In Norway and Sweden Saffron Buns – or Lussekatter are traditionally baked to celebrate the St Lucia’s or St Lucy’s Day on 13th December.
The Scandinavians have appropriated this Italian saint for a festival of lights at this darkest (especially up in Scandinavia) time of year. Processions of girls dress in white with a red sash and wear crowns or wreaths of candles. On the morning of St Lucia’s Day another tradition is that the oldest daughter of the household dresses up in the white dress and candle wreath and presents saffron buns to every one else.
These saffron buns are ‘S’ shaped, with raisins set into the curl at each end, they are called Lussekatter or Lussebuller, meaning Lucia cats, as the scrolled buns look like cats’ tails.
They are basically an enriched dough bun infused with saffron, making the dough yellow and fragrant. Recipes vary, this one includes cardamom, but that seems to be optional.
- 500g strong bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
- 7g (1 packet) fast action yeast
- 1 beaten egg
- 300ml milk
- 75g butter
- 2-4g saffron
- 24 raisins
- Put the milk and butter into a pan and add the saffron (crumbled or ground to break up the strands). Set on a gentle heat until the butter has melted and the milk is steaming, but not boiling. Remove from the heat and leave to cool and infuse for 30 – 40 minutes until lukewarm and it’s turned yellow.
- Measure the flour, salt, cardamom and yeast into a bowl (don’t let the yeast come into direct contact with the salt as it will kill it), add them separately and stir in between.
- Add the milk and most of the egg (save some for glazing later).
- Bring together and knead by hand or in a processor (a few minutes). It’s quite a wet dough and doesn’t seem to require much, It seems to like quite gentle handling.
- Cover with a cloth and leave to prove in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour).
- Turn out and divide into twelve.
- Roll each portion into a snake about 30cm long. Curl into an ‘S’ shape.
- Place onto a baking sheet on a tray. Leave space around each bun each you don’t want them to join together as they bake. So 2 trays of 6 is best.
- Put into a large plastic bag whilst the oven heats up (200 degrees C). They will puff up a little.
- Remove the bag and glaze with the remaining egg, then place a raisin into each scroll.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden yellow. Place on a wire rack to cool.
Serve warm with good coffee.
Happy St Lucia’s Day!