spiced apple and marzipan semlor

SAM_7260SAM_7245I have been doing some thinking since last week.

Last week I talked about how a bread that I had put in the fridge after being fully risen then collapsed and never managed to rise completely. I have a new hypothesis now, one which explains that observation, some of the experiments I did with this dough, and also underlies how there is no need for alarm about collapsing your bread dough (unless you’re me).

After the first rise of this dough, I put it in the fridge, fully risen, until the next day. The next day it was perfectly fine–it hadn’t collapsed at all and the dough was quite tough and springy. This is observation #1.

Observation #2 is that my sourdough breads always seem to turn out very sour. I don’t feed the sourdough starter too often and all the acidity seems to build up.

I also tend to find that my sourdough can only rise so much (observation #3). It can never really make it to a full third rise. I had always vaguely ascribed this to the rabid yeast-y creatures having chewed everything up even though my sourdough always rises so slowly, contrarily indicating that the yeast population remains low in abundance and pretty sluggish.

I think that observation #2 (acidity) can explain my observation #3. I think it is the rising acidity, not the rabid action of the yeast which can break down the protein content of the dough, eventually destroying the the gluten structure. Thus, as with observation #1, a new dough (on its first rise) can stand being refrigerated as the protein structure is sufficient to maintain its form. A dough that has been weakened (on its second rise) may not be able to maintain its form upon refrigeration. And even when subsequently given a long time to rise afterwards, it will only be able to rise so much due to the lower gluten content.

As additional support, one time (this was in junior high school so I can look back and laugh at my bread-naivety) I wanted to make a lemon bread and I decided to do this by putting a lot of lemon juice in. There was no gluten structure at all! It rose in a very flat and sloppy manner.

I’m not sure if any of this is right, but it made sense in my head. I might come to a different conclusion later though.

The (for now) conclusion: I need to be careful about how long I keep my bread dough around! I should also feed my sourdough starter more often…maybe this will help? And there is no real concern about collapsing your bread dough if you refrigerate it fully risen. I think it should be quite alright!


Ah, back to the issue of semlor. When I first saw them, I kept on thinking of these magnificent creampuffs from beta5. Now when I see creampuffs the association will go in the other direction and I will think of semlor because they are lovely.

I brainstormed a bit with Claire from This is not a pie after seeing her wonderfully puffy semlor. She was considering a delicious-sounding poppy seed cream, while I mused vaguely (not really certain about how they would play in) about apples. After seeing these raspberry semlor from My Danish Kitchen, jam also started playing a role….


The classic marzipan filling. When I first made it I wasn’t exactly convinced–it is grated marzipan and the torn up bread from the inside of the buns, moistened until soft. However, once it is in the bun, it’s perfect. I suppose because the filling is partly made out the bun, it is quite compatible (like deviled eggs), with the texture being a softer, sweeter extension of the bun.


Here is the spiced apple filling that I made. I really like it. I mixed together some warm apple with the marzipan and the marzipan melts a bit and the whole thing is a lovely mess when eaten warm.


I also folded some cloudberry jam into the whipped cream (in the style of the cloudberry cream from The Nordic Cookbook). It was a bit tart and sweet. I intended to pipe it on top of the classically filled semlor, but I accidentally ended up piping it over the apple semlor (and the plain cream over the classic semlor). The classic ended up staying classic, and with all the flavour from the apple, I didn’t notice anything at all from the cloudberry cream. I think, however, it might be nice to add some tartness to the classic semlor. However, considering that the buns are sourdough, there is plenty of tartness already.

SAM_7263While it is not pictured, I did make a third sort of semlor, filled with ricotta and ligonberry preserves.

In making the almond paste, I took some inspiration from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book because it didn’t use any egg white as almond paste typically does (and I prefer to avoid eating raw eggs when I can). I think the almond paste worked out very well–I suppose you just have to be careful to keep it at room temperature and it probably will not last as long. (I also read here that corn syrup is another alternative to egg whites!)

I’m bringing this as an awfully awfully last-minute contribution to Fiesta Friday, kindly hosted by Angie and this week hosted by Steffi of Ginger & Bread and Andrea from Cooking With a Wallflower.

apple and marzipan semlor

spiced apple and marzipan semlor

Enough dough for 16 semlor. The filling quantities make enough for 4 semlor. I’m calling it marzipan because I think “spiced apple and marzipan” sounds nicer than “spiced apple and almond paste”, but perhaps almond paste is a better description from what I understand of the consistency difference between marzipan and almond paste. 


cardamom and spelt buns

The dough is adapted from The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson.I used half the dough to make 8 semlor.  


100 g sourdough starter

100 g spelt flour

100 g milk


120 mL milk

80 g butter

1 tbsp (5-6 g) ground cardamom

1 tsp (2 g) kosher salt

100 g sugar

2 eggs

500 g flour

Mix together the sponge and let sit overnight until well risen.

The next day, heat the milk and butter together in a small saucepan until the butter melts. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Whisk in the remaining ingredients apart from the flour. Add the sponge and around 400 g of the flour and mix until you form a cohesive dough. Add flour as needed until you have a dough that is tacky but not sticky.

Cover and let rise fully, which took around eight hours for me.

Take half the dough and divide into eight pieces. Roll each into a ball and place on a parchment lined tray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until nicely puffy which took a few hours in a warm place for me.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Brush the buns with a beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes, turn down the temperature to 350F and bake for another 5.

Remove and let cool on a wire rack.


filling & assembly

almond paste

Adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas.

90 g ground almonds

60 g icing sugar

10-15 mL heavy cream

Combine the almonds and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Mix. Add the cream bit by bit until a soft dough is just formed. Chill in the fridge.


classic almond filling

To fill 4 buns, or 1/4 of the dough. From The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson. 

1/3 -1/2 of the almond paste


60 mL 36% m.f. cream

2 tbsp cloudberry preserves, optional

icing sugar

Cut the tops off of four of the buns. Hollow out the breads by pulling out the insides. Break apart the bread innards into small pieces. Grate around 1/3 – 1/2 of the almond paste using the large holes of a box grater into the bread innards. Add a dash of milk as needed, just to moisten. Mix together. Pack into the hollowed out buns.

Whip the cream until thick and just stiff.

If desired, flavour the cream with the cloudberry preserves. Press the preserves through a sieve to remove the seeds. Stir one spoonful of cream into the strained preserves. Fold into the cream. Quickly (as the whipped cream begins to collapse a bit, which is accelerated by the jam) place into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe a generous amount on the top of each bun.

Top each bun with the piece of bread you previously sliced off. Dust with icing sugar.


spiced apple and marzipan filling

To fill 4 buns, or 1/4 of the dough.

1 large apple

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

dash of grated nutmeg and pinch of ground cloves

1/3 of the almond paste.

60 mL 36% m.f. cream

icing sugar

Core the apple and chop into small pieces. Place in a saucepan and add enough water to partially cover the apples. Add in the spices. Bring to a simmer and cook until the water is mostly gone and the apples are tender.

Grate around 1/3 of the almond paste using the large holes of a box grater into the spiced apples. Stir to combine; if the apples are still warm, the almond paste will melt a bit.

Cut the tops off of four of the buns. Hollow out the breads by pulling out the insides. Fill each bun with 1/4 of the filling.

Whip the cream until thick and just stiff. Put into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and quickly (as the cream begins to collapse when it is in the piping bag) and pipe a generous swirl on top of each bun. Place the small round of bread you previously sliced off the top of each back on top of the cream.

Dust with icing sugar.


I also quite liked a ricotta and ligonberry filling that I tried. Fill the bottom of the bun with a good couple spoonfuls of ricotta (I had flavoured it with a bit of lavender for another purpose), then a spot of ligonberry preserves.

48 thoughts on “spiced apple and marzipan semlor

    1. Sorry Hilda, a very, very lengthy and uncertain response upcoming:
      I’m thinking feeding more often might help, but I’m not sure. I had read somewhere (I think it might have been Peter Reinhart’s the Bread Baker’s Apprentice) that he doubles his sourdough starter the day before if he wants a more acidic bread, and triples his sourdough starter if he wants a less acidic bread. I don’t feed my starter very often at all and in the past few years my bread has been getting very sour, so I thought the feeding schedule might be the cause. However, I’m not sure how to rationalize how feeding more/more often might help. It would dilute the acid that has built in up in the starter, but I don’t know if it helps in terms of keeping down the acidic bacteria population. Maybe bacteria can thrive better than the yeast when times are tough (i.e. the starter hasn’t been fed in months!) and so their population grows more when feedings are less frequent? Anyways, I’ll try to do some reading sometime to see if anyone clever has gotten onto the topic 🙂


    1. I find Nordic nomenclature very confusing! Looking off the Nordic Cookbook, semlor are known by a variety of terms in different countries. I seem to spend a lot of time with bread difficulties (lately I keep thinking about bread-things before I go to sleep so it’s a wonder I haven’t been dreaming about bread). I do agree though, revisiting difficulties is useful! 🙂 Thank you Julie!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Nell! Haha, I would attribute the elegance to the small hat that is cut off the top of the bun… it seems a bit purposeless (I kept on wanting to just eat them as I was putting the semlor together), but it wouldn’t be a semla with it!


  1. I can’t believe I didn’t see this post until now! I am getting a little homesick reading about semlor and amazingly I have NEVER even thought about putting another filling in than the classic one. This is a true aha experience! he he They look absolutely perfect and oh do I wish I had one now! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think your filling looks delicious! It just stunned me! ha ha I used to heat milk and fill a deep bowl by about half, put my semla there and eat it like that. I am from Sweden and this is one of the things I really miss 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I read about that method in the Nordic Cookbook! The author was not a fan, but I think it sounds like a delicious and comforting way to eat semlor. There is one left, so that will be my breakfast for tomorrow 🙂 I hope you come across some semlor where you live now!


  2. Still haven’t tried semlor! I really must! They look and sound superb. Not sure where to find them here, though. Someone told me Ikea has them, but I’ve never seen them there. I guess if I really want to try them, I need to make them myself. Saving this recipe, thanks! XOXO

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ikea really does have everything now! I think they’re worth making because even if you don’t fill the buns, any sweet enriched and cardamom-flavoured bread will already be delicious on its own! Thanks Angie 🙂 xx


  3. These look so delicious Laurie! Love the marzipan and apple filling… your sourdough buns look great! I’m now very curious about semlor and sourdough… hmmm. And yum. Thank you for sharing such an interesting recipe! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lili! I was happy with both the fillings, but I really did like the apple one 🙂 🙂 I am still struggling to get along with the sourdough starter at times, but sourdough-spelt-semla is alliteration too lovely to ignore!

      Liked by 1 person

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