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UFO Brioches |

Embrace the final unhealthy cake of winter before the lean months of lent with this Fat Tuesday classic, the semla bun. Packed to the rafters with cream and marzipan, there is no better way to bid farewell to whatever you're giving up for lent. This recipe is from Christina's Cucina.

Prep time: 2.5 hours

Cooking time: 20-30 mins

Makes: 18

Ingredients Buns:

2 tsp dry yeast

115ml lukewarm water

70g + 1/2 tsp sugar

115ml warm milk

70g melted butter

1 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

1tsp ground cardamom

560g plain flour

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp cream

Ingredients Almond Paste: 1 egg white

55g ground almonds (without skins)

75g icing sugar

Ingredients topping:

250ml double cream (or more if you want them bursting with cream)

Icing sugar for dusting

1. Cardanom-a-nom dough

Start with the dough - mix 7g or a sachet of yeast with 120ml warm water, the temperature you'd bathe a fragile baby in, and 1/2 tsp sugar. Banish the mixture to a corner for a little rest.

In the meantime melt 75g butter with 120ml milk on the hob. Be gentle, you only want in warm, not hot and bubbling. While it's warming glare at your yeast in the corner for some positive reinforcement.

Mix in one egg with a whisk, then pour in your now alive and bubbly yeast mixture (see all that sterness did it a lot of good).

In a large bowl mix 560g plain flour, 2tsp of cardoman (or more, trust your nose on this one, it should be palpably cardomany), 25g sugar and 1 tsp salt. Pour in the yeasty, milky mixture and bring together with your hands.

Knead for around 10 minutes with a dough hook, or with your hands if you're looking for a new years exercise kick. Get those bakeceps going. Once it's smooth and stretched out, pop it back in the bowl and over with a tea towel or plate.

Leave for 2 hours in a warm place (yes it's hard to drag yourself away from your little dough baby, but you need to give it time to grow!). This will allow it to double in size.

2. For mardi gras sake, give me more marzipan

To make the marzipan, separate an egg, yoking the yolk in a small bowl and the white in a large bowl. Whisk the egg white with a hand whisk (if you're looking for those gains) or an electric whisk until it forms soft peaks - like eggy alps.

Fold in 250g ground almonds and 75g icing sugar with a spatula.

Cover the bowl and set the marzipan aside.

3. Punch up that dough, punch it up

After 2 hours return to your inflated dough. Show it who's in charge with some tender punches. Leave it for five minutes. Then shape it into 18 little circles. You can weigh them to make them all equal, but doing it by eye and having some variety is also good. Place the finished balls on a greased tray, making sure to keep a few inches a part.

Pop in a slightly warm oven with a bowl of hot or boiling water so they don't dry out. Leave for 30 minutes.

4. Bake those buns

Once risen, and doubled in size, take the buns out of the oven. Heat it to 175°c. Mix the left over egg yolk with 1 tbsp cream. Brush each bun gently with the vegan nightmare of an egg wash.

Once the oven is hot, pop the buns in on the middle shelf. Cook for 18-20 minutes. You can check they're cooked by tapping on the bottom, make a knock knock joke at the same time for added satisfaction, if it sounds hollow, it's cooked.

Leave to cook on a trying rack until cool, or any other drying contraption you can devise, for around 30 minutes.

5. Creamivale

While the buns are cooling you can whip up your 450ml double cream until it took looks like something your grandma would be proud to put in her Victoria sponge.

Once cooled, cut a large circle about 1cm deep in the top. Put the lid to the side. Pop in about 1 tbsp marzipan. Add about 2 tbsp of whipped cream, or as much as you can squeeze in.

Dust icing sugar on the lid and then put the ufo's little hat back on. Repeat until all your semla are assembled!

Then have a messy, creamy dink and sink!

Food for Thought

Lizzy says: "I remember eating my first semla bun in Stockholm in a intimidatingly trendy cafe (where I embarrassingly managed to spill coffee all over myself) and I loved them. Making recipes that you’ve had before, but made by professionals, is always fun. It’s also really empowering realising how accessible a lot of the fancier recipes are. These semlor were not too tricky to make. I added a lot more cardamom than was suggested, which I would 100p recommend because otherwise it doesn’t come through. It was really interesting making the marzipan, although it wasn’t nearly almondy enough (which boathed well because I am not a fan of marzipan). The cream also would have benefitted from a little bit of sugar popped in - but cooking is always a learning experience. In general, I really enjoyed them and was glad to eat them at home so no one was around to judge when I emerged from each bite with a face covered with cream. 8/10"

Kate says: "What a lovely little sweet treat, and a different take on what I would normally do for shrove Tuesday. These are a real delight, I think because of the whipped cream, it feels like you're at a high tea (until it comes to eating and then you've got to let your inner savage show). I didn't get much added extra from the almond paste, and I had a disaster by not buying ground cardamom when trying to self grind it hit me in the eye, but altogether a lovely little bake for those dark February and March days 8/10"

8/10 Gasps


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