After Christmas we always feel determined to start a new and healthier life – less chocolate and more spinach, but only until we remember the next big occasion in the Scandi baking calendar; Semla season. Semla is the Swedish answer to pancake-day pancakes, but in our completely unbiased opinion; a million miles better and far too good to only eat once per year.
We started selling these chubby marzipan and cream filled buns of glory in the café a few weeks ago – and as we are now only 1 month away from the big day, it is time to kick off and remind each other what the Semla is all about. We have collated some essential reading (all the important semla-facts), our favourite recipes, and our very own semla product bundles if you want to give them a go at home without the hassle of seeking out the products you need. Ah, you’re welcome. Public semla-service is what we do.
If you’re looking for one of those sweet Americans style cheesecakes, forget it. This is the much less sweet Swedish version – ‘Ostkaka’ – which simply means cheesecake. It is a really old Swedish traditional favourite, first mentioned in the 16th century – it’s that old.
The original version requires you to go buy some rennet and make milk curds from scratch, but cottage cheese works well too, so that’s what I use in my version. Indeed, most people use cottage cheese nowadays except purists. I’d say this cheesecake is not dissimilar to the ones you get in Northern Spain, in the Basque Country – and, like the Spanish ones, work well with a glass of sweet sherry on the side. This recipe is naturally gluten free.
This cheesecake is served lukewarm, never cold and never hot. Most people enjoy it with a dollop of strawberry or cloudberry jam on top, although I prefer a quickly made compote and some fresh berries.
The recipe fits a standard brownie tray, approx 20 x 20 or similar, but you can use any sort of dish or even a spring form. Just don’t forget to line the dish.
Ostkaka with hallon (raspberries)
75g caster sugar
400g natural cottage cheese
100ml double cream
50 g ground almond
1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla bean paste
Pinch of salt
1 tsp almond essence (optional)
50g flaked almonds
Dusting of ground cardamom
For the topping:
Dash of water
Turn the oven to 160 degrees celsius fan (170 degrees normal).
Whisk the sugar and egg until light and fluffy. Add all the ingredients apart from the flaked almonds and cardamom and pour into your prepared tin.
Scatter the flaked almonds on top, then dust the tiny bit of ground cardamom (less than 1/2 tsp – it’s just for a bit of flavour).
Place in the oven and bake until set and slightly golden on top. This depends on your oven – but around 30-40 mins is a good guideline.
To make the topping: Place 100g raspberries in a saucepan, add the sugar and a dash of water and boil until the raspberries have broken down and it looks like a runny jam. Leave to cool. Use the remaining berries to decorate.
This is the first of six posts – each presenting one of our favourite everyday products. The things we eat again and again and that always provide a taste of home.
Open a random Swedish fridge and chances are you’ll find at least one blue and yellow tube of creamed cod roe with a smiley blonde on the pack. Creamed cod roe..may not sound very appetising, but its slightly salty, savoury mild taste makes it an excellent addition to your egg-sandwich – and this, indeed, is how most people enjoy it.
What’s the fuss about you may ask? Well let us tell you how it all started (drumwhirl please)..
Kalles Kaviar was launched in Sweden in 1954, and is based on several hundred years old recipe from the Swedish west coast. Its iconic blue and yellow tube has changed little since then, and is a much-loved sight for a Swede in need of some TLC. No one is quite sure who to credit for the recipe, which was bought by Abba from a peddler for around 1000SEK – a small fortune in the 50s.
Start by cutting your meatballs into smaller chunks and fry them on medium heat in a little butter to make the edges go golden crisp, until they are warmed through. They’re already cooked so no need to cook them for very long.
Then grab a plate and place 1 round polarbrod on it; we like it toasted but it doesn’t have to be. Spread a little salted butter on. Add a green leaf if you want. Spinach or rocket is good, or just plain lettuce. It adds a bit of freshness and crunch.
Spread the beetroot salad on top your bread, approximately two tablespoons. Variation; Swap pickled red cabbage for the beetroot.
Finish by adding your warm meatballs, some chopped chives and perhaps lingonberry jam, although we tend to think the sweetness from the beetroot salad is enough in this instance.
Add a good sprinkling of salt and pepper to finish.
Sit down. Grab a knife and a fork and enjoy. ‘Mums filibaba’, as a Swede would say! (it means Yummy!).
Fancy making this? We have a bundle for you:
Per i Viken Farmors Köttbullar – Meatballs 8-Pack
Felix Lingon – Wild Lingonberry Jam 283g
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The most popular item we sell, by miles, is Kalles Kaviar – a creamed cod roe spread from Sweden.
Yes, we know – it doesn’t sound so fancy to the person who hasn’t tasted it. We are aware of this. But 9 million Swedes can’t be wrong. Oh, and Norwegians enjoy cod roe too… And all the other people in the world who are now addicted.
If you want to try it, we suggest adding it to your breakfast, as is the place you most often see Kalle’s Kaviar in Scandinavia (The Norwegian brand of same product is called Mill’s Kaviar, in case you were wondering).
Option 1: The Basic.
Crispbread, butter, sliced hardboiled egg, a neat squirt of kalle’s Kaviar. Done.
This is by far the most Swedish way to enjoy it. Utterly delicious. Highly recommend Leksands Crispbread for this.
These beautiful heart shaped waffles are served all over Scandinavia. There are many different recipes (probably as many different recipes as there are people who make them). In Norway, they tend to have a softer consistency – whereas in Sweden, they are crispy and eaten straight out of the waffle iron.
Norwegians love brown cheese on their waffles – and Swedes and Danes favour strawberries, strawberry jam and whipped cream. In the North of Sweden, the ultimate apres-ski treat are warm ‘frasvåfflor’ with a dollop of cream and a dollop of cloudberry jam. Absolutely delicious.
We also celebrate Waffle day at the end of March – so stay tuned for many more waffles ideas, offers and specials at the cafe.
This recipe is a more Swedish one – don’t make these in advance, as they only stay crispy for a little while. Serve with jam, cream or simply a dusting of icing sugar.
We don’t add sugar to this batter – but if you prefer a sweeter waffle, by all means do.
To make these, you need one of those fancy heart shaped waffle irons – we have found a link to a seller in the UK here
Every December, Swedes travels to our shop from afar to get hold of saffron powder so they can make Lucia buns. Saffron powder is ground saffron and gives off a very intense yellow colour and flavour. If you cannot get hold of saffron powder, use strands but grind them slightly and infuse them in the milk before using to maximise the colour.
Saffron buns are eaten all throughout December – but mainly for the day of St Lucia on 13th December.
You can shape the buns into the traditional ‘S’ shape or even make a saffron plaited loaf.
Our Bronte is Danish and likes to cut her saffron bun open and spread with butter. All Swedes laugh at her in disbelief. She doesn’t care because it’s really really nice. But if you chose to do it, don’t tell the Swedes or they may deport you to Lapland or something.
1g saffron powder (2 sachets) (if using strands, grind and soak in the milk beforehand)
400ml whole milk
130g caster sugar
200ml plain Quark or greek yoghurt (room temperature)
1 tsp salt
175g butter (soft and room temperature)
Approximately 700-800g plain bread flour such as – Vetemjöl or strong Canadian Bread Flour
Handful of raisins
Egg for brushing
Heat the milk to about 38°C. Add the yeast and milk to a mixer with a dough attachment. Mix until the yeast has dissolved, then add the saffron powder.
Add the sugar, salt, quark and mix well. Begin to add the flour gradually while mixing, and egg. Add the softened butter. Keep adding flour until you have the right consistency. Keep mixing until you have a dough that is still sticky, but doesn’t stick to your finger too much when you poke it. Too much flour makes the saffron buns dry out quickly. If you’re using an electric mixer, leave it to knead for about 5 minutes, or knead by hand for 10 minutes. Leave the dough to rise until doubled in size.
Knead by hand, using just enough flour that you’re able to work with the dough but it doesn’t stick. Add enough flour to make it so that you are just able to work with the dough in your hands. Cut the dough into around 24 equal-sized pieces. Roll each piece in your hand into a cylinder, then transfer to a lined baking tray and mould into an ‘S’ shape (see the picture). Add a single raisin to the centre of where the ‘S’ shape curves (two raisins for each bun) and leave to rise again for around 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°c. then brush gently with egg and pop them in the hot oven for around 10-12 minutes. The buns should have a very slight tinge of brown on top, but not so much that it stops the nice yellow colour from showing. Turn down the heat a bit if you find the buns are getting too brown.
Leave to cool under a damp tea towel (this prevents them from going dry) as soon as you take them out of the oven.