Laskiaispullat - "Shrove Buns"

February seems to be full of days dedicated to someone/something, which have certain foods as a fundamental part of them. For instance what would it be like to be celebrating Runeberg's Day (dedicated to J.L. Runeberg, Finnish national poet) without Runeberg's Torte or what would the Shrove Tuesday be like without pea soup and Shrove Buns. Yesterday it was Shrove Tuesday, laskiaistiistai in Finnish. The straight translation would be "decending tuesday", which means we are decending to lent, so it's 7 weeks till Easter.

On Shrove Tuesday all children (and some adults too) go sliding down a hill with a sled (toboggan?). Afterwards everyone returns home with rosy/frost-bitten cheeks to eat pea soup. This year I didn't cook the pea soup myself but it came from a can. It would be waste to cook the pea soup for just two persons with the laborous soaking of dried peas and then the cooking time of many hours. And the canned version is really OK, sometimes even better than the one I cook :p

The classic pastry of Shrove Tuesday are Shrove Buns: sweet cardamom buns filled with marzipan/jam and whipped cream. There are even great debates which one the filling should be. To me it's definitely the marzipan: the lovely sweet taste of almonds accented with a flavour of bitter almonds, yummy.

Last year I couldn't eat the traditional Finnish Shrove foods. I saw constantly FB statuses and pictures of Shrove Buns and I really craved for them. I was in Japan at the time and too busy to bake myself (and at that time I didn't know how to bake with the oven in the common kitchen). When I came back to Finland a month later my craving for the buns was gone, but I was left with a craving of pea soup, which then happened to be the first food I ate after my return. This year I wanted to compensate for my last year's loss and bake some Shrove Buns.



25 g fresh yeast / 11 g dry yeast
100 g butter
250 ml milk
90 g sugar
1/2-3/4 Tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp ground cardamom (optional, but highly recommended)
1 egg, whisked
appr. 400-450 g wheat flour

pearl sugar/almond flakes
(icing sugar to decorate)

almond paste/marzipan
or strawberry/ raspberry jam
whipped cream

Crumble the fresh yeast to a bowl (or if using dry yeast, mix it with appr. half of the flour). Melt the butter and add the milk to it. Check the temperature, and either warm it or let it cool to obtain the temperature of 38 C (or 42-43 C if using dry yeast). Usually I have to warm it a bit (the butter rises on top and as it's hotter than the milk under, so mix carefully when testing the temperature). Add the liquid gradually to the bowl if using fresh yeast and let the yeast dissolve before pouring in the rest of the liquid. Add the sugar, salt, cardamom and half of the whisked egg (save the other half for brushing). Add the wheat flour little by little (if using dry yeast, use first the half containing the yeast). When the batter resembles thick pancake batter beat it for some time in order to get some air into the dough and to gain elasticity. Add more flour to obtain a smooth dough that starts to unstick from the bowl. Knead it and then cover it with a cling-film or cloth and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (appr. 45 minutes depending heavily on the temperature).

Punch the dough down and knead it on a floured surface. Divide it into small buns (I made about 10 big buns from this, but if you want smaller, go ahead). Roll them into balls and let them rest under a cloth appr. 30 minutes until risen. While they are rising, warm the oven into 225 C. Brush the buns with the remaining egg, sprinkle the buns with either pearl sugar or flaked almonds. Bake them for 10-15 minutes in the middle rack, until golden brown. (My oven is quite hot so I lowered the temperature to 200 C after the buns had been in the oven for 5 minutes).

Let the buns cool down completely before filling them.

Filling: If you can't get marzipan, you can make it yourself: grind some blanched almonds (+one bitter almond) into flour in a blender (or Bamix etc) and continue to blend until they get into oily mass. Add icing sugar according to your taste. If the paste is too dry, add some egg white (here it's not so important for the mass to be soft, see below, so you can skip this step). Optional, but recommended: If you don't have bitter almonds, you can also flavour the paste with a couple of drops of bitter almond extract or Amaretto liqueur.

Soften the shop-bought marzipan or your homemade paste with milk. Cut the buns into two making the top smaller than the bottom, carve some bun out of the bottom half to make a hole. Mix the bun carvings with marzipan-milk mixture and add more milk, if needed. Spread the marzipan-bun paste (or jam) in the hole of the bottom half of the bun and pipe some whipped cream on it. Place the top half of the bun on the cream. If you sprinkled the buns with almond flakes, you can sift some icing sugar on top to decorate. Enjoy with coffee, hot chocolate or ice-cold milk.

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