Every 13th of December, Sweden celebrates my favorite among their customs, the Lucia celebration. During this time, girls and boys are dressed in white, full-length gowns, and they sing together. One of the girls would be Lucia and she would be wearing a crown of candles on her head, while the rest would be holding candles. Lucia stands as the bearer of light in the dark Swedish winters. It is quite mesmerizing to watch the glow of candles and the full-length white gowns of the kids with the backdrop of darkness outside. A charming tradition to look forward to every winter.
As with every tradition, there is food :-). With Lucia, they serve ginger snaps and ‘lussekatter’, otherwise known as saffron buns or Santa Lucia buns. They have the color of saffron (of course!), shaped like the letter ‘S’, and with raisins on both sides, like eyes :-). If you like saffron, you will surely love ‘lussekatter’.
I remember after celebrating my first Christmas in Stockholm, I was disappointed when these buns started disappearing from coffee shops. I found out later that it’s only available during Lucia (and Christmas) season. That WAS a problem for me. You know why? Yep, I like to eat lussekatter all year-round. The solution? Make my own. Saffron and flour are both available all seasons anyway :-).
So, after trying various recipes, I finally settled on this one. It’s how I want my lussekatter, soft, not too sweet and ‘saffrony’ :-).
Do not wait until next year, try this now! 🙂
- 1/3 cup hot milk
- 1/4 tsp powdered saffron
- 1/3 cup warm milk
- 1 and 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 50 grams unsalted butter , melted
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 320 grams flour
- 24 pieces raisins
- for brushing the buns: 1 tbsp of milk or egg wash (1 egg + 3 tbsp water)
Mix the powdered saffron with the hot milk. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
Mix the yeast with the warm milk and set aside for at least 5 minutes, until the mixture gets foamy.
In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, the saffron mixture, melted butter, egg yolk and sugar. Stir to combine.
Slowly add the flour and the salt and mix/knead until the dough gets smooth. The dough should not be too sticky, just moist.
Shape into a bowl and put in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic and place in a warm place until it doubles in size. Mine took an hour and a half in the oven.
Grease a baking pan or line it with a baking sheet.
Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into twelve equal pieces. Roll each piece like a long cigar and then curl each side to form the letter ‘S’. Put a raisin on the middle of each side of the bun.
Place each rolled buns into the greased pan and cover with a clean towel. Once finished, let the covered buns rest for 45 minutes or until it gets slightly bigger, but not doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius or 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brush the rolled buns with either milk or egg wash, whichever you prefer. The egg wash will give it a darker color on top.
Bake until the buns turn golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the buns from the oven and wait for it to cool down before serving. I only normally wait for no more than 10 minutes 😉
- You might need to strain the saffron mixture before combining with the rest of the ingredients if you are using saffron threads or not so refined powder.
- You can always adjust how much saffron you use, depending on your preference.
- Adapted from 'lilvienna.com'.