In Sweden, Fettisdagen (Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday) used to mark the last day before Lent – the Christian fasting period – so this was the day to binge eat, and the feast typically included wheat buns in warm milk (the first, original semla), before the fasting ritual began. Those wheat buns really caught on, and over the years, fettisdagen became synonymous with semlor (plural of semla) in Sweden.
Today, the semla in Sweden has a filling of whipped cream and almond paste, but many Swedes still like their semla with milk. Contrary to the Danish fastelavnsbolle, except for a few minor details, the semla does not seem to have changed much over time. In fact, there is a strange “do-not-touch-my-good-old-semla” attitude among most Swedes, but one exception is the vegan semla. Many Swedes are going green these days, and vegan semlor seem to be one of the few variations that have been accepted by the Swedes and are here to stay.
I had long been curious about vegan baking, and semlor seemed to be a good, but challenging, place to start. The traditional semla contains egg and lots of dairy, and I was particularly concerned about how to find a good egg substitute, so I asked vegan friend Waz in the US, what she thought. She mentioned that apple sauce would probably do the trick, and I found that it worked out great.
For the whipped cream, I chose coconut cream as it is widely available, but I know there are better cream substitutes out there, so feel free to pick whatever you like. If you also go for coconut cream, make sure to chill the cans in the fridge for a minimum of 3-4 hours before use, so the white cream gets solid and separates easily from the clear, liquid, coconut milk.
The semlor have to cool off before you can add the filling, or the cream will melt and turn runny, so count in at least a couple of hours after baking before the buns are ready to be filled with cream and almond paste.