Overpowered by the semla
In Swedish Shrove Tuesday is referred to as Fat Tuesday, which neatly sums up how you feel after eating a semla. These Lenten buns are an almost guaranteed cardiac arrest served on a plate, yet Swedes have a compulsive need to consume them, in vast quantities, not just on Shrove Tuesday, but on every Tuesday from early January until Easter.
The first bite is delicious. The soft, sweet, cardamom-spiced bun is filled with a glorious almond-bread mixture and it is topped with a generous spoonful of whipped cream. But already by the third mouthful or so you can't help but wonder what all this cream must be doing to your arteries, never mind your stomach (and your hips and your thighs). Nausea soon sets in, and keeps you company for the rest of the day.
Despite years of experience, my craving for a semla was so great this weekend that I spent the first half of Sunday baking the wretched things from scratch, which included making my own almond paste (the kind sold in the UK is just too sweet). The second half of the day was spent feeling quite disgusting; I swear fat was literally oozing out of my pores. It's the perfect way to start Lent I suppose, no way are you going to want to eat anything so fatty and so sweet again for a very long time. But since Lent hasn't been observed in Sweden for many years, there the gluttony continues, relentlessly, until Easter.
Feeling brave? Want to give them a go? Here is the recipe.