Another day, another cream bum.
Oh Sweden, another day, another cream bun. And not just any cream bun. I’m talking about a plump, cream filled organza called Semla and a special day dedicated to eating them.
What once was a religious experience marking the day between Shrove Monday and Ash Wednesday – thus marking the start of lent – is now a religious experience of quite another type. That of downing many a cardamom infused wheat bun laced with almond paste, filled with whipped cream and finished off with a soft dash of icing sugar on top. And the day you are meant to eat them? Fat Tuesday. I’m not kidding, it’s really called Fat Tuesday. And because they are available pretty much straight after Christmas, it easily becomes Fat January and Fat February.
Swedes are serious about their semla and have a relationship with them that can be dated back to 1541 and King Gustav Vasa. I’m actually surprised a semla isn’t on their flag. This year alone, the Swedish Bakery Foundation predicts that around 40 million of these cream puff perfections shall be baked and states that the average person consumes 4-5 semlor per season – but from what I’ve seen, I seem to think they got per season and per day confused.
For the weeks of January and February, no afternoon tea is complete without one. Or two. Or three, if you are pregnant. And because semlor is such a serious business in Sweden, only the best quality is acceptable and discussions around the art of dunking them into a bowl of milk can get rather heated. Newspapers also get into the cream of things putting together tasting panels to discuss which is the best Semlor in town, where to find it and why it’s so damn good. Look, taste, consistency, proportion; the criteria for an award-winning semla can revolve around the nicest sugar-powered lid, the smoothest almond paste or the all important fluffy-as-a-cloud cream.
Oh Sweden, I’ll join your religion any day.
[Photos courtesy of Lola Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se]