Some folks eat pancakes on the Tuesday before Lent begins. Some go all out and make these amazing Scandinavian sweet rolls.
I won’t go into the history of the tradition of eating sweet, fattening treats before Lent begins, but it is a cultural tradition in some Christian parts of the world. Mormon Christians don’t observe Lent with outward extended fasting or denial. (We’re on a different fasting schedule.) However, some of the culinary traditions used by other Christians can be adopted because they are, well, delicious.
If you’re up for a little baking and some great eating and you’re interested in a way to observe Christian activities preceding Easter, make these and gather your family around you to watch one of these great videos about the life of Jesus Christ.
2 1/2 cups whole milk
7 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter at room temperature
3 tsp freshly ground cardamom
3 tsp salt
1.5 Tbsp dry active yeast
beaten egg for glaze
1 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks (save the whites for an omelette tomorrow morning)
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 Tbsp corn starch
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
1.5 cups chilled whipping cream
Raspberry freezer jam for topping
For the rolls: Heat the milk until lukewarm- about 86F (30C). Mix together the flour, sugar, cardamom, salt, egg, and yeast. Add the milk. Knead on low speed for about 5 minutes. Add the butter in soft chunks and knead 5-10 more minutes until you have a smooth, pliable dough. Cover bowl and let rise 1 hour.
Remove dough from bowl and shape into 24 balls. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment or silicone. Cover with a clean towel and let rise 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Brush rolls with beaten egg and bake for 20 minutes till golden.
For the creme: Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Reserve pod. Whisk together the vanilla seeds, sugar, egg yolks, and corn starch until smooth and fluffy. Boil the milk with the vanilla pod on medium-high heat. Remove the pod and gently pour the milk over the egg mixture while stirring. Return mixture to the pot and heat over medium heat while stirring continuously until it starts to thicken (about 180F). Remove from heat and add the almond extract, if using.
Now that the custard has thickened let the mixture cool, covered, in the refrigerator. Strain out any extra-thick bits. This will probably make more than you need. Save some; you’ll find a good use for it. (It’s tempting to just eat it all at this point, but hold out until the treat is finished.)
Whip the cream until stiff. When the custard is cool, gently mix equal amounts of the cream and custard together.
Assembly: Split the buns in two, with the top being slightly smaller than the bottom. Spread some raspberry freezer jam on the bottom half. Spread or pipe crème pâtissière on top of the jam. Replace the top and dust with powdered sugar. Indulge, knowing you’re not going to make these until next February.