Mardi Gras Buns

It’s that time of the year again! In Finland (and in other Nordic countries), it’s impossible to miss these cream-filled, cardamom-flavoured buns around Shrove Tuesday. This delicacy has a lot a different names, but it’s called laskiaispulla in Finnish, which translates as “Mardi Gras bun”, and the Swedish refer to it simply as semla (bun). The brioche bun is cut in two and stuffed, and there are two variations on the filling in addition to the whipped cream: almond paste has a lot of fans, whereas others swear by a generous dollop of raspberry or strawberry jam.

Our recipe is a super-almondy take on the Mardi Gras bun. It’s a crossing between Finnish and French pastry, as we use a traditional French recipe for brioche as a base, but add a hint of cardamom to it. And since the French don’t have the tradition of these buns, the rest of the recipe is all Nordic. The closest thing to this pastry you can find in France is the famous Tarte Tropezienne, a big flat brioche cake covered in pearl sugar and stuffed with a pastry cream based filling.

We fill our buns with some homemade almond paste and whipped cream with mascarpone and vanilla. For some extra crunch, we also add some toasted, chopped almonds inside the bun and on the lid.

If almonds for some reason are not your thing, and you’d like to stick with the jam version, just replace the almond paste with jam and sprinkle some pearl sugar on the buns instead of almonds. You can also take it to a new level by hiding some fresh raspberries underneath the lid, which brings some extra zing to this pastry. (It’s not a very orthodox thing to do, but then again, some people even put Nutella in their buns, so everything is possible!)  

Ingredients for approximately 15 pcs :

300 g flour
50 g sugar
10 g dry yeast (or 25 g fresh yeast)
300 g eggs (5-6 pieces)
250 butter
½ tbs cardamom

Almond paste
200 g almond powder
200 g icing sugar
2 egg whites

Whipped cream filling with mascarpone
300 g whole cream
100 g mascarpone
40 g icing sugar
Vanilla extract or seeds from ½ vanilla pod

In addition : 250 g whole almonds

Egg wash: whole egg + milk
On top: slivered almonds, icing sugar

  1. Prepare the brioche dough by mixing together the dry ingredients and add the eggs. Knead until the dough stays together, approximately 5 minutes. Then add the cold butter cut into small cubes. If you use a Kitchenaid-style food processor, start slowly and and add a little speed when the dough gets smoother. Continue kneading until the dough is completely homogeneous, smooth and until it doesn’t stick to the sides of your mixing bowl. This can take up to 20 minutes.
  2. Leave the dough in a bowl in room temperature for half an hour and then move it to the fridge. Cover the bowl with cling wrap so the dough doesn’t dry on the surface. Refrigerate for about 2 hours or until the dough is cold and has doubled in size.
  3. In the meantime, chop the whole almonds roughly and toast them in the oven (180 °C, 10 minutes).
  4. When the dough is cold and ready, knead it in order to remove the air and divide it into pieces of 65-70 g. Roll the pieces firmly against the table and place them on your oven plate (on a baking sheet). Brush the buns with egg wash and let them rise until their size has doubled. Then apply a second coat of egg wash, sprinkle with almonds and bake at 180 °C for 15 minutes or until the buns are golden brown.
  5. Prepare the almond paste by mixing together the almond powder and the icing sugar. Add the egg white and mix well. If the paste is too stiff, add some egg white or water.
  6. Prepare the whipped cream by whisking the cream until it forms a soft mousse. Then add the mascarpone, mix, and gradually add the icing sugar and the vanilla. Whisk until the mousse gets quite firm. Put the whipped cream in a piping bag with a star-shaped (for example) nozzle.
  7. When the buns have cooled, cut them horizontally in half so that the “lid” is ⅓ of the bun. Fill them with almond paste, toasted almonds and whipped cream, and then place the lid on the bun.