Fat Tuesday, Lent, Shrove Tuesday in Sweden
In celebration of Lent and Shrove Tuesday, a special bun was eaten Nordic countries and other nearby countries, at a celebration feast before the fasting period of Lent. In Sweden this bun was called Semla or fastlagsbulle. This tasty bun is also found in Finland and is known as laskiaispulla , in Denmark and Norway it is called fastelavnsbolle. These buns can also be found in the traditions of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They do not look the same, but they serve the same purpose.
The religious connections changed with the arrival of the Protestant Reformation. The fasting for Lent was no longer practiced by the Swedish population. Today you can find these buns in bakeries everyday just after Christmas (Jul) till Easter (Påsk). Although today is the traditional day to eat Semlor, they can now be eaten whenever one can find one in a bakery.
Today’s Semla bun is a bit different from the earlier traditional buns that were just plain bread buns sitting in a bowl of warm milk, known at that time as hetvägg. Our Semlor (Swedish for more than one semla ) of today are made with cardamom wheat buns with a hollowed out center filled with almond paste with a generous portion of whipped cream to cover the almond paste. It is then topped with the part of the bun that had been cut off to make room for the paste. The top is replaced and then topped with powdered sugar to finish off the perfect Semla.
There are still people in Sweden who eat semlor the old fashioned or traditional way, sitting in a bowl of warm milk. Most people eat them from a plate with a cup of coffee. No matter how or why you eat a semla, the experience is absolutely divine. You will enjoy exquisite textures when you bite into the bun. You will have the soft fluffy whipped cream, then the most delicious almond paste and the soft spicy bun in your mouth, all bursting with flavor. Some people take the top off and sit it to the side to eat last and then some don’t. Some eat with a fork, most do not. Powdered sugar can inevitably end up on one’s nose. A small price to pay when enjoying such a delicious piece of Sweden.
There is always a quiet competition going on throughout Sweden to name the best Semla bakery. You can find articles in our newspapers about bakeries that are known to have the best Semlor (Swedish for more than one semla)in town. You can sometimes find long lines outside a particular bakery in Stockholm that has been known to have the best Semlor in Stockholm.
This special Swedish bun can now be found in bakeries around the world. My daughter has enjoyed a Semla in NY and London. So where ever you may be today, keep your eye out in your bakeries for our Swedish Semla. You don’t have to be in Sweden to enjoy a beautiful, delicious Semla. I think that’s wonderful !
I wish I could send a Semla to each and every one of my readers today !