Semlor – Swedish Lent buns

Traditional Swedish Lent buns called Semlor

Next week we will be celebrating Fasching here in Germany, but you might call it Mardi Grass, or Carnival. The day is traditionally one of indulgence and different countries have different foods that they make to celebrate with. In the UK for example, pancakes will be in the menu. In Berlin, there will be a type of jam-filled donut called Pfannkuchen. And in Sweden people will feast on semlor.

Semlor are sweet yeast buns that smell beautifully of cardamom. They are filled with a simple almond paste and some cream, then finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar. Simple and elegant, these buns look like they could be part of an afternoon tea as well as being a nice addition to a late winter Sunday morning brunch. But first and foremost, they are Sweden’s Fat Tuesday treat. I suggest that you immerse yourself in some Scandinavian baking this week and make these your pre-Lent treat.

Next week I’ll be working on Valentine’s Day recipes. If the sky was the limit, what would you want your loved one to bake for you?

Simply Swedish Semlor

 Semlor – Swedish Lent buns

(makes 8)

Ingredients:

125ml milk

50g butter

1 tsp instant yeast

pinch of salt

20g sugar

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 egg yolk

225g flour

plus: 1 egg, whisked, for glazing

For the filling:

50g ground almonds

50g powdered sugar

2 tbsp water

100 ml whipping cream

plus: icing sugar for dusting

Method:

  1. Heat the milk and the butter in a saucepan on medium heat until the butter is melted. Do not let the mixture boil. Set aside and let cool for about 5 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and cardamom. Let it mix for a couple of seconds.
  3. Pour the milk mixture in the middle of the bowl and mix for a couple of seconds. Then add the egg yolk. Mix the dough for about 10-15 minutes. The dough will be slightly wet and feel sticky.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Let it rise for about 2 hours or until the dough has double in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  6. Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into 8 equal parts. Shape them into balls and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Then place a damp tea towel over the dough balls and let them rise for another 30-45 minutes.
  7. Remove the towel and brush the balls with the whisked egg. Then place the baking tray in the middle of the oven and bake for a total of 10-13 minutes, turning the baking tray half a turn after 6 minutes to ensure even browning. The semlor should be a light golden brown.
  8. Take the tray out of the oven and place to one side. Cover the semlor with the damp tea towel while the buns cool.
  9. Now, make the almond paste by mixing the ground almonds, powdered sugar and 2 tbsp of water in a bowl.
  10. Once the semlor are cooled, carefully slice off the top and scoop out the center. Put the crumbs in a bowl and add to that the almond paste and 2 tbsp of the cream. Mix it all together.
  11. Fill the semlor with 1-2 tsp of the almond paste mix.
  12. Whip the rest of the cream until stiff and scoop or pipe it on top of the almond paste mix. Then put the “lid” of the bun on top of the cream.
  13. Dust with some icing sugar to finish them off.

ENJOY!!

Selmor - Swedish Lent buns

Traditional Swedish saffron buns

It’s the second week of my Christmas countdown. Did you have a go at last week’s Sinterklaas treat? How did you find it?

This week we’re leaving the Belgian traditions behind us and heading north to Sweden. St. Lucia is the beautiful celebration of light in the winter darkness. Kids dress up as Lucia in a white long dress and wear a wreath with candles on their head. Others choose to dress up as a gingerbread man, a small Santa or a star boy. This is will give a better idea of how it goes.

Saffron gives these St Lucia buns their golden colour

No Lucia celebration is complete without Lussebullar or Saffron buns. Saffron isn’t cheap but for this special occasion really worth the expense. Its colour is bold and bright and I find it smells divine. Last year I made this lovely golden loaf for Lucia but this year I wanted to keep things really traditional. The kids absolutely love them and for P. it’s pure nostalgia. These saffron buns also freeze really well so go ahead and make a big batch. They are perfect when coming in from the snow, perfect to munch on while watching a classic Christmas movie or have them for breakfast on boxing day (26th December). Either way, I think you should submerge yourself in a little, golden Swedish saffron tradition. Have I convinced you?

Swedish saffron buns

 

Traditional Swedish saffron buns (Lussebullar)

makes 15 buns

Ingredients:

7g dry yeast

80g butter

250ml milk

0,5g saffron (yes, it is a lot of threads)

1/2 tsp salt

85g sugar

400g flour

for glazing: 1 egg

for decorating: raisins

Method:

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Then add the milk and heat up to about 37 degrees C. Your finger should neither feel hot or cold when you put it in the mixture.

2. Put the yeast in a bowl and pour the sugar over it. Then add the salt on top of the sugar. Add the saffron threads and then the warm butter-milk mixture. Mix it on a low speed if using a stand or handheld mixer. You can also just use a whisk. Mix until the sugar, salt and yeast has dissolved and the saffron is giving off its yellow colour.

3. Add most of the flour, leaving several tbsp to one side. Let the machine knead the mixture (or use your hands) and check after 5 minutes. If the mixture is too wet, add a tbsp of flour. Continue to knead and check. I used nearly all the 400g of flour.

4. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky and comes away from the mixer bowl.

5. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let it rise until double in size (approx. an hour).

6. Knead the dough again for several minutes then divide it into 15 equal bits.

7. Roll out the dough bits into sausages about 20cm long and the shape them into an “S” making sure the tops are really curled in, like a snail’s house.

8. Put the buns on a baking tray lined with baking paper and then cover with clingfilm and let double in size.

9. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Whisk the egg and brush the buns with the egg wash. Put a raisin in the middle of each “snail-house” and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Enjoy!

Christmas time in Sweden-Lussebullar or Saffron buns

Swedish cinnamon buns

Edited 27.11.2015: I’ve edited this recipe to get a better, lighter and softer bun. They will expand more in the oven and give a thicker, fluffier result. 

Small but sweet, these Swedish style cinnamon buns are just rightIs it Friday already? This week has flown by. It’s as if I blinked for a second and BAM, that was it. Do you ever get that feeling? The last 5 days have been a muddle of appointments, errands, deadlines and decisions. I think my brain is ready for the weekend.

My nearly four year old daughter started swimming lessons this week together with 5 other kids from her Kita group. They get picked up at the Kita in the morning and dropped off after the lesson. It’s a big step for us because apart from paying the fee we as parents are not involved at all. There is of course help at hand, but the kids pretty much get ready themselves and go on to have a class. Afterwards, they get dressed by themselves and then the driver brings them back to the Kita. She was excited and I was so proud.

Did I mention I am getting married in 3 weeks? There is ribbon and card all over my dining room table. I still need to decide what our son is going to wear and I need to find a big enough umbrella in case it rains. And then there’s the last RSVP’s I need to chase and well, I’m looking forward to letting my hair down (…or up?) in exactly 21 days.

I won’t bore you with the fact that its the start of a new month and therefore I need to do our company’s taxes etc. so let’s just take a moment. Let’s sit down for 10 minutes. Let’s breathe. Let’s have a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun and contemplate what fun things we will be doing over the weekend. I’m having a girls’ night tomorrow. What are your plans?

Swedish style cinnamon buns are perfect with a good cup of coffee

Swedish cinnamon buns – Edited

makes 15-20 depending on size

Ingredients

200-225g flour

125ml milk

20g butter

10g fresh yeast

30g sugar

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 tsp salt

for the filling:

20g butter, melted

3/4 tsp cinnamon

25g sugar

Method:

1. Melt 20g of butter in a saucepan over low heat and then add the milk. Heat the mixture to lukewarm (about 37 degrees C). Take it off the heat and add the sugar, salt and cardamom.

2. Put the 200g of flour in the bowl of a standmixer. Use the dough hook. Start the machine and slowly add the liquid mixture.

3. Let the machine kneed the dough for about 10-15 minutes. The dough will be sticky to start with. If after 10 minutes it is still very sticky, add a tbsp of flour and let it knead for another 5 minutes. Once the dough is soft and comes away from the bowl, stop the kneading. It will still be a wet but shouldn’t stick to your hands. Then cover the bowl with clingfilm and let it rise to twice its size (about 45-60 minutes).

4. Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C.

5. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Roll it into a long rectangle.

6. In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon and sugar.

7. Brush the dough with the melted butter and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top.

8. Roll up the dough as if it was a carpet. You need to roll along the long side so you get a long and narrow roll.

9. Cut the roll into slices 3-4 cm thick. Place them cut side down (so you see the cinnamon swirl) on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

10. Cover with clingfilm and let rise and thicken for about 30 minutes.

11. Bake for 5-8 minutes until golden and then let them cool on a wire rack.

ENJOY!

Have these Swedish cinnamon buns for breakfast or with your afternoon coffee.

Swedish sticky chocolate cake – Kladdkaka

kladdkaka with cream and blueberries

In Sweden, where P. is from, there is this tradition that on Saturday everyone goes to the supermarket and fills a big bag full of sweets from the huge pick and mix stand. When you get home, you can keep your lördagsgodis (Saturday sweets) in the bag or put them in a large bowl and munch away all weekend long. This mix of bonbons, chocolates, fudges, caramels and more is a colourful display.

Sometimes, I think our little family is a bit like that bowl of mixed colours and flavours. P. is Swedish, I am from Belgium, the kids were born in Northern Ireland and we chose to settle in Germany. Berlin is our home and we plan to stay here. But how do you answer the question: Where are you from? In my case, I answer by saying that I am from Belgium but live in Germany. P. answers the same way. But what about our kids? They are not from Belgium. They are not from Sweden. They are essentially from Germany.

Blueberries on black background

I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately. How will our kids deal with all of this? What sort of questions will they ask when they are older? What nationality will they take when they turn 18 and have to choose? How will they give Belgium, Sweden and Northern Ireland a place in their life? In their being? Who will they be and how will they define themselves?

Whatever the answers, we will give them the freedom to search and find their way. Their roots might be growing in German soil, but their heritage, their seeds of life, that has come from 3 beautiful and inspiring places.

P. and I wil make sure they know about their heritage. And part of this heritage for me personally is food. And not just the national dishes, but the simple tomato soup Oma (grandmother in Belgium) makes or the lobster thermidor Farfar (grandfather in Sweden) cooks on special occasions.

This week’s recipe is a Swedish sticky (Kladd) cake (kaka). It’s easy and requires just 1 bowl and something to mix the batter with. I bet you my nearly 4 year old could do this. So let the lesson “this is your heritage” begin…

kladdkaka with bowl of cream and bowl of blueberries

 Swedish sticky chocolate cake – Kladdkaka

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 eggs

270g sugar

60g flour

1 tsp vanilla sugar

2 heaped tbsp unsweetened cocoa

100g melted butter

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Grease and flour a round springform tin (important!).

2. In a bowl, use a handmixer or whisk to mix all the ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.

3. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for  30 minutes.

4. Let the cake cool in the tin.

5. When ready to serve, remove the springform side. Do not attempt to remove the cake from the bottom of the tin, it is too sticky and fudge-like. Use a cake cutter (preferably one that won’t scratch your tin) to cut and scrape/lift a piece of the cake. It will come loose, it’s just nice and sticky.

6. Serve with some vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, berries, toasted nuts or sliced, fresh fruit

ENJOY!

 blueberries rolling out of bowl

Saffranslängd

Happy Advent!

Today is the 1st of December and today two things happen.  The first one its that we are now officially on the countdown to Christmas. In just over 4 weeks from now, we will be celebrating with my family in Belgium. In the 7 years P. and I have been together, this is the first time we will be enjoying the festive season in my hometown of Bruges. I’m beyond excitement.

The second thing happening today is that P.’s parents are flying in for a 5 day visit. P. is from Sweden but during winter time, his mother and father live in sunny Spain. I hope the cold we are experiencing in Berlin right now will not be too bad for them.

So, put advent, Sweden and Spain together and you get saffranslängd. Let me explain. In Sweden, during advent, they celebrate St. Lucia. And during these celebrations, they eat saffron buns called Lussekatter. Saffron isn’t cheap, it’s like gold, you pay quite a bit of money for a tiny bit of the little red strands. But since Swedes use it in so many more things than saffron buns, it’s reasonably priced. Here in Germany, not so much the case. So we are very lucky that my in-laws are bringing some from Spain today (where they also use it in quite a lot of dishes).

Let’s make a Swedish saffron bread called saffranslängd!

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This is a bit of a project as it takes time but it is totally worth it! And most of that time is the dough resting so you can do something else while you wait. Have a coffee, read a magazine or make Lego structures with your kids.

IMG_2242The key ingredients for this recipe are saffron and fresh yeast. If you can’t get fresh yeast in the supermarket, ask a baker (street corner or even the bakery in the supermarket).  Yeast is great to work with, it makes everything come alive and it has such a lovely unique smell.

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Raisins are for filling the bread. Just to add another bit of sweetness.

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Use a bit of sugar to help crush the saffron with a pestle and mortar.

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Once everything is combined, you need to let it rest. Let it do its thing. Your dough needs to grown a lot, to twice its size.

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Now, shape it into a simple loaf or do what I did. I opted for a roll-cut-pull approach. I’ll explain how I did this in the recipe.

Recipe:

(makes 2 loaves)

40g fresh yeast

1 kg flour

500ml milk

150g butter – melted

120g sugar

1g saffron strands

1 egg

200g raisins

optional: pearl sugar for decoration

Method:

1: Combine the milk and the melted butter together and heat to 37 degrees C. It should feel lukewarm when you put your finger in the mixture, not hot or the yeast will die and your dough will not rise.

2: Meanwhile, put the saffron and a teaspoon of sugar in a pestle and mortar and crush the strands.

3: Divide the mixture into two. In one part, crumble in the yeast and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add this to the other part of the milk-butter mixture and add the sugar and saffron. Stir until dissolved.

4: Add the flour and kneed for about 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in a stand mixer with a dough hook. The dough should form a clean, smooth ball that doesn’t stick.

NOTE: if you are making a simple loaf, add the raisins now with the flour.

5: Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Put the bowl in a warm place that is free of draft and let it rise to twice its volume (approx. 30-45 minutes).

NOTE: if you are making a single loaf, preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

6: Cut into 2 equal parts.

NOTE: if you are making a simple loaf, skip to step 11.

7: Roll out the dough into a rectangle about half a centimetre thick. Then sprinkle over half of the raisins. Roll the dough tight like you would roll a carpet, starting the roll with the long side. Do the same with the second part of dough.

8: Take a sharp knife and cut into the dough every 2,5 cm, starting from the bottom. Cut about 3/4 of the way down, you don’t want to cut all the way through.

9: Take the first “cut” and squeeze the middle of it between your thumb and forefinger. Pull it towards you. Take the next “cut” and pull it to the left. Take the third “cut” and pull it to the right. The fourth “cut” your are again squeezing and pulling towards you, then left and right and repeat until you reach the end. Do the same with your other bread.

10: Put both loaves on a baking sheet and cover with a clean tea towel for about 30 minutes, until they have doubled in volume. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

11: Whisk the egg lightly and brush both loaves with the egg wash. Sprinkle on the pearl sugar.

12: Bake in the bottom of the oven for 35 minutes. Keep an eye on your loaves. If they start to brown too quickly, lay some tin foil over them for the rest of the baking time.

Happy Advent!

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