Semla (or semlor, if there are many) is a traditional sweet dessert commonly found throughout the Scandinavian region. Historically, it began as a bread bun soaked in a bowl of warm milk, which has since evolved into a more refined pastry. The roll is typically a brioche-style sweet yeast bread, flavoured with cardamom and filled with a pastry or an almond cream. The resulting dessert, while delicious, is incredibly heavy. Now that I’m adapting it for the upcoming holiday season, it makes more sense to have it be lighter, yet still incredibly flavourful. Bring your creation to all the holiday meals you’ll be attending (or making).
With that in mind, I decided to create a semla-profiterole hybrid! Using the airiness of a choux pastry but keeping the flavour profile and shape of typical semla, I’ve chosen to celebrate tradition with this modern twist. Enjoy!
Ingredients for Cardamom Pastry Cream
• ¾ cup sugar
• 3 tbsp cornstarch
• 1 tbsp ground cardamom
• ½ tsp kosher salt
• 1 ½ cups milk
• 3 eggs
• ¾ stick unsalted butter, cubed
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 vanilla bean, scraped
Ingredients for Dough
• ½ cup milk
• ½ cup water
• ¾ stick unsalted butter
• ¼ tsp salt
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp cardamom
• 4 eggs
Ingredients for Craquelin Topping
• ½ stick unsalted butter, soft
• ⅓ cup brown sugar
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
Pastry Cream Method
1. Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cardamom, and salt in a saucepan.
2. Whisk in the cream, milk, scraped vanilla bean and eggs, then bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.
3. Cook the cream, whisking continuously until thickened.
4. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk the butter through.
5. Transfer the mixture to a bowl (you may optionally pass it through a sieve for a very smooth product) and cover it with plastic wrap, ensuring that the plastic is touching the cream so that a skin does not form. Refrigerate the mixture to cool and thicken.
1. First, the craquelin! In a bowl, mix the sugar and butter until combined.
2. Add the flour and knead together to create a dough.
3. On a lightly dusted surface, roll the dough out into a sheet, then refrigerate.
4. Meanwhile, create the puffs! Whisk the flour and cardamom together.
5. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk, water, butter and salt and bring to a boil. Once the butter melts, remove the pan from the heat, add the flour mixture all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended.
6. Return the pan to medium heat and continue stirring until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.
7. In a bowl, whisk one of the eggs. When the batter has cooled, add the egg and beat with the spoon until incorporated. Whisk each of the remaining eggs one at a time, then stir into the batter. After each egg is added, the mixture will separate and appear shiny but will eventually form a very smooth paste. Let this paste cool for approximately 10 minutes.
8. Preheat the oven to 425°F. On a sheet pan fitted with parchment paper, pipe about one heaping tablespoon’s worth of the paste, creating a two inch mound. Make sure to space the mounds apart as they will grow significantly.
9. Take the cooled craquelin dough and cut it into two inch circles, then place it on top of each puff mound.
10. Bake the puffs for 13 to 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375°F and continue baking until golden brown, which will take approximately another 15 minutes.
11. Once done, leave the oven door open, keeping the puffs inside, allowing them to dry for another 15 minutes.
12. Make sure to cool them completely before splitting them in half and piping in the cooled pastry cream filling.
13. Return the “lid” on top of the puff and then dust with powdered sugar before serving – perfect after a meal or as a snack with coffee or tea!