Also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated the day before Lent begins, that six week period prior to Easter during which some Christians choose to fast or give up certain luxuries. The idea behind Shrove Tuesday is to indulge in something rich and delicious before the sacrifices of Lent begin the next day.
For some, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated with pancakes for dinner. For others, it's a full-on party with cocktails and King Cake (hello, Mardi Gras!). In the Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden, people indulge in semlor, buttery cardamom buns filled with a rich almond filling and topped with a flourish of whipped cream. While semlor are traditionally enjoyed on Shrove Tuesday, you will find them in bakeries throughout the Nordic region starting just after the new year and continuing through Easter.
This year, 2020, Shrove Tuesday falls on February 25. Just a little over a week away! Want to make Semlor at home on Shrove Tuesday? This easy and straightforward recipe has you covered. Although they look impressive, Shrove Tuesday Buns are surprisingly simple to make. They are essentially just a simple yeasted cardamom bun that is hollowed out in the center to make room for an easy ground almond and sugar filling. Top it with a little whipped cream and you are good to go.
While Semlor taste best the day they are made, I've also included some make ahead instructions in the recipe notes if that works better for your schedule.
You are going to LOVE these buttery, almond-filled Shrove Tuesday Buns! They are as delicious as they are darling. I hope you give them a try and they become a yearly baking tradition at your house. I didn't grow up celebrating Shrove Tuesday, but once I came across a recipe for semlor a few years ago, they have become a not-to-be-missed yearly treat.
I like serving my Semlor for a fika treat with afternoon coffee, but you could certainly get away with serving these for an unconventional breakfast or even for dessert following a light meal. If you bake up your own batch of these delicious Shrove Tuesday Buns, please let me know in the comments below! I always love hearing about your Nordic baking adventures.
Shrove Tuesday Buns (Semlor)
For the Dough:
- ½ teaspoon cardamom seeds* see note below
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
For the Almond Filling:
- 2 cups blanched almonds
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- Pinch of fine salt
- ½-¾ cup whole milk
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
For the Sweetened Whipped Cream:
- 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Make the dough: Place cardamom seeds in a dry medium saucepan over medium heat. Toast seeds, shaking the pan occasionally, until the seeds are fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and crush the seeds using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
- Return the empty saucepan to the burner and add the butter and milk. Heat over medium low stirring frequently until butter is melted and milk is warm. Set aside to cool until it is just slightly warm to the touch, approximately 15-20 minutes.
- Whisk flour, yeast, cardamom and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk egg and sugar together by hand in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add cooled milk mixture and whisk until fully combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until ingredients are just combined. Increase speed to medium and knead for 3-4 minutes. The dough will be smooth, satiny and clear the sides of the bowl. If you do not have a stand mixer, you can knead the dough by hand for 8-10 minutes.
- Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place for an hour. The dough will rise to 1 ½ to 2 times its original size. The rising time may vary based on the temperature of your kitchen.
- While the dough is rising, begin making the filling. Combine almonds, sugar, salt and almond extract in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until almonds are finely ground. Remove the almond mixture from the work bowl and transfer to a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Once dough has risen, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, gather up the edges of the dough into a rough ball shape, pinching the dough where the edges come together to create a “bellybutton”. Place the ball, bellybutton side down, on a clean kitchen counter. Cupping the ball with your hand so that your palm is lightly resting on the dough and your fingertips are resting on the counter, make small circles with the dough until a tight ball is formed. Place ball on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
- Cover and let rise 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine egg and 1 tablespoon water to create an egg wash. Uncover buns and brush each bun with the egg wash. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until buns are golden brown.
- Cover buns with a clean dish towel and let cool to room temperature (this will keep the buns from forming a hard crust).
- When you are ready to serve, finish the filling. Start by mixing ½ cup of milk into the ground almond mixture. Continue adding milk if necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time, until your filling has a creamy consistency.
- Prepare the whipped cream. Place the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk cream on medium-high speed until it begins to thicken. Add sugar and continue whisking until the whipped cream is fluffy and and can hold medium to stiff peaks.
- Use a small, sharp knife to cut a triangular “hat” out of the top of the bun and set it aside to use later. Remove some of the inside of the bun using the knife and your fingers creating a nice cavity for the almond filling. Slice off the bottom of the hat so that it is only ¼-½ an inch or so thick.
- Fill the bun with a spoonful or two of the almond filling. Dollop or pipe whipped cream on top. Artfully arrange the hat on top of the cream. Repeat with remaining buns. Dust tops with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.