around the head of the 68-mile-long Oslofjord, Oslo is probably the most
spacious city in the world. Its 175-square-mile metropolitan area
consists of over 75 percent forests and five percent water. Its fine
deep harbor, Pipervika, stretches into the heart of the city and from it
leave ferries to Denmark and Germany.
During the winter, bakeries all over Sweden sell the
semla, a delicious cream-filled bun made for Lent. Bakery windows
overflow with the semla. Why do the Swedes have a love affair with this
A semla is a small, wheat flour, cardamom-flavored bun that’s filled
with almond paste and whipped cream. Traditionally, bakers have made
semlor (the plural of semla) for fettisdag, or Shrove or Fat Tuesday,
when Swedes ate them at their last feast before the Christian fasting
period of Lent. At first, a semla was simply a bun, called hetvägg,
which people ate soaked in hot milk. But over the years, the tradition
of eating semlor has changed.
At some point the Swedes grew tired of the strict observance of Lent,
added cream and almond paste to their semlor and started eating them
every Tuesday between Shrove Tuesday and Easter.
Today, semlor begin to appear in bakery windows just after Christmas and
sometimes even before. As soon as they do, the Swedes begin to eat them
with lots of steaming hot coffee like there’s no tomorrow.
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups warm milk (70 to 80 degrees F)
1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk, or as needed
5 ounces marzipan
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons white sugar
confectioners' sugar for dusting
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs with butter and milk. Sprinkle
yeast overtop and allow to soften for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift
together 5 cups flour with 1/2 cup sugar, salt, and ground cardamom.
Once yeast has softened, stir flour mixture into milk mixture until a
soft dough forms. Cover bowl with a towel, and allow to rise in a warm
spot for 30 minutes.
Sift together flour and baking powder. Stir into risen dough, then knead
until smooth. Form into 16 balls (or 24 if you'd like smaller semlor)
and place onto greased baking sheets. Cover with a towel, and allow to
rise until doubled in bulk, 35 to 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bake in preheated oven 10
to 15 minutes until golden brown and the center has firmed. Cool buns on
a wire rack to room temperature.
Once cool, cut a slice about ½-inch thick off of the top of the bun and
set aside. Scoop or cut out the center of the buns, leaving a shell
about 1/2 inch thick. Tear the removed bread into small pieces and place
into a bowl. Moisten the bread with milk, then mix in marzipan until
smooth. Add additional milk if needed until the marzipan filling is
nearly as soft as pudding.
Whip cream with 2 tablespoons sugar to stiff peaks. Fill each shell with
a spoonful of marzipan filling. Pipe whipped cream on top of the filling
to ½ inch over the top of the bun. Replace the tops onto the buns, and
dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.
Preparation time: About 90 minutes, including rising and baking time.
Every year about 95 000 people die in
Sweden and, according to the law, everyone must be buried. There must be
room for everyone in the cemeteries, therefore the future needs of space
have to be predicted. Because of this funerals must be part of the
the early Middle Ages, driven by famine at home and the promise
of wealth to be had in other lands, the Vikings set out from
Scandinavia to conquer parts of England, Ireland, France,
Russia, and even Turkey. Bolstered by their successes, the
Vikings pushed westward, eventually crossing the North Atlantic
and founding settlements in Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland