Every year on the 13th of December, St. Lucia’s Day also known as ‘Festival of Lights’, is celebrated in Scandinavia. It is the feast day of Santa Lucia, who was martyred by the Romans and is believed to be one of the first Christian martyrs in history. It also marks the beginning of the Christmas advent.
During this time, the Scandinavians commemorate this occasion by having candle lit processions and some even dress up as St. Lucia in a white dress with a red sash and a crown of candles. They prepare a feast for the family, just like other Christmas traditions followed around the world. And one of the things most Swedes make is traditional Swedish Saffron Buns or as they call it Lussekatter.
These saffron infused buns are bright and golden, just like the sun, reminding us that the dark winter days will be gone soon and sunny days are just around the corner. And each bun is shaped in an ‘S’ shape, which is supposed to resemble St. Lucia’s cat all curled up.
So what if I can’t travel to Sweden right now, baking and eating these gorgeous buns is just as good a feeling as being there.
Swedish Saffron Buns/ Lussekatter
- 185 ml Milk
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Saffron threads
- 7 g Active dry yeast
- 525 g Plain flour
- 1/2 tsp Ground cardamom
- 50 g Granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 55 g Unsalted butter
- 2 Eggs (lightly beaten)
- Handful of Raisins
For the egg wash
- 1 Egg
- 1 tbsp Milk/ Water
- In a small pan, heat milk. Turn it off just before it starts boiling. Using a pestle and mortar, grind 1 tbsp of sugar and saffron threads. Add this to the milk and mix it in. Once the milk has cooled down a bit, sprinkle over the yeast, mix gently and let it bubble up for 10 minutes.
- In a stand mixer with dough hook attachment, combine together flour, ground cardamom, salt, sugar, egg and butter.
- Pour in the yeast mixture and knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough will be a little sticky, but should not completely stick to your hands when you handle it.
- Bring the dough into a ball, cover it with beeswax paper or cling film and let it rise for 1-2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.
- Once the dough has risen, dust the worksurface with flour and knead the dough a bit. Divide it into equally sized balls (around 55-60 grams). Roll each ball out into long ropes, about 13 inches. Then curl the ends in from opposite directions to form an 'S' shape. Place them on lined baking trays, leaving a little space between them. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it proof for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 205 C. Brush each bun with egg wash and tuck raisins in the centre of the spiral ends. Bake for 10-11 minutes until the buns are golden brown. Remove from oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before serving.