Saturday, February 16, 2013


from the incredibly wonderful series of fashion + something else beautiful by the brilliant Ms. Moss (original photos from Notions and Notations of a Novice Cook and Tommy Ton)

I had my first taste of semlor when my mother, brother, and I visited our relatives in Sweden after seventh grade...even though it was summer, my great aunt had the foresight to save three almond buns for us in the freezer, carefully wrapped and stashed away my fika-loving great uncle.  You see, you're only really supposed to eat them on Shrove Tuesday, before Lent begins, but she knew that we'd like to try them.  We ate them with fresh whipped cream, loving the strong almond flavor reminiscent of Spritz cookies.

A couple years ago, I received a Swedish cookbook from my mom with a recipe for these very same almond buns, and I had to try it.  The recipe wasn't hard, but time consuming, and needed a bit of tweaking, in my estimation, leading to a search for new semlor recipes, in hopes of one day doing a thorough side-by-side and finding the perfect recipe. 

Now, I find myself in a difficult place...I don't have the time or calories to make the eight different recipes and test them thoroughly as I would like.  And semlor are particularly difficult because they don't keep all that well once they're assembled, and they don't keep particularly well when they're not assembled, either.  This is a problem.

Truly, this is when I really resent that I can't just stay home for a week and troubleshoot and try things.  One may argue that this is similar to lab work, so I'm lucky to be in the profession I am, "investigating" all day in lab.  But that person has obviously never been in a lab before.  Lab work is far less tasty, and the diversity of ingredients in cooking make it far more fun than "add this clear liquid to these other two clear liquids..."

But I've digressed long enough.  The solution is to mix my passion for semlor with my dedication to providing interesting muffins once a week to my girls.  Almond, a bit of cardamom, I think I can make this work.  Glad Fettisdagen, everyone!

Semlor Muffins

my original recipe, with inspiration from many recipes; marzipan recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Some notes:
---the marzipan recipe provided makes enough for three batches of muffins---you could try making just enough for what you need, but be sure to use one of the mini food processors, otherwise, your almonds won't be finely ground enough.
---all ingredients are given in volume as well as mass, but if you don't have a kitchen scale and love to bake, buy a scale, I implore you.  The one I have costs $25, and it's worth it!
---preground cardamom goes stale quickly; your best bet is to buy the dark-colored seeds and grind them with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle right before use (side benefit?  whole spices last far longer than preground!) 
---I use these muffin pans and these muffin cups.  When you're making so many at a time, having pans that behave in the same way (no mixing metals), you ensure that cooking times are the same. 


8 ounces blanched almonds
210 grams powdered sugar (1 3/4 cup powdered sugar)
1 tablespoon almond extract
80 grams maple syrup (1/4 cup)

94 grams all purpose flour (3/4 cup)
90 grams whole wheat flour (3/4 cup)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 - 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
120 grams milk, preferably whole (1/2 cup; 4 fluid ounces)
56 grams amaretto liqueur or almond extract (1/4 cup; 2 fluid ounces)
6 ounces marzipan
220 grams turbinado sugar (1 cup)
2 eggs


1.   Grind almonds in a food processor for about two minutes; it will first be kind of crumbly, and then the crumbs will get smaller and smaller.  Keep going, and once it starts to clump, stop (we're not making almond butter)
2.  Sift powdered sugar.  I like to use a large sieve over a workbowl and press the sugar and clumps through versus using a metal sifter.  You just can't get them very clean or dry without rusting, and they make a lot of noise. 
3.  Add powdered sugar and almond extract to the food processor workbowl and turn on until mixture is homogenous.
4.  Turn out the marzipan mixture into a large bowl and pseudo-knead until it comes together.  Add more powdered sugar or maple syrup depending on the texture.
5.  Store in the fridge, tightly wrapped or in an airtight container.
6.  Preheat oven to 350ºF.
7.  Whisk together flours, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.  Set aside
8.  Combine amaretto and milk in a small measuring cup with a spout.
9.  In the bowl of your mixer, start your mixer on slow, and ramp up to medium-high to cream the butter and marzipan together. 
10.  Once the mixture is homogeneous, slow down the mixer and add the sugar a bit at a time.
11.  Once all the sugar has been added, turn the mixer back up to medium-high and combine until homogeneous.
12.  Turn the mixer down to medium low and add the eggs, one at a time.
13.  Scrape down the sides of the mixer, and beat again briefly to ensure the mixture is fully combined.
14.  Add flour to the mixture a little at a time.  Add about a third of the amaretto and milk mixture, and continue to alternate, ending with flour.  Do not overbeat.
15.  Use a cookie scoop to dispense batter into muffin cups.  Do not overfill.  This recipe made me about 20 muffins per batch.
16.  Bake muffins 20-25 minutes until a toothpick or fork inserted in the center comes out clean.
17.  Let muffins cool about five minutes in the pan, and then remove them to a cooling rack.  Eat that day if you want to preserve the lovely somewhat crunchy top, or store in an airtight container. 

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