Food and Fandom: Matthias’ Semla

It’s all about the Grishaverse this weekend, and as a commemoration of having absolutely binged the TV show of Shadow and Bone within a day, I figured I’d post about this lovely food I picked up from Matthias’ wistful thinking!


(click on the semla recipe here)

This was something different. If the demon Brekker spoke the truth, Matthias would get to go home. The longing for it twisted in his chest–to hear his language spoken, to see his friends again, taste semla filled with sweet almond paste, feel the bite of the northern wind as it came roaring over the ice. To return home and be welcomed there without the burden of dishonor.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

I loved every one of Brekker’s crew, not gonna lie. I had no complaints switching back and forth between their POVs because each one had such great narrative. We don’t get much food talk, but when we do, it’s normally about sweets. Because, ya know, Nina and Matthias have at least one common ground, and it’s got to do with pastry.

“How about cake?”

“What about it?”

“I’m very keen on cake. I’m wondering if we can find some common ground.”

But although Matthias does indeed have his own sweet tooth, he’s not much for imbibing due to strict Fjerdan policies with druskelle.

“You’re not giving up Fjerdan government secrets. I just want to know why you don’t like cake.”

“I do like cake, but we’re not permitted sweets.”

But oh man, so I did look up what semla were (mostly because the other option had required setting raisins in brandy on fire, and well…that wasn’t happening any time soon!). If we went by the geography and realistic basis of Fjerda, the nation is most likely a northern European one. A Scandinavian country like Finland or Norway or Sweden. Semla happens to be a Swedish pastry.

From what I saw, there were different ways to create the bun for the bread, and while I would have preferred my ingredients measured out in cups (because blast my being used to American measurements…), the grams didn’t throw me off since I have my own measuring scale. A very good investment, may I add! (Kaz would be proud.)

Cardamom was difficult to find, though. I’m not even sure where I’d be able to get that, so I made do by substituting equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg to the recipe. The dough came out pretty well once I had it proved for some time, and then baked it in.

In fact, I think I would have been okay with just the bread itself. All it needed was a bit of butter, and jam (and I have a peach jam that I enjoyed with some of the bread!).

The almond paste and whipped cream filling I definitely improvised just a little bit. I didn’t have any actual almonds for the almond paste, so I made do with almond flour and created a marzipan filling for it. Because the marzipan filling came out a bit thick, I wanted to keep the cream nice and light, so I simplified the cream to just a basic whipping cream and sugar combination. Then topped it all off with some confectionery sugar. Yum yum!

Overall verdict: This was absolutely delicious, and I can see why it’s something Matthias would miss from his homeland. I don’t think I could see myself making this very often, though, mostly because I try not to make so many nut-related baked goods owing to allergies and such. I suppose you can remove the almond out of the recipe by replacing with a nut-free marzipan, but that’s practically just making yourself fondant, which…I’m not exactly a big fan of. That said, the bread was flavorful, and I could honestly have just eaten the bread alone with some jam and a touch of butter. Especially when it was still warm. This is good to eat on the day, not so much the next few days after.

Recipe: Semla

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