Vegan semla (Scandinavian shrove bun)

Vegan semla (Scandinavian shrove bun)

Heli Koskinen

Semla (shrove bun, laskiaispulla, fastlagsbulle) is a traditional sweet bun in the Nordic countries. The semla was originally enjoyed on Shrove Tuesday, as the last festive food before the fasting period of Lent. Nowadays the semla season begins about a month before the actual Shrove Tuesday because the buns are such a popular and beloved winter treat. The buns are spiced with cardamom and traditionally filled with whipped cream and raspberry jam or almond paste.

Semla can easily be made vegan by replacing the milk and butter with coconut milk and margarine. Coconut milk gives a rich taste and soft texture to the buns. You can also try using a vegetable oil such as canola oil instead of margarine, but the dough will be slightly more difficult to handle. I used coconut sugar which is not quite as sweet as the regular granulated sugar, but it has a stronger aroma.

Traditionally the buns are brushed with eggs before putting the in the oven, but a vegan version of the glaze can be made by mixing syrup with warm water. I used maple syrup in this recipe.

The great thing about semla is that it can easily be varied with different fillings. Each year the baking blogs in the Nordics are filled with more and more creative and exciting fillings to this beloved treat. In addition to the vegan version of the traditional filling with raspberry jam and whipped soy cream, I also tested another slightly more exotic filling. I whipped melted vegan chocolate with the soy cream and flavored the cream with a hint of chili. I chose orange marmalade to pair with the chocolate-chili cream.

Ingredients:
  • 12 pieces
  • 25 g yeast
  • 2,5 dl coconut milk
  • 1 dl coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp cardamom
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 7-8 dl wheat flour
  • 75 g vegan margarine
For glazing:
  • 0,5 dl maple syrup
  • ¼ dl warm water
  • pearl sugar
Filling option 1:
  • 2,5 dl whippable soy cream
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • raspberry jam
Filling option 2:
  • 2,5 dl whippable soy cream
  • orange marmalade
  • about ½ tsp chili
  • 50 g vegan chocolate melted (e.g. iChoc)
How to prepare:
  1. Heat the coconut milk until lukewarm and dissolve the yeast in the milk. Add the coconut sugar, cardamom and salt into the mixture. Gradually add the flour while kneading the dough. Finally add the soft margarine and keep kneading the dough for another five minutes. The dough is ready when it comes off the bowl easily and is completely smooth, soft and uniform.
  2. Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rise in a warm and draft-free place until double in size.
  3. Put the dough on the table and knead with your hands so that the air bubbles disappear. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll the dough pieces into round uniform balls and place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Let the buns rise for another 40 minutes under a cloth.
  4. Preheat the oven to 225 ℃. Mix the maple syrup and warm water and brush the mixture on top and on the sides of the buns. Sprinkle some pearl sugar on the buns.
  5. Bake the buns for about 10-12 minutes until puff and golden brown.
  6. Whisk the soy cream until fluffy and add the coconut sugar. If you decided to make the filling number 2, add chili and the melted and cooled chocolate in the soy cream and whisk until fluffy.
  7. Cut the tops of the buns to make a lid. Fill the bun with jam/marmalade and top off with the whipped soy cream. Place the lids back on and enjoy!

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