Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Fastelavensboller, or Lenten cardamom buns

spelt cardamom bun with vanilla cream and marzipan

It's Ash Wednesday and even a girl of Lutheran-Jewish-Catholic-Heathen extraction understands the basic human need to mark certain days in the calendar with a confectionary blowout. There's much talk of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday but I already checked that 'Heathen pleasure" box on Sunday when I made plump American style spelt and buttermilk pancakes replete with blueberries, crispy streaky bacon and indecent amounts of organic maple syrup. There may have been a few pats of butter involved in this pancake feast. You can tell I'm in urgent need of a Lenten fast.

In Scandinavia we mark the arrival of Lent with fastelavensboller (Norwegian), or semlor (Swedish). These are cardamom buns sliced in half as you see above, and filled with marzipan and lightly whipped vanilla cream. Simple but utterly irresistible, cardamom buns are so easy to make and they remind me of my Norwegian grandmother who made the most fluffy, light fastelavensboller ever. Mine are a close approximation to those buns of yonder, except without the raisins Granny Johansen used to include in the buns. Raisins are a little too virtuous for these confectionary gems!

The recipe I've used is one adapted from Trina Hahnemann's Scandinavian Cookbook. I've simply exchanged plain flour in her recipe for refined spelt flour which I find more digestible and delicious than plan wheat flour, and upped the caster sugar content slightly. Do try making them, cardamom buns aren't just for Shrove Tuesday and make a great weekend brunch treat (when you tire of pancakes) with or without the cream and marzipan filling...

Ingredients: (makes 14)

25g fresh yeast
375ml lukewarm whole milk
25g butter, melted
500g refined spelt flour (Sharpham Park and Shipton Mill are both excellent)
1 tsp ground cardamom
3 tbsp caster sugar (you can increase this by a couple of tablespoons if you like a sweeter bun)
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten


1) Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk in a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir through. In a large bowl sift the spelt flour, cardamom, sugar and salt together and add the milk mixture to this. Add the egg and stir with a large spoon until a dough has formed. Turn it onto a floured work surface. It should be quite a wet sticky dough and I find the easiest way to knead it is to lift it with a dough scraper to stretch the gluten and distribute the yeast:

Do this for 5 minutes until the dough starts to feel smoother and a bit more elastic. Place this back in the mixing bowl:

And cover with a damp tea towel. Place in a warm place and allow to double in size. This should take 1 hour but given the enriched nature of the dough it may take 1 1/2 hours:

Tip the dough out on a floured work surface and punch the dough to knock it back. Knead into a log and slice off 14 pieces of equal size. Shape the buns into round balls and carefully place them on a large baking tray on some parchment paper. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to prove and double in size again in a warm room/cupboard. This should take 20-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200 C while the buns are proving

Finally, lightly glaze each bun with a little beaten egg and bake on the upper shelf of the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Allow to cool on a wire rack before lightly whipping 300ml whipping cream with 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tbsp caster sugar. Slice the bun in half, then place thin slices of marzipan on the bottom of each bun. Spoon or pipe the whipped cream on top of the marzipan and carefully place the bun 'hat' on top. I defy you not to get vanilla cream all over your face!


LexEat! said...

I had semla buns 2 weeks ago in Stockholm. The combo of the spices with almond and cream was lovely but not too sickly.
Looks delicious!

S said...

i simply adore it, but you already knew that :) x shayma

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

OK, my intelligent comment this time around is nomnomnomnomnomnom.

Apart from the name, do they differ at all from semlors?

Sophie Sportende Foodie said...

MMMMMM,..these spiced cardamom buns look grand & so tasty!!

Filled with marzipan & cream bust taste awesome!!

MMMMMM,..thanks for sharing!!

Hollow Legs said...

When I first saw the picture I thought it was a burger! I've never had a sweet cardamom bun - it sounds great.

gastrogeek said...

I've never heard of these before, they look quite delicious what a fascinating post :)

theScandinavianMum said...

Thanks for sharing. I'll try the stretching of the dough next time!

Bianca / Little Scandinavian