Semla with Coffee & Swedish Memories

We sat around the dinning room table, my Mom, sister, Mormor (mom’s mom) and I. Mom poured coffee into antique tea cups and I dusted powdered sugar over plump semlor. Mormor reminisced about her grandfather’s Swedish farm, Ybby. She has a painting of this farm hanging in her living room.

ybby-house

“The last time I had raw milk was when I was in Sweden”, she said as she poured fresh raw milk into her coffee cup. “When we used to visit the farm they had all kinds of stuff like that – homemade cheese and bread…it was so good.”

She was just a girl when she would visit with her brother,  sister, and mother. My Mormor is on the right.

mormor-and-children

Mormor said they would pour warm milk into bowls with the semla – that’s the traditional way to eat it. I decided to add coffee to mine. Maybe it’s mixing cultures because it tastes a lot like Italian tiramisu. I imagine my great-great-grandfather may have tried his semla this way back in the days on the farm.

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You’ll never guess what made me want to make this recipe in the first place.

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That’s right, a stamp. My Mormor and her Swedish friend, Ruth, (Yes, the one who gave me the recipe for Mazarinmuffins.) send me all the stamps from their foreign correspondence. Many of them boast of Sweden’s delicious pastries and baked goods.

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Semla is a cardamom bun filled with almond paste, topped with whipped cream, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. I don’t remember where I found this recipe, but there are similar ones all over the internet. Mormor said these were smaller than usual, but the size was perfect for tea time.

Swedish Semla

Makes 16 Semlor       (Semlor is plural for Semla, in case you were wondering. I was… :)

Bun-

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 1/4 c. milk
  • 5 t. yeast
  • 1/2 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. ground cardamom
  • 4 c. flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. water

Filling –

  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 200 g. almond paste or marzipan
  • powdered sugar
  • 1 c. whipping cream
  • 1 t. vanilla

For buns –

Melt butter. Add milk and yeast. Let sit 3-5 minutes. Add salt, sugar and egg and beat well.

Combine baking powder, cardamom, and flour. Mix two cups of flour mixture into butter mixture and beat to combine. Add remaining flour and knead until smooth and glossy. Coat with oil, cover with a warm, damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for one hour.

Turn out onto a bread board and cut into 16 pieces. Shape into round balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 450. Beat together egg and water. Brush rolls with egg mixture and bake 8 minutes, or until golden. Cool to the touch.

Cut the top off the bun with a serrated knife. Use a fork to make a well in the center of the bottom part of the bun. Reserve the centers for the filling.

For filling –

Combine almond paste and milk in a bowl. Add bun centers and beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Spoon into the hollowed buns.

Whip cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla together. Pipe or spoon onto filled buns. Place the top of the bun on the whipped cream and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

IMG_0702Serve with warm milk and hot coffee.

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Czechoslovakian Cabbage Rolls

I’m going to share a very special recipe with you on this fine, freezing, winter evening. My Great-Grandmother Mary taught my Mom how to make these Slavic style cabbage rolls and she, in turn, taught me.

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I asked my Grandma about the history behind this recipe. She thought the recipe would have been passed down from my great-great-grandmother, Dorothy, who lived in Kostaleny, Czechoslovakia in the 1800’s. This is a picture of her (second from left) and my great-grandmother, Mary (standing in front of her mother), with her in-laws in their traditional Czech costumes.

Dorothy and inlaws

They were farm folk living in a small village and probably had to grow most of their food. With cabbage and onions from the garden and rice to stretch the meat, this was a pretty economical meal way back then, just as it is today.

Dorothy, along with her daughter, immigrated to America through Ellis Island in 1920 to meet her husband, Mike, who had gone before her 11 years earlier. My Great-Grandmother Mary was only 4 months old when her father left Czechoslovakia.

Dorothy holding Mary

This is my Great-Grandma Mary the way I remember her. She taught me how to make Bolshevik onion dumplings and to use butter like it’s going out of style. I’ll share that recipe another time.

Great Grandma Mary

Czechoslovakian Cabbage Rolls

  • one large cabbage
  • one onion
  • 2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c. rice, uncooked
  • 1 onion, sauteed
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 15 0z cans tomato sauce
  • caraway seeds

Cut the stem out of the cabbage and remove old leaves. Steam just enough to soften leaves so that they release without tearing. Carefully peel individual leaves off the head of cabbage and set aside. Repeat until the leaves get too small to use as a wrap. Cut away the “backbone” of the stem for easier rolling.

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Roughly chop remaining cabbage and one onion and place half of both in the bottom of a large pot. Sprinkle with caraway seeds and top with a few tablespoons of butter.

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Combine meat, sauteed onion, eggs, rice, milk and salt and pepper.  Place 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of beef mixture on a cabbage leaf and roll up.

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Layer over chopped cabbage and onion inside the pot and repeat until the meat filling is gone.

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Pour tomato sauce over rolls. Top with remaining chopped cabbage and onion. Use water or broth to completely submerge rolls. Sprinkle with more caraway seeds and additional butter if desired. Cover pot with a lid and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Serve warm.

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There were literally years between this batch of cabbage rolls and the last time we had them. I was inspired to make them again after trying Lebanese cabbage rolls in a lemon olive oil sauce at a Mediterranean deli the other day.

After doing a little research, I’m intrigued by the cabbage roll and the many different ways it’s made around the world. Apparently, Swedes skip the tomato sauce and serve their rolls with potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry jam. Eastern Europe, where this recipe came from, uses the tomato-based sauce and sometimes serves them with sour cream. Asian rolls consist of seafood and mushrooms. Several regions use pickled cabbage, including Southeastern Europe.

Are cabbage rolls a traditional food from your family past? If so, how did they differ from this recipe?