you bake them, so having that first step out of the way is nice. Good luck!

  4. Heather says:

    Oh, these look wonderful. And I think simmered milk is one of the best fragrances ever.

  5. Pingback: Whippings, weather and witches – and other superstitions relating to Swedish Easter traditions. | The Creative Flux

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s