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The hunt for a “Semla” is on. I actually was able to buy some in NY last year. There is a Swedish cafe in the city and they had baked some “Semla’s” around fat Tuesday.

A “Semla” is really just a wheat bun with cardamom and an almond paste filling with whipped cream. But, for some reason it is a slam dunk with the Swedish population. It used to be available only around fat Tuesday but now they start selling them right after christmas. I used to have my old design-studio right around the corner from this fantastic bakery. One year when I came home to Sweden, I actually pre-ordered some “Semla’s” for my family and I. They would make special orders if you bought a big enough order. And we did. Some of my American friends can’t understand the fascination with this somewhat plain wheat-bun over decorated with whipped cream. And besides that, they have an issue with eating them without getting powered sugar all over themselves. Well, I will tell you a secret, most Swedes also end up with powdered sugar on their noses. One has to have a technique to eat them. Take off the lid and use it to scoop up some cream. After that you dive into the bun.

Some people eat them in a bowl with hot milk poured around the “Semla”, making it a little soggy. It is called a “hot wall”. I don’t like soggy food so I never go to that much trouble to eat it. But my mom loves it this way.

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“Semlor”.

Makes 20 big or 40 mini Semlor.

Buns;

1 package of fresh yeast (or 1 package of dry yeast. Activate as description on package).

6 1/3 c. flour.

6 oz. (175 gr.) butter.

2 c. whole milk (1-2% works as well).

3/4 c. granulated sugar.

2 tsp. ground cardamom.

1 tsp. salt.

Filling;

7 oz. almond paste.

3 1/3 c. heavy whipping cream.

Top with powdered sugar.

Directions;

Melt the butter on the stove, add the milk. Warm until finger warm. (Not hot, it would “kill” the yeast.).

Crumble the yeast up into a bowl. Add the ground cardamom. If you are using dried yeast, follow the directions on the package to dissolve and activate it.

Pour the milk and butter mixture over the yeast.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add little at a time to the wet ingredients. Knead the dough until nice and smooth. 

If you have a food processor use that. Knead the dough for about 15 minutes.

Let the dough rise under a kitchen towel in a bowl for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

When done, put dough on a lightly floured counter. Divide into approximately 20 pieces (if big) or 40 (if you are making mini S).

Roll the pieces into round buns. Add to a lined cookie sheet. Let rise again. Be sure they double in size.

Some people brush the buns with an egg wash. It works just as well without.

Bake in a 450F  (225C) oven. Place them in the lower part. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool down on a rack. When totally cool, cut of a little “lid” of each bun. “Dig” out a little of the bun with a fork and put into a bowl. Shred the almond paste. Add to the bowl together with a few tablespoons of heavy cream (un whipped). Mix well.

Evenly divide all the almond paste into all the buns. Whip the heavy cream. Add to the buns. Use a pastry bag so that it is easier (& prettier) to distribute the whipped cream.

Add the “lid” back onto the bun. Just before serving, sprinkle over some powdered sugar.

Just beware…. One is never enough….

Enjoy!!!

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This weekend marks the start of all Glögg parties. Glögg is a mulled wine. It is brewing or at least being heated up in most  Swedish homes in December. Since the winter is dark and cold, we look forward to warming ourselves up by drinking a nice hot cup of Glögg served with some home-baked saffron buns and ginger snaps. We have Glögg parties all through the month. Since I love Christmas I have no problem squeezing a couple of these parties into my very hectic cooking and baking schedule for the weeks leading up to christmas.

Traditionally, the saffron buns are little “twisted” buns with raisins. But I never really liked raisins. I love dried cranberries (and almond paste), so I have eliminated one and added two… yum is the only thing I can say to describe these little bundles of joy. I have also made them round with some pearl sugar on top. For us, saffron is a typical spice for the holidays. I would say saffron, cinnamon, cloves, orange, ginger are some of the most typical smells and tastes of our christmas.

So the christmas countdown starts with first of advent, the first of the 4 Sundays before christmas. This is a much-anticipated event. Kids park themselves in front of the tv to watch the advent calendar. Every day you have to open a “door” (lucka in swedish) and find either a picture of something connected with that days show or just something belonging to christmas. If you are really lucky, you have one of the chocolate filled calendars (I never was that lucky, mine always just had a picture…figures.)

So my friends, here is a little Glögg party for all of us. Happy first of Advent. And yes, forgot to say… I apologize  in advance for the next few blog entries will be all christmas stuff. What can I say, I just love it! This is my favorite time of the year (except laying on the beach in the summer of course).

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Saffron buns.

1 gram of saffron. 

1/2 tsp. of salt.

A few drops of alcohol (to help the saffron develop its taste).

50 grams of fresh yeast. I package. (You can also use dry yeast, equal to 1 package fresh.)

1 1/2  stick (175 grams or 6 ounces) of unsalted butter.

2 c. (5 dl) skim milk.

2/3 c. light syrup  or granulated sugar (1 1/2 dl).

1 large egg.

6 1/2 c. flour (17 dl).

Directions;

Mix saffron and salt together with a pestle to break the saffron up. Add a few drops of alcohol to get the saffron to start releasing its distinctive taste. 

Just add enough alcohol to make the saffron starting to dissolve.

Just add enough alcohol for the saffron to dissolve.

Crumble up the yeast and add to a bowl. 

Melt the butter in a pan. Add the milk, saffron and syrup. Let it become finger warm. Add to the yeast. Stir slowly to dissolve the yeast. Add the beaten egg. Add the flour. Mix very well. Preferably with a mixer. Sprinkle a little flour on top and add a towel on top. Set aside to rise for about 45 minutes or to at least double in size. 

Let dough rise for about 45 minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel.

Let dough rise for about 45 minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel.

The size should double after 45 minutes.

The size should double after 45 minutes.

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When risen, pour dough on to a floured surface. Cut into 2 parts (if you are doing half plain and half with almond paste). Start working the dough. You can make these buns as regular cinnamon buns if you want to. Just add almond paste with butter and cinnamon and spread over the dough that has been rolled out into a square. Roll up into a sauce shape. Cut pieces about 2″ thick (about 5cm). Bake either one by one or squeeze them into a cast iron skillet (small one) Let all rise once again. When done, brush with egg wash and bake in a 450-500 F (225-250C) oven. 

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IMG_0684Saffron buns filled with almond paste.

Divide the dough into equal size balls. Roll them to a nice ball. Squeeze a little cube of almond paste into the center. Cover it up by rolling it a little more. Add buns to a lined cookie sheet. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle over some pearl sugar or chopped almonds. Bake for about 5-9 minutes or until golden brown.

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The traditional saffron bun.

Roll dough into a long “sausage”. Cut into hand long pieces. Roll each end in opposite directions. Push down a raisin or dried cranberry into the center of the rolled up end.

Brush with an egg wash and bake for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown.

You can also use a cookie cutter. Not a traditional way of making these buns, but for a very few of the christmas items I am willing to experiment. As long as one don’t go to far away from the traditions.

Skillet Saffron buns.

You can also fill the buns with almond paste mixed with butter & cinnamon. Spread it out over the rolled out dough. Cut into 2″ pieces. Pack tight into a small cast iron pan, greased. Bake in a 400-425F (200-200+C) oven until golden brown. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle chopped almonds or pearl sugar on top.

"Break off" Saffron buns with almond paste filling. Baked in a small cast iron skillet.

“Break off” Saffron buns with almond paste filling. Baked in a small cast iron skillet.

 

Pack the unbaked buns with filling tight in a greased skillet.

Pack the unbaked buns with filling tight in a greased skillet.

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Home-made Glögg.

There are many versions of Glögg. I prefer a white version but people in general drink the red wine Glögg.

1 bottle of good red or white wine.

2 pieces of dried pommerans or orange peel.

1 piece of dried ginger.

2 cinnamon sticks.

5-7 cloves.

5-7 cardamom pods.

1/2 c. of sugar.

1/2 c. of port wine. (optional).

A small handful of raisins.

Heat wine on the stove. Note, DONT BOIL IT. Add the spices. Take the pot off the heat. Let sit and “marinate” for a couple of hours or over night until desired taste. Remove all spices and pour onto bottles or serve right away with skinned almonds and raisins/dried cranberries.

You can also make an alcohol free version. Jut use a good fruit juice. Black currant or blueberry is great for this. Use a more concentrated juice and let spices sit longer in the juice before removing them.

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You can use store bought ginger snaps and just decorate them. (I made my own though. Will post recipe at a later date. Am making more…)

Take 1 c. of powdered sugar. Add the egg white from one egg. Add a couple of drops of white vinegar. Mix well. Add to some parchment paper shaped into a cone. Cut of the tip of the cone and start decorate the ginger snaps. 

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Before we had Santa, our christmas “guy” was the christmas goat. To represent him we decorate with these straw goats. I have many of them. All sizes.

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A little mini advent calendar. I am so lucky. My sister-in-law usually sends us these for christmas. Thank you Jaana.

Happy first of advent.

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There is one problem with baking, if you bake it you eat it.

Baking is a very precise science. You have to really stick to weights and amounts. I want to be more wild and free when I cook, and that doesn’t translate well into baking. The restrictions are killing me.

When I was little my mom always baked. A few different kinds of breads, lot’s of cookies, cinnamon buns and other things. She packed them up and put them into the freezer. She was so organized. I wish I could be more like her. I know that many things that I do come from her. I would tell you though, both my brothers are the better bakers. My older brother makes different kinds of cakes. They are delicious. My younger brother makes breads and cinnamon buns. It is funny when his idea of baby sitting involves baking and then going for sushi.

Here are the regular cinnamon buns my mother always used to make.

Cinnamon buns and cinnamon bun loaf. The loaf is just cut into slices.

1 package of dried yeast (or 1 package of fresh yeast.)

1/2 – 1 stick of unsalted butter.

2 cups of milk.

1/2 tsp. of salt.

1/4 – 1/2 cup of sugar ( I prefer to use brown sugar.)

2 tsp. cardamom, crushed. (optional).

6 cups of flour.

Fill:

Softened butter.

2-3 tbsp. of sugar.

 1 – 2 tbsp. of ground cinnamon or cardamom.

1/4 cup of finely chopped candied orange rind (optional).

1/4 cup raisins (optional).

Toppings:

1/4 cup of pearl sugar or 1/4 cup finely chopped almonds/ hazelnuts (optional).

1 egg.

Directions:

Melt the butter. Add the water and make the liquid luke warm.

Prepare the yeast as per directions on the package. Add to the liquid.

Mix liquid, yeast, salt, sugar & cardamom with 3/4 of the flour.

If possible, use a kitchen aid, but if you are working the dough by hand, be sure to work it very well. Add flour in portions.

When it feels a little “tacky” sprinkle some flour on top  and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let it rise to double the size.

Work the dough in the bowl. Put onto a floured surface.

Knead the dough well. Add the rest of the flour little by little, until it becomes light, smooth and somewhat “loose”.

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Roll out the dough into a rectangle.

Mix soften butter, cinnamon (or cardamom) and sugar.

Spread the mixture on to the rectangle of dough, as if you are buttering bread. Make sure all edges are buttered.

 If you would like to add a little grated almond paste & candied orange rind, add that in an evenly distributed line at the lower edge.

Start rolling/ folding over the dough from the same edge where you added the almond paste & orange rind.

Make sure it is rolled tightly. Fold over the dough evenly from one side to the other until finally rolled together. Cut into half.

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Take the first half and start cutting about 1/2″ slices. Almost all the way down to the table. Place the first “slice” at center. Fold over the next “slice” to the left and the following to the right.

If you are making buns, cut off after 3 slices and place on lined baking sheet. If you are making the cinnamon bun loaf, keep alternating the slices, left and right.

When all are done, let rice again, covered with a clean kitchen towel.

After rising, brush with the whisked egg all over.

Sprinkle over the pearl sugar (and or the chopped almonds/ hazel nuts.)

Bake in the oven until golden brown.

Enjoy.

Baking times for ;

Buns- 450 degrees for about 5-10 minutes.

Loaf- 400-450 degrees for about 12-20 minutes.

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