Semlor Almond Tarts
In Sweden, there is no better treat this time of year than a semla. The sweet, yeasted bun, spiced with cardamom, filled with almond paste and topped with whipped cream is a pastry you will see in every Swedish cafe and bakery window. Traditionally intended for consumption on Fat Tuesday (best to go out with a bang the day before Lent), nowadays you can get semlor from January until the big day.
Semlor are a special treat, and they are something that I look forward to every year around the end of January and the beginning of February. The combination of spicy cardamom, sweet almond pasty and smooth whipped cream is decadent, and certainly worth waiting to have only once or twice a year.
But sometimes tradition deserves a little change. These semlor tarts – a rendition I came up with for a baking class at Book Larder – are inspired by the classic, but made a little differently, so that they’ll satisfy anyone who wants a gluten-free version. and even if you aren’t necessarily looking for a gluten-free version, trust me, you are going to want to make these.
It’s a twist on the classic, but all the same tastes are still there: cardamom, almonds and whipped cream. The only main difference is the base. Instead of a yeasted bun, the base is made with an almond tart, and the crunchiness of the tart layers well with the other two consistences of the almond paste and the whipped cream. They are also a little bit more manageable to eat, and since they are practically bite-sized, don’t be surprised when you eat two or three. The base recipe is enough for a few people, but if you’re serving more, you can easily double it.
As you can see, these tarts were baked just a touch too long. Nothing a little almond paste and whipped cream can’t fix!
Gluten-Free Semlor Almond Tarts
Makes: 10 small tarts, recipe can easily be doubled to make 20
For the tarts:
1 cup (5 ounces, 140 grams) raw almonds
1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
For the filling:
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces, 70 grams) raw almonds
1 tablespoon honey
zest of 1/2 a small orange
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) heavy cream, whipped
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
To make the tarts, in a food processor, finely grind the almonds, cardamom and sea salt. Place the mixture in a bowl and add the honey, olive oil and water and mix together until a dough forms.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Using a tablespoon, scoop the mixture out and form into ten balls (to make ten, you will scoop out slightly less than a tablespoon for each). Form the balls into round tart shapes, with the edges going up at least 1/4-inch (1/2-centimeter), and with a thickness of 1/4-inch (1/2-centimeter). The tarts should be about 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter.
Bake for 6 to 9 minutes, until the tarts are a deep golden brown. Because they are small, they will burn quickly, so keep an eye on them. Remove from the oven and cool.
To prepare the filling, place the almonds in a bowl and cover them with hot/boiling water. Let sit for a few minutes until you can put your hand in the water. The skins should be loose and you should be easily able to pop the almonds out of them. Place the skins in one bowl and the blanched almonds in another.
Compost the almond skins and pour off any water that is in the bowl of blanched almonds. Place the blanched almonds in a food processor with the honey and orange zest and mix until well blended. The mixture should be a little sticky and grainy.
In a bowl, combine the almond filling with the milk, until you get a thick consistency. You don’t want it to be runny.
Spoon the filling into the tarts, then top each with a small amount of whipped cream and serve immediately.
If you don’t plan on serving them right away, store the almond filling and whipped cream in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the tarts.
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