Shrove Tuesday, 'Fettisdagen' is on February 9 but semlor are already on the menu in several spots in New York.
Semlor or fastlagsbullar (or laskiaspulla in Finnish and fastelavnsbolle in Danish and Norwegian) are the names of the traditional pastry associated with Lent (especially Shrove Tuesday) in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia. It consists of a sweet, cardamom-spiced bun with its top cut off, the insides scooped out and then re-filled with the scooped-out bread crumbs, milk and almond paste (Finns sometimes fill it with raspberry jam rather than almond paste) and topped with whipped cream.
Historically, one ate the semla because it was permissible to eat bread during Lent but the good stuff (the filling) was not allowed and thus cleverly “hidden” in the hollow inside the bun.
These days “semlor” are available way before Lent, and there’s nothing to hide. In New York they are already available at FIKA - FIKA, NY and will appear at both Konditori - Konditori, NY and the Swedish Church - Svenska Kyrkan, NY around mid-February.
You can make your own, of course, and we found some new versions of this most loved pastry. Here’s a recipe for apple and Calvados filled semlor from alltommat.se
More on semlor and the traditional recipe: Fettisdagen, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday!
Miniature semlor with apple and Calvados filling:
(recipe yields 30 buns)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk
50 g fresh yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 oz sugar
1/2 teaspoon baker’s ammonia
2 cardamom seeds, crushed
4.2 cups flour
1 egg (for brushing)
5 cups of peeled and cubed apples, preferably sour apples
2 oz sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons Calvados
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar
Preheat oven to 475°F. Melt the butter, and add the milk and let cool until it reaches about 98°F (“fingervarmt”). Crumble the fresh yeast into a big bowl. Add the butter and milk liquid and stir until yeast is dissolved. Add salt, sugar and egg. In another bowl mix baker’s ammonia, cardamom and flour, and add that to the yeast/butter/milk mixture. Work until you have a smooth, shiny dough. Let rise under a tea towel for 30 minutes. Take out the dough and work it some more on the table. Shape into round buns (around 30). Put them on a sheeted baking pan, again cover with tea towels and let rise for 20 minutes. Brush the buns with the egg, and let bake in the middle of the oven for 8-10 minutes. Let the buns cool.
Make the filling: Peel, cut and cube the apples. Mix apples, sugar and lemon juice in a pot. Boil until you have a purée. Add the Calvados and boil another minute or two. Whip the heavy cream. Cut the top of the buns of the semlor. Put the filling in and add the whipped cream. Put the top back on the semla and powder it with confectioner’s sugar.