Mar 20, 2011

"Semlor, Sportlov and Other Delights"

The front door of the bakery in Junsele advertising "Today - Semlor - 15 crowns (about $2.50) each".
The minute there is even the smallest sign that winter is about to break we see this sign by the door of  Brödboden (The Bread House) Bakery in beautiful downtown Junsele.
Traditionally, semlor (the plural form), would be eaten on Shrove Tuesday as a kind of voluminous indulgence before the start of Lent with it's prescribed dietary limitations.
But everyone loves them so much that now they start to appear in February, and sometimes even earlier,
and today in the middle of March, to everyone's delight,
 the sign is still up.

They are so simple that you wonder why everyone in every culture doesn't just make them. 
And they are incredibly delicious. 
So here's how it usually goes in our kitchen at home....

Bake up a batch of normal yeast buns with just a little extra sugar, not a lot, and when they are cool slice off the top of each one.
Next hollow out the bun and put a generous slice of almond paste in the bottom. *
These use a LOT of whipped cream and the secret seems to be not to sweeten it too much,  just a touch.  With the piping bag bulging, start down on the mandelmassa (almond paste)  and                               fill 'em up!

The top goes back on.
Dust, dust, dust with powdered sugar and finally
 nestle each one  into a large soup bowl.
 Pour steaming hot milk slowly into the bowl until the semla starts to float. 
Sprinkle with cinnamon all around and on top and
it's ready!
The singular form of this noun is semla, but you hardly ever hear that form
no one ever eats only one!

As delightful as the consumption of semlor is,
on it's heels comes a corresponding treat:

In the year 1940 children like these were in small schools in farming communities all over Sweden.
By the time March came, the resources for heating the schools were running low.  So the decision was made to  give the children a week-long holiday in the waning weeks of winter. 
They called it "Koklov" (Heat Holiday) at first,
 and then later "Sportlov" (Sport Holiday),
(a little more politically correct).

But whatever they called it, it was a delightful decision. 
 As the long Swedish winter began to break,
it brought a lot of happiness to the kids.

This year it brought a lot of happiness to us as well.
After only eight weeks of absence since his Christmas visit,
 it brought Maxie back! 

Quick as a wink he was  into his old familiar routines in the barn and "doing the wood" for the pannrum furnace with Gustav.

Look at this farm-pro  hooking the woodbags onto the forklift, giving Gustav the signal in the tractor, and then hopping up onto the side himself for the ride back to the woodpile.

He and Gustav had some quiet moments together on the kitchen sofa,

and of course, some 'not-so-quiet' tumbles in the snow.
But whatever they had,
for two solid weeks
(one of Maxie's Sportlov down south and one of our Sportlov up here in Norrland),
to our great delight,
we had him back! 
* This year while Elli was visiting she told us of an alternate method to make the Semlor filling. We combined the torn crumbs from the inside of the buns with shredded instead of sliced mandelmassa, added a little hot milk to that mixture and then refilled the buns.  It was even better than before!

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