Celebrating Fat Tuesday with Semlor

2017-semlor_2017-5February is traditionally the month I would go from one bakery to another to hunt down the best semlor in town. But since moving abroad that task has been put on hold.

Semlor, also called fettisbullar, is a cardamom bun filled with almond paste and heavy whipped cream. Comfortingly delicious. Traditionally they should be eaten on Fat Tuesday before lent, but Swedes start having them as soon as they finished their Christmas’ ginger cookies and keep enjoying them until it’s time for Easter candy.

From a distance, I have noticed that in the last few years this wonderful almond paste filled cardamom bun has started to come in different varieties and flavors. Sometimes even in different shapes. As much as I love chocolateprincess cake, or licorice I think my favorite always will be the traditional combination of cardamom, almond paste and hand whipped cream.

This year, Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Paczki Day or Pancake Day) falls on Tuesday, February 28. So its time to get the ingredients ready and start baking.
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Semlor
recipe from Fika: The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break

makes: about 12 to 16 buns

for the buns
7 tablespoons (3.5 oz, 100 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (240 ml) milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 eggs
1/4 cup (1.75 oz, 50 g) sugar
3½ cups (1.12 lb, 495 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 to 3 teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed

filling
2 cups (10 oz, 285 g) blanched almonds
¼ cup (1.75 oz, 50 g) sugar
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
½ to 1 cup (120 to 240 ml) milk

to finish
½ to 1 cup (120 to 240 ml) heavy whipped cream
powdered sugar

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add in the milk. Heat until the liquid is warm to the touch (about 110ºF/43°C). In a cup, dissolve the yeast in 2 to 3 tablespoons of the warm liquid. Stir and let sit for a few minutes until bubbles form on top.

In a large bowl, whisk together one of the eggs with the sugar. Pour in the butter and milk mixture including the yeast. Stir until well blended.

Mix in the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Work the dough until well combined. Transfer dough to a lightly floured flat surface, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. The dough should feel moist so try not to add more flour to the dough (which could result in dry buns).

Place dough in a bowl, cover with a dampened tea towel and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

On a flat surface, divide dough into 12 to 16 equal pieces and roll each into individual rounds. Place them with 2 inches (2.5 cm) apart on a greased baking sheet (or line with a silicon baking mat). Cover with a dry tea towel and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes. (To test when they are ready to bake, poke your finger gently into one of the buns; the indent should slowly spring back, about 3 seconds).

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

When you are ready to bake, beat the last egg with a fork and brush each round all over the top. Bake until the tops of the buns are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the buns from the oven and transfer to the counter. Cover with a tea towel and let cool completely.

To make the almond paste, in a food processor grind the almonds until finely ground. Add in the sugar and almond extract and pulse until mixture sticks together.

With a knife, cut a “lid” off the top of each bun. Scoop out a portion of the inside and place the crumbs together with the almond paste in a large bowl. Mix it well together and add as much milk as needed to create a thick and smooth filling.

Fill each bun with the filling, followed by some whipped cream. Top with the “lid” and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Brew some coffee and serve immediately.

Note: Semlor doesn’t store well, so if you are not planning to eat them all in one go, I suggest you only prepare as many as you need. Freeze the rest of the buns as soon they are cool.

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related links

Whole Wheat Semlor by Anna Brones @ Food52

Polish Paczki (Doughnuts) by Barbara Rolek at Spruce

Mardi Gras recipes in New York Times

22 New Orleans Classics to Celebrate Mardi Gras  – SAVEUR

Semolina Pancakes – kokblog recipe

Paris-Brest
(just because they remind me of semlor)

more Semlor

and

French Crepes
and the La Chandeleur tradition (February 2)
by Clotilde Dusoulier

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Pssst the drawing on the top is available as a print here.

my second cookbook

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I’m finally ready to tell you, I’m working on my second book. It will be, like the first one, an illustrated cookbook with recipes and stories inspired by my Swedish roots.  But instead of being on the sweet side I will be sharing savory treats. Right now I don’t want to reveal more about the subject, but stay tune I will share more details soon.

It all started about one year ago when I sat down over a fika with my dear editor Kaitlin Ketchum to discuss some initial ideas for a potential book.  The meeting was followed by a few weeks of intensive thinking, drawing, writing and cooking while looking over a walnut orchard in Chico, California. The final proposal ended up in a contract and was followed by an extensive amount of recipe tweaking, research and writing. And when I couldn’t lift more pots or fit another bread in my belly, I sat down to draw.

I’m now working closely with the Ten Speed Press team to get all the pieces in place. Later this Spring it will be off to the printer and the book is scheduled to be published by Ten Speed Press in the Fall of 2017.

Some other exciting news is that Fika has been translated and published in both Chinese and Korean. And the book is about to be translated to Simplified Chinese. Hurrah!

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Related links

Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break
by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall

Behind the Scene of Fika
more about my first book

Fika on National TV in Korea
(in Korean)

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Joulutorttu – Finnish Christmas Tarts

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My grandmother was phenomenal in the art of making puff pastry, so good that she made several batches every year that she portioned out to everyone in the family, neighbors and near by acquaintances that took the advantage of her skill. I’m sure she loved it and occasionally she tried to pass her technique along but to my knowledge nobody really understood how she did it with such grace and no fuss.

Every Christmas as long as I can remember my grandmother and later my mother have been treating me with Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas Tarts). Joulutorttu are pinwheel shapes puff pastries filled with prune jam dusted with powdered sugar. Traditionally the tarts are shaped like fig. 2 in the diagram but they can be shaped as simple as a classic Danish (fig 1).

Well, last year I figured it was about time for me to learn the art of puff pastry and obviously much of it get shaped into joulutorttu. My version here is filled with jam where the prunes is simply cooked with just port. I’m sure my grandmother would have liked my progress, especially if shared with a strong cup of tea and a game of canasta.  

Both jam and puff pastry can be made beforehand so you can assemble just as many as you want and need all through the holiday.

Happy holiday everyone.

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Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas Torts)
makes about 14

1 batch of puff pastry

prune jam
1 cup (about 200 grams) pitted prunes, cut in half
½ cup (120 milliliters) sweet Marsala wine (or port)

to finish
1 egg, beaten
powdered sugar

Cut the prunes in quarters and soak them in port for 1 to 2 hours. The prunes should become soft.

In a small pot, cook the prunes with the port on medium low heat until thick and the fruit has fallen apart, about 10 minutes. Add more wine (or water) if the jam seems too dry. Let cool slightly before placing the jam into a food processor. Pulse until smooth and thick.

Leftover jam can be stored in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. This jam is also awesome on on toast together with cheese.

Preheat oven 425°F (220°C).

Roll out portions of puff pastry until just over 1/8 inch (approximately 0.5 centimeter) thick. Cut out 3 by 3 inch (8 by 8 centimeters) squares, place a spoonful of jam on each square. Shape each square by cutting each corner, like in fig. 2 or shape them as shown in fig. 1. Brush corners with a little water before closing the shape.

Brush each tart with the egg and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve slightly warm, dusted with powdered sugar, with heavy whipped cream.

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Links to other traditional Nordic holiday baking:

Joulutorttu with a ricotta puff pastry – by Peggy Saas

London Eats Joulutorttu

Ginger Spice Cake by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall

Glögg – Swedish Mulled Wine

How to host a glögg party by Madame Fromage

Pepparkakor with diagram on how to build a gingerbread house
recipe & text by Anna Brones  – diagram & illustrations by Johanna Kindvall

Lussebullar by Anna Brones (illustrated by Johanna Kindvall)

Scalded Rye Bread with Raisins – kokblog recipe

More Swedish holiday baking in the Fika book.

Roasted Acorn Squash Spread

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The reason for my silence here on kokblog is simple, I have been extremely busy with a number of exciting projects in the kitchen as well as in my drawing studio (about which I’m hoping to share with you soon). I’m also recovering from a long lasting and painful frozen shoulder. Luckily it hasn’t stopped me from creating stuff but it surely has slowed me down a little. One good thing is that it has encouraged me to take exercising more seriously and daily walks in the neighborhood.

Well, it’s getting freezing out there so I’m enjoying cozy nights in front of our fireplace with warming dishes like mushroom risotto or polenta with hearty ragu. If I want something simple I make Äggakaga a pancake like dish from South Sweden. Traditionally it’s served with bacon but it’s delicious with Andrew Janjigian’s mushroom confit too.

Lately I have been developing several new bread recipes. Instead of the normal spreads like cheese, charcuterie and pickles, I  enjoy having bread with slices of avocado or hummus with roasted peppers. I have also been savoring it with roasted acorn squash, as in the recipe below. Typically, this is a side dish but I think it really works well on slices of toasted sourdough bread. If you like, add some goat cheese but it’s pretty good just as it is.

Roasted Acorn Squash Spread
serves 2 to 4

1 acorn squash, approximately 1 pound
about 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra if needed
1 to 2 teaspoons maple syrup (or brown sugar)
rosemary, fresh or dried, chopped or crushed
salt and freshly milled pepper, for seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)

With a sharp heavy knife cut the acorn squash lengthwise. Remove the seeds (which are delicious roasted) and all the stringy pulp with a small knife and a spoon.

Arrange the halves in a baking pan, with cut side up. Pour the olive oil into the center of both halves. Add the syrup, rosemary and a dash of salt.

Roast the squash until very very soft and with a nice caramelized top. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

Scope out the flesh into a medium bowl including any remaining olive oil. Mash it all together with a fork. If it feels too dry, add more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately with toasted sourdough bread.

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Related links

Acorn Squash Crostini with Crispy Bacon and Sage Recipe – Serious Eats

Butternut Squash and Sage Latkes by Martha Rose Shulman, NYTimes

Yotam Ottolenghi’s butternut squash and tahini spread, The Guardian

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illustrated by me

Adventures in Vegetables
Interview with Dennis Cotter by Killian Fox at The Gannet Magazine

Pumpkin artwork

Elderflower Tea in my Summer Garden

© Johanna Kindvall

Its that time of the year when I stand under the big oak tree in our summer garden listening to the bees collecting honeydew, picking mushrooms, pickling gherkins, making jam, weeding, fighting brown murder slugscooking outdoors or waiting for the rain to stop so I can hang my laundry.

Earlier this year, Rachel Safko introduced me to Elderflower tea or rather Elderflower herbal infusion. Rachel paired the infusion with Dream Cookies by Unna Bakery. The warm and refreshing tea brought me back to my summer garden where I can enjoy afternoon fika while listening to hard working bumble bees and newborn tree sparrows tweeting in their nests. In the back of the house where I hang my laundry, we have a large elderflower bush. The bush produce enough flowers to treat us with my favorite summer cordial while at the same time infusing our laundry with a refreshing smell.

Obviously, this year I couldn’t resist to dry a bunch of them. And it couldn’t have been easier:

Pick as much elderflower clusters as you can. Cut off the thick stems, and give them a gentle rinse. Place them on parchment paper or something similar in a dry and warm place. Let them dry completely. Store the flowers in airtight containers.

If you need guidance to brew your tea or herbal infusion, check out this diagram that I developed together with Rachel.

© Johanna Kindvall

The elderflower season is over but here are a few things you can do with the berries:

Elderberry Liqueur by Hank Shaw
Elderberry Jelly by Elise Bauer
Elderberry Capers by Anna Billing (in Swedish)
Elderberry Syrup with Alexis Siemons

related links
Fika with Tea – Paring Tea with Swedish cookies
Tea and Food by Rachel Safko at Fresh Cup Magazine
A Swedish Coffee Tradition Breaks Through the Day’s Buzz by Rachel Safko at Edible Manhattan
Elderflower gravlax by kokblog

also…
Check out the pattern design I created for Unna Bakery’s new cookie packages. The pattern was inspired by Scandinavian porcelain.