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Jan 27, 2008 05:31 PM

Scandinavian Bakery in NYC? ISO Semla/Semlor

It's that time of year again, folks: bring on the semla!

What's semla, you ask?

Well, as anyone familiar with Swedish food customs will tell you, a semla is a delectable cream and marzipan filled cardamom-spiced bun that's traditionally consumed during the days right before the commencement of Lent. And since Lent is right around the corner at this point, if there's semla to be found in this great city of ours, now would be the time to find it. Once found, I intend to immediately (and giddily) ingest a good dozen of these creamy babies (any more than that may prove lethal.. don't believe me? Consult the Wikipedia entry for semla and read for yourself!).

Does anyone know of a European/Scandinavian bakery in the city that might make these marvelous little creations? For that matter, does a Scandinavian bakery even exist in the 5 boroughs? You're help would be very much appreciated, and hey - perhaps you'll be inspired to go out and get one (or 12) yourself. You'll be glad you did..

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  1. I have no clue but maybe if you called Aquavit or the cafe they would know...or maybe they make them :)

    1. Not aware of any in Manhattan. But you may want to ask at Scandinavian House in Midtown

      1. Actually, "semla" means bun, any kind of bread bun. (usually not sweet).
        The "delectable cream and marzipan filled cardamom-spiced bun" that you are talking about is called "Fastlagssemla" or "Fastlagsbulle" or "Fettisdagsbulle", and is made with a sweet wheat bun. In Finnish the exactly same thing is called "Laskiassämpylä".

        But basically, what it is, is a "Challah" bun with a hole on top, filled with marzipan (some people also put jam in there), and then you can either put whipped cream on top, or pour warm milk over it, and replace the "cap", i.e., the part that was cut off the top to make room for marzipan.

        Photos of the Fastlagssemla(bulle):

        Info about it:

        I do not know where you can get them in NY. Maybe Svenska Kyrkan (Swedish Church)... at least, maybe they can tell you if there is a baker here who makes them. I know they sell some candies and baked goods there, maybe not stuff as perishable as the Fastlagsbulle, though.

        I would also guess that Restaurant SmörgåsChef http://www.smorgaschef.com/contact.htm might serve them during "fastlag" (Shrove Tuesday) or "fettisdag", as it is also called , or maybe they can tell you where to possibly get the this goodie.

        This Finnish baker, in Port Washington, NY, bakes and ships organic Finnish rye breads, but I do not think he bakes any sweet stuff.
        e-mail him and ask:

        4 Replies
        1. re: FoodWine

          Thank you for all of this great info. In Goteborg, where I grew up, I was vaguely aware of the term, Fastlagssemla, but everyone (including the shops where they were sold), referred to them as Semlor, and knew just what that meant this time of year!

          1. re: FoodWine

            With all due respect, I've never heard a Swede refer to the buns I've described as "Fastlagssemla" or "Fastlagsbulle" or "Fettisdagsbulle" -- only "semla" (alternatively spelled "semlor"). You may well be right that the more accurate word for these buns is "Fastlagssemla" or one of the others, but just about every Swede I know calls them semlas.

            Many thanks for the recommendations, by the way! I contacted the Svenska Kyrkan, and they referred me to Fika - which I will now refer you to, as well! I spoke to one of the owners today, and indeed they'll have semla for sale starting Wednesday. I urge you to support Fika and try one!

            As for Smorgas Chef, I'll be having dinner at their West Village location this Friday, but don't expect semlas to be part of the dessert offerings. They don't really do baked goods and pastries there..

            1. re: sanangel

              Thank you for the recommendation.

              About "semla". Very interesting. If you tell me to go buy one, I will bring you bread, i.e., a bread bun, which, as you know, is what semla really means. So I guess it is regional.
              All my Swedish relatives call them Fastlagssemla, except for one that calls it Fettisdagsbulle (which always sounded strange, but quaint to me). And every single Swedish speaking Finn (after all, the tradition is not limited to Sweden only, the Finns celebrate it, too) calls its Fastalgssemla or Fastlagsbulle.

              Ooh, it would be so tempting to go to Fika and buy one, but I think I will resist. But I will visit them another time.

            2. re: FoodWine

              Hey, whoever wrote the silly statement at the top, above, is all wet, and probably got their information from an old Encyclopedia Britannica. A semla and a fastlagssemla or bulle are all one and the same, denoting time and regional differences for the very same delectable pastry created annually for lent, all over Sweden. The "bread" part of a semla is the same used for, say, cinnamon buns, and simply turned into a large round bun. After baking the ban is eviscerted, that is, a thin cap is cut off the top and much of the bun's innards are pulled out and mixed with a bit of sugar, heavy cream and almond paste. This is then stuffed back into the bun and topped with a generous amount of whipped cream. Finally the thin top (often cut as a triangle) is placed on top and a bit of powdered sugar dusted over the whole. Ahhhh, delicious!!!!

              1. you may also try talking to the people at Fika on 58th st, they bake a bunch of scandinavian stuff and may have them/make them to order...

                7 Replies
                1. re: scanditrash

                  Hey ScandiTrash,

                  Thanks so much for the Fika reccomendation -- turns out we've struck gold!

                  I checked out the Fika website, and it's exactly the kind of place I've been hoping to find in NYC.

                  And... I called Fika and confirmed that they WILL HAVE SEMLAS... starting this Wednesday! Hooray!

                  I can't wait to try this charming little place out... I'll report back soon!

                  Thanks again for the reccomendation!

                  1. re: sanangel

                    Awesome news! I can't wait to surprise my family with them.

                  2. re: scanditrash

                    Can you tell me more about Fika? Is it a bakery/restaurant etc.? I really miss Ulrike's, and while I like Aquavit Cafe, it's not a substitute.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Fika presents itself as a coffee shop, but they also offer food. Last time I was there I saw a guy eating a nice looking salad with very thinly sliced salmon in it. It looked good. There isn't a whole lot of seating, just one or two small tables and some stools along the sides.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Fika is very modern euro-cafe with a Swedish slant, named after the popular Swedish term for "coffee break". As you may already know, Swedes are serious about their strong cups of coffee, and consider the coffee break a guaranteed allowance during their workday, much like in Italy. Fika also does a small catering business of updated Scandinavian hors d'oeuvres.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          I miss Ulrika's, too. I loved that place, it was like stepping into someone's home dining room in the archipelago between Sweden and Finland.

                          1. re: FoodWine

                            Ulrika Bengtsson was cooking at Roger Smith Hotel last I heard. Not the same atmosphere but good food nonetheless.