Even though Fat Tuesday is technically a religious holiday (last day before the Lenten season starts), it’s just a great holiday in general. The idea for the holiday is that you get everything out of your system (sinning?) before Lent starts. Also, in terms of food, this has meant that families used up all of their cream, butter, sugar, flour, etc., before the beginning of the season of fasting and prayer. I was raised Roman Catholic, but with a more modern twist. This meant that we didn’t eat meat on Fridays and Fridays in general were more solemn days. We weren’t allowed to go out with friends on Good Friday in particular. My grandparents were raised in Poland in a more strict Catholic environment, so for them, Lent meant no eating meat for the entire 40 days and 40 nights. My grandma says she remembers they would race home on Easter Sunday, after mass, to a pot of boiled pork soup that basically had every pork part imaginable in it. They ate it with a loaf of bread and tons of butter.
Being the awesome and weird modern-timers we are, we have forgotten most of the strict parts of lent and just held on to awesome things, such as celebrating Fat Tuesday… and Fish-Fry Fridays. Fat Tuesday is a cool time to eat donuts (Paczki, if you’re Polish), jambalaya, beignets, gumbo, etc. I try NOT to go to the gym on Fat Tuesday. I try TO eat anything and everything I want and celebrate every damn thing I can. Those are my general rules.
So, semlor (singular: ‘semla’) are these awesome Swedish pastries that I happened upon three years ago on Fat Tuesday. I wanted to make something different than the Polish donuts I love to death. And this is what I found. Instant hit and love. They are cardamom-scented sweet buns, filled with – traditionally – almond paste and sweetened whipped cream. That is how I made them the first few times, but when I made them last week for a Valentine’s Day market, I decided to Valentine-ize them. I added pulverized freeze-dried raspberries to the sweetened whipped cream and ditched the almond paste. The result: very awesome.
If you make the buns tonight, you can fill them with the whipped cream tomorrow morning, in enough time to get in your sweets-sinning and share with your friends and coworkers. It’s a good idea, trust me.
- 2-1/2 c milk
- 10 Tbsp butter, melted
- 1/2 c sugar
- 6-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 eggs
- 7 c all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 c heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 c powdered sugar
- 1 c freeze-dried strawberries, ground into a powder right before using
- Heat the milk to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and add the melted butter and sugar. Sprinkle in the yeast and mix to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add in eggs, salt, cardamom, and flour. Mix with a wooden spoon to combine. Add more flour if the dough seems too wet. Knead on the counter for about five minutes to make a smooth, round piece of dough. Place in a greased bowl, covered, for 30-60 minutes to rise in a warm place - or until doubled in size.
- Portion into 24 equal pieces and roll into nice round pieces. Place on greased cookie sheets and cover with a towel. Place in a warm spot to rise for about 20 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush the rolls with an egg wash (whisk together one egg, one yolk, pinch of salt) and bake both pans for about 25 minutes, rotating halfway through.
- Once golden brown, remove from oven and let cool. Cut the tops off each bun and scoop out some of the bread inside.
- Whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Add in the finely ground raspberry powder and whisk again to combine and to reach semi-firm peaks. Place cream in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe into each hollowed bun. Put hats back on and sprinkle with powdered sugar.