Something Swedish

Semlor Galore

26 Comments

[Warning]

Many pictures of delicious creamy pastries included in this post! Not intended for the hungry or those with intense sweet tooth. May cause cravings.

Yesterday was Fattisdag (Fat Tuesday) and in Sweden that means it’s time for the rich cream, sweet almond paste, powdered sugar, and fluffy wheat bun of the Swedish Semla. I’ve written more about this decadent  treat and its history here in the beginning of February. Fattisdag really snuck up on me despite looking forward to the socially accepted day of eating such a pastry. I have had semla before, even though I have never before been in Sweden for Fattisdag, as they have started appearing in bakeries early. It’s not the same as eating a semla on the actual day of Fattisdag, it is a bit more special because Swedes all across the country are enjoying semlor in unison, it is the day when millions are sold, baked, and eaten.

While reading one of my favorite Swedish expat blogs I was inspired by an idea this blogger had, she and a “panel” of friends did a semlor tasting to find the best semla in Stockholm. Read her post here. And so with her blessing: “Megalagom – You have to do one too! Let me know and I’ll link you up. :),” I asked hubby if there were other bakeries in town aside from the only one I knew of and convinced him that it would be fun to compare the goods. Thankfully he is a good sport and entertains my crazy antics, and so he told me which bakeries to go to.

And so the quest to find the tastiest semlor in Halmstad had begun. We were on our path to prove that all semlor are not created equal and guide future semlor eaters down the road of deliciousness.

Being a pretty small town the options were pretty clear, although I think we skipped over one or two bakeries. Seeing as there are only two of us it seemed unwise and artery clogging to taste test too many. We decided on three local bakeries, one traditional semla from each plus a specialty semla from one of them which they are well known for – meaning four semlor to split between the two of us. These are extremely heavy, filling, and unhealthy, we did not eat all of our semlor in one sitting.

I was surprised by the different types of semlor available: lactose free, gluten free, saffran flavored, blueberry flavored creme, vanilla paste instead of almond paste, and a few that looked different but I couldn’t understand the names.

Östras Bröd: We used this bakery as a benchmark, as we have eaten Semlor from here before. They are the largest of the bakeries, they widely distribute to supermarkets, and you can find their product outside of our town. They have been around since 1899 so are very well known and established. They have four stores in Halmstad; their bread and pastries are on a more mass produced level. They had  an impressive amount of semlor premade and on display.

The Semla here cost 17 kronor, with an option of a mini Semla (which was sold out) for 11 kronor. I didn’t check the price of any of the “special” semlor, they had a decent selection of different types.

Paulssons: This bakery is new to both my husband and I, although it has been recommended to him. They describe themselves as local and traditional. It is a small bakery with a cafe feel with a few window view tables to sit at. I was surprised that this bakery was more crowded than the big chain although it is a completely different type of atmosphere.

The Semla here cost 23 kronor and the “Special” semla cost 25 kronor. I was only able to see the two kinds.

Konditori Regnbågen: (Confectionery Rainbow) Having been around since 1958 this bakery has built up a good reputation and is very popular. When I told hubby how incredibly crowded it was here he said it is “the place to go” for a semla. (When I arrived my ticket number was 40, the number on the board was 810. There were people waiting outside since the queue was so long. When I was leaving (15 minutes later) I looked at the tickets and the next one available was 68) They had the widest variety to choose from, including their specialty saffran semla which hubby had heard about through the grapevine so we decided to try it. This bakery seems small from the outside but has a very large sitting area.

The Semlor here cost 25 kronor each, same price for the regular and the saffran.

First thing you need to know about Semlor is how to eat one. When you see first see one you don’t know how to approach it. Don’t make the mistake of biting into it like a burger- it’s messy (I would know).

The top of the bun floating above of that pile of cream is called the “hat.” This is for dipping into the cream and then eating- sampling a bit of the cream and bun while making the rest easier to eat. The hat has all the powdered sugar making this first step very sweet, but the bun has the almond paste which is the secret weapon of the semla.

Because of this eating technique the size of the hat is important, not only because you need to use it like a spoon but because the size of the hat determines the bun-to-cream ratio.

Along side the hat and the bun-to-cream ratio, the other important aspects of the semla is the quality of the bun, the amount of powdered sugar, and of course the tastiness of the cream and the almond paste (In no particular order, but how well they work together).

We began our trial with Paulssons Konditori.

Our first reaction was that the hat was too small, which made it awkward to eat. We agreed that this also created too much bun however the cream-to-bun ratio was saved by the large amount of cream. It seemed tasty enough, even though neither of us really tasted the almond paste enough to point it out. Unfortunately after tasting the other semlor we found this cream to be very bland upon re-inspection. There was however a good amount of powdered sugar, which camouflaged the lack of sweetness in the cream if eaten together.

Meg’s Second Least Favorite. Hubby’s Least favorite.

Next was our benchmark, Östras Bröd.

Having eaten these before we didn’t expect to be surprised, but after tasting the first semla we noticed that this cream was very rich and filled with flavor. The hat is much bigger, which made for more comfortable eating. While the bun was a bit smaller we also found there to be less cream to enjoy, the ratio was disappointing but the sweetness and tastiness of the cream made up for the difference. There was less powdered sugar, but the almond paste was a bit more notable.

Meg’s Second Favorite. Hubby’s Second Favorite.

Lastly we tried the two semlor from Regnbågen.

Next was the “special” semla which is flavored with saffron. This is a very popular and beloved taste for Christmas pastries in Sweden. You can see the saffron in the bun, making it yellow. This is the only semla that looked different than the others, slightly smaller with different consistence in the bread and the hat was a small triangle. There was a good amount of cream, and the ratio seemed to be good despite the tiny hat. Aside from the saffran there was also vanilla cream with the almond paste, which was an interesting addition. We had slightly different opinions on this version of this semla:

Meg: “Saffron is too overpowering, can hardly taste the other components. Might be because I am not used to saffron.”

Hubby: “It’s too different to be considered a semla, however it has a good taste to be an entirely different pastry.”

Meg’s Least Favorite. Hubby’s Second Least Favorite.

Last but not least we tried the regular semla from Regnbågen: Our Winner. We knew this would be a winner once we sliced it open and took a look. (In fact, hubby took a taste from the knife and instantly tasted the difference) Look at that thick layer of almond paste hiding beneath the cream, it even has chunks of almond! We were unable to see the almond paste in the other semlor, and did not taste it enough to notice it too much. This added a lot of character to the semla with a rich dynamic flavor the others lacked. There was a perfect cream-to-bun ratio and the hat was a good size. The cream was not as sweet as Ostras  (but sweeter than Paulssons) however it did not need to be because of the paste, in fact if it was sweeter it would have messed up the balance.

Meg’s Winner! Hubby’s Winner!

_______________________________________________________________________

Everyone has a favorite bakery, ours has always been the one next to our apartment because it is convenient and well known. It was a belly filling operation but well worth it! Next year we know where our personal favorite semla is and we will also try the semlor with fruity flavored cream. Maybe we will compare other pastries, but not for awhile as this was our “sweet goodbye to sweets,” ironically having started an attempt to eat healthier just the day prior to our semlor feast.

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26 thoughts on “Semlor Galore

  1. sounds like you had great fun experimenting here! will check out your friends post too as we live in Stockholm and are always interested in new bakeries 🙂

    I made my own Semlor for the first time yesterday for my girlfriend and me, just finished one a few minutes ago lol, will post later on my results 🙂

    • Oh, that’s wonderful! It was certainly a lot of fun and you should def take a look at her post as she lists about 8 bakeries and they all look great! Didn’t know you were in Stockholm, seems everyone is! Glad you had enough time on your hands to make some semla, hope you are also getting some rest with the new baby! (although you might prefer to cook over sleep!)

      • aww thanks, we are adjusting and regaining more sleep bit by bit but its all worth it for sure and still find time to cook, I just cant blog every day at the moment but now and then is good too 🙂

        I just commented (waiting moderation) on your friend’s blog, was a great read and we will be popping in on the joint winners at some point to check them out. Always nice to go to somewhere that is highly recommended. 🙂

  2. Hi Meg. I am Dan´s wife (the other US Swedish blogger) My name is Mariette.
    We live outside Halmstad in a litte house by the sea.
    I have just started to read your blog. I love it. You blog about interesting
    things and it gives me a new view of my hometown.
    Konditori Regnbågen is surely the best. Have not tasted their semlas but
    would expect them to be good!
    Keep blogging!
    Mariette
    mariettel2000@yahoo.com

    • Oh! Hi Mariette, nice to meet you! I was looking forward to Dan’s (or yours!!) reply to the post since you are also in Halmstad and I was curious what you guys would think/which bakery you do to! Glad you enjoy the blog, looking forward to hearing more from you! Do you also have a blog? I know Dan writes about you in his.

  3. Hi, Mariette again! I have now read most of your blog and find it extremely fascinating.
    I am born in Halmstad. Lived here until I was 23 and then moved to the US. Lived in LA
    and San Francisco for almost 30 years. Just returned back in summer. July.
    I am impressed by the amount of stuff you have covered in your blog. WOW. You seem
    to have scooped out all the special things about Halmstad. There is one thing though, that makes Halmstad special which you must experience once spring and summer arrive.
    That´s the whole coastline, stretching from the city and almost 20 km south-west. It is the most beautiful coastline on earth. I promise you. There is a path-trail that starts at the harbor and takes you along the whole coast. It is called Prins Bertil´s Stig. You will walk along both rocky and sandy beaches, through the forests and meadows and every view is breathtaking.You will finally arrive at the giant beach at Tylösand. Then the path goes about another 4 KM inland to a place called Möllegård where you can buy Swedens best gelatto. We live on the trail, so you can always stop in for fika if you like!! You can of course
    take the car and just stop at different parts of the parth. But best is walking!
    No motorvechicels allowed on the trail itself but you can bike or walk. For me, this is the essence of Halmstad and Sweden. There was not one day in the US when I did not think of it and long for it a bit. Then I found that some of my hubbys SFI friends did not even know about the coast here. I am sure your husband does though. Not good weather for walking there now, but bringing your SLR on a nice spring day can be wonderful. (I also have an SLR and sometimes when I get tired of Dans phone pics, we go out and I take some.) Once you have experienced the Halmstad coastline you will know that you live in paradise on earth. I was so impressed by the fact that you moved here in January, the worst time weather wise, and you´re so positive about everything!
    Feel free to write any time. Mariettel2000@yahoo.com
    Mariette

    • I have spent one summer here in Halmstad- last june/luly (when you moved back!) and it was very beautiful. We were very busy planning our wedding so I did not get to experience much, which is great because I still have so much to look forward to! I still haven’t even been to a beach here, in a beach town! So I will certainly take your advise and take that walk once the weather looks nicer, it sounds wonderful. Hopefully by then hubby and I will be back in the swing of things and able to walk that whole way! We like to use the trails in galgberget which we enjoy, but this sounds much nicer! (and at the end is gelatto!? Count me IN!) Thank you for the tips and warm welcome!

      • WOW. Yes, you really have lots of fun and beauty ahead of you. If you have a car,
        you could go see most of the beaches on a nice day (when it is not pouring), even
        before spring and summer. Must see places are: 1) Tylösand beach, it is every bit as
        beautiful as the CA beaches and water is warmer during summer (it is shallow).
        2) Grötvik with a small boat harbor, 3) Görvik which
        has the best fiskmarket I know in summer (we live right at the market), 4) Brottet, a
        really nice outdoors pool free of charge, and a place called 5) Tjuvahålan which is
        stunning and they have a little chapel looking over the ocean. In summer you can
        eat good at the restaurants at the beach as well. Although Prins Bertils Stig ends
        at Tylösand, the beaches just continue for miles and miles to the north.
        Yes, Galgberget is very nice. And it gets even nicer when the trees get leaves and
        some of the forest floors are covered with white flowers in spring.
        If you ever have any questions about the area, feel free to write. Any time! Meantime,
        good luck with everything. Mariette

  4. Just saw your reply! No I do not have a blog, but pitch in on Dan´s now and then.
    My first months here were very much involved with finding the right job. I finally did and
    work at a preschool right at the beach about 3 Km from where we live. I really like your blog.
    I can´t wait until you start seeing this city and the area transform during spring and winter.
    Its lovely. I do miss the US and especially my friends but since this is a summer paradise I have people coming to visit eagerly. Oh, a tip if you like good organic food and bread. There is a place called SPIS&DELI right on the litlte Square Lilla Torg. They have great organic food and pastry.

    • Dan has recommended Spis&Deli a couple of days ago, I mentioned it to the hubby and we will go together hopefully this weekend, just waiting until we can both go- it looks yummy from the website. I just saw your post on Dans blog (before this reply) and saw that you wrote recently. How long has it been since you moved back to Sweden?

  5. Epic!!!

    Are you guys stuffed out now? 🙂

  6. Pingback: The Best Semlor in Stockholm – A Guide to the Best Bakeries

  7. Yummy, I love semlor! Wish I could have been in Sweden for fat-tuesday to indulge in them haha! 🙂 I did manage to have time to eat at least one when I was in Sweden over Christmas and New Years, before going back to Denver! 🙂

  8. Ah, I see we missed some of the critical elements of life in Sweden when we visited — Semlor and the coastal hiking trail! Gives us two more good reasons to plan a return trip (a face to face chat with the author being the number one reason, of course!)

    • I actually included the coastal hiking train on the welcome package, I thought you guys might enjoy that but you certainly can’t do it all! (And I didn’t describe it as alluring as Mariette has!) We are going to try it when the weather gets nicer and I will tell you all about it! You should try to make semlor at home!! A return trip would be amazing, something without the running around of a wedding would be nice! Looking forward to seeing everyone in July. 🙂

  9. I love this idea– I should do a tasting with the Estonian semla equivalent next year. I think the Estonian ones are a bit lighter because they don’t have the paste inside, so I’m sure I’d be able to eat quite a few ;). Also, in the Estonian ones the “hat” is much smaller, so the biggest problem if you try to bit right into one is getting whipped cream all over your nose.

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  12. Hi so I stumbled across your blog when I was looking for semlor in Denver area. I used to live in Chicago and there I could find the lovely treat. Not as good as some of the ones in Sweden but I have gotten to the point of being picky is loooooong gone… So my questin is do unknown any places in Denver area? Maybe ikea? Or I found a grocery store on Kipling that sells a lot of Swedish products. Maybe there… Would love if u knew of some hidden Swedish gems in this area. 🙂

    • Hi Alex- I think your best (And most fun) bet is to try to make your own! There are tons of recipes, and homemade semlor are very popular here. (I’m going to try doing that this year instead of eating so many store made ones, just don’t skip the almond paste!) I don’t think that Ikea would have Semlas, but who knows? Check if your town has any Scandinavian stores for ingredients, or maybe restaurants/bakeries might have some. Maybe another reader knows the area and can help better. Lycka Till!! If you try to bake them, let us know how they turned out!

  13. Pingback: Cooking Swedish: Semlor « Something Swedish

  14. It’s called fettisdag, not “fattisdag”. 🙂

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