Thursday, February 23, 2017

Semlor, Indulgent Swedish Cream Buns

The best thing about traveling, at least for me, is how it exposes you to all the different culinary traditions the world has to offer. You can spend a lifetime of traveling and you will still come across a new ingredient, a new dish, and a new cooking method. For a sweet tooth, my visit to a new country would not be complete if I didn't sample a traditional sweet or two popular among locals.

Years ago, I went to Sweden and spent a few days strolling through the charming streets of Stokholm, its capital city. When I got tired or needed a break I would go into cute coffee shops and enjoy a warm cup of coffee and people watch! The Swedes  have a beautiful tradition called "Fika", and though I don't know uf  there's an exact word-to-word translation to it, it basically means to have coffee. This coffee-break, often had in the afternoon, gathers friends and families around coffee, tea and juice, served along cakes and pies. As it turned out, one fika per day was not enough for me. Actually two were not enough for my I-want-to-try-it-all attitude. Luckily, the Swedes had enough to keep me coming back for more.

As I went to Sweden in summer, I did not get to sample one of its most popular treats: Semlor. This sweet bread, served before the lent season, is quite popular in the country and can be found seasonally throughout the month of February. I had known about it from Swedish friends. Though I would have liked to try it in Sweden, the Arctic Northern European winters of this land are a bit too cold for a Mediterranean girl like me!

My solution for this dilemma was to make my own semlor. I tried several recipes and was not satisfied with the results. The dough just got too dry in less than 24 hours. In my recent attempts, I adjusted the dough recipe and was rewarded with delectable semlor that will stay perfect for at least 48 hours!

For the dough you need: (makes 6 buns)
  • 250 g bread flour
  • 1 egg (the one I used weighed 65 g)
  • 90 ml of warm milk (28C)
  • 8 g fresh yeast
  • 40 g sugar
  • 3 g salt
  • 60 g soft butter
  • 1/2 tsp groung cardamon (I used a bit more as I love the cardamom aroma)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla paste
First start by making  a pre-ferment. Mix the milk with the yeast until it dissolves, then add 90 g of the flour, mix well then  add the rest of the flour over the mixture. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. Once it rests, the flour on top of the mixture will rise and crack a bit pushed by the dough beneath.

Now add the rest of the ingredients except the butter and start mixing. A first mix with a wooden spoon then flip the dough over a clean working surface and knead for few minutes.  You can use your mixer of course, but I like doing that by hands.

After few minutes add the butter and keep kneading, the dough will be very sticky and all over the counter, don´t worry after minutes of mixing the dough will come together and won´t stick at all. It took about 25 min to reach that point. With a mixer, using the hook accessory, it will take you about 15 minutes.

Transfer the dough into a clean and greased bowl, cover and let it proof between an hour or 2 or until it doubles in volume. After that, tuck the edges to the middle of the dough, cover it again and leave it in the fridge over night.

In the morning, take about 75 g of the dough, flat it down a bit, tuck the edges into the middle of the dough then roll it into a nicely shaped ball.

Place all the buns on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, and let them rise again for about 2 hours or until they double in volume.

Heat your oven to 200 C, prepare an egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp milk and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract) and gently brush the buns. I brushed the buns twice then bake them for about 10 to 12 min or until golden brown.

For the almond paste you need:

  • 100 g almond flour
  • 20 g whole almonds (peeled)
  • simple syrup infused with cardmamom (100 g sugar, 100 g water and 5 cardamom pods)
First start by toasting the whole almonds in a hot oven (100 C) for few minutes, then add the almond flour. By heating the almonds you will intensify the flavor and once you smell the almonds you know they are ready.

Mix the almond flour with enough syrup to make a paste, (if it´s too thick you can add some milk once you´re about to fill the buns). Crush the whole almonds and add them to the paste. You can skip the step, but I like the crunchy texture. 

For the whipped cream:
  • 200 ml 35% cream
  • 25 g sugar
  • the seeds of one vanilla pod (or extract or paste)
Start with a cold cream and whisk; it helps the cream to whip quickly and to get a strong texture. Add the sugar and vanilla to the cream and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Pay attention to the cream all the time, if you whip too much you will get butter!

Once then buns are cold, snip off the top, fill with almond paste, then swirl the whipped cream, put back the top as a lid, sprinkle some powdered sugar and enjoy a delicious and amazing treat from the beautiful Sweden.

You can enjoy semlor with warm vanilla or cinnamon infused milk. The Swedes call this way of enjoying semlor "Hetvägg", which means "hot wall". I don´t know why they call it as such, but it´s really delicious and comforting.

Now rush to your kitchens and make some semlor before February ends and the lent season starts! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Romantic and Sweet, a Valentine's Special: Chocolate and Raspberry Swiss Roll

Valentine's day is a special occasion to remind us of how important love is in our lives. While there's no one way to celebrate this day and express your love, for me the simpler the better. A nice romantic dinner with a sweet finish is all it takes. Let your gift for your significant other be a dinner prepared with love and finished with my idea of a perfectly romantic dessert: a chocolate, raspberry, rose and mascaprone Swiss roll.

You cannot go wrong in the romantic department when you combine chocolate, raspberries and roses; it's not even possible. This cake is not only delicious but it is also easy to make and you won't have to spend hours upon hours to make it perfect and ready for the occasion.

Let´s start rolling:
For the sponge cake you need:
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 80 g brown sugar
  • 80 g flour
  • 20 g cocoa powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tbsp of rose water 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a bowl combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and rose water and mix for about 8 to 10 minutes until it triples in volume and becomes pale yellow and rather thick.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt and mix them well together. Sift the dry ingredients over a baking paper. 

Gently fold the flour  mix with the beaten eggs using a rubber spatula.  Make sure there are no lumps in the mix. It is better to add the flour mix in batches to avoid lump formation.

Spread the batter evenly on a 30 x 25 cm baking sheet covered with baking paper, greased and sprinkled with cocoa powder,

Bake in a preheated oven (200C) for 10 min. To make sure the sponge is baked nicely, gently press it in the middle and if it springs back then it´s done.

Let the cake cool for 3 minutes, then flip it over a baking paper covered with cocoa powder.  Gently peel off the baking paper that you used to bake the cake and cover it with a new one or a clean kitchen towel. Flip it again, trim the edges and roll it. Make sure to cover the edges well and let it cool completely. 

For the filling you need:
  • 250 g mascarpone cheese at room temperature
  • 30 ml rose water
  • 40 g powdered sugar (you can add more if you want it to be sweeter)
  • 100 g fresh raspberries
In a bowl, mix the cheese, sugar and rose water until you have a smooth and fluffy mixture. I used a hand whisk and it took just few minutes.

Unroll the cake, remove the top layer of baking paper, spread the mascarpone mix evenly over it and scatter the raspberries. With the help of the baking paper or towel you used on the bottom of the cake roll the sponge slowly and tightly. Remove the baking paper or towel and transfer the roll to a serving platter.

You can serve the cake as it is with a sprinkle of powdered sugar but  I decided to add chocolate rose water ganache. 

For the ganache you need:
  • 75 g of 70% dark chocolate, chopped finely
  • 100 ml cream (35%)
  • 1 tsp rose water
Heat the cream until it simmers, remove from the heat, add the chocolate and whisk until all the chocolate melts. Add the rose water and mix again.

Pour the ganache over the swiss roll to cover it completely. Let it cool for 15 minutes, and you´re ready to serve. If you decide to use the ganache to frost the roll, do this before you transfer it to the serving plate.

Enjoy a chocolaty, creamy and  aromatic cake with your loved one or ones! 

Happy Valentine!