Some foods are more special to us than others. They connect us to the culture and traditions. Every culture, every region in the world have them. Lussekatter is such a beautiful bread that is part of the Swedish tradition of celebrating St.Lucia’s day. These rich saffron buns are delicious with a mug of coffee or in my case with a cup of cardamom flavored chai. Be sure to give them a try !!
St.Lucia’s day falls on December 13th, is one of the biggest celebrations marking the start of Christmas season in Sweden. On this day the children serves Lussekatter and coffee to the members of the household. The stories behind the celebrations date back to the 4th century CE. Click here if you would like to know more about St.Lucia Day.
In the midst of the holiday baking and sugar filled indulgences these soft buns are are a welcome change. Frankly I would love to have them anytime! The beautiful color of the breads is thanks to the little bit of saffron in the dough. The bright golden color is a celebration of light during the time of longest, darkest nights. Isn’t it a lovely amalgamation of pagan and christian cultures ?
I used unbleached all purpose flour for this recipe. White flour brings out the bright yellow color and I would recommend it for this recipe. Organic or just unbleached , you decide.
Saffron is a wonderful spice. The color and flavor it imparts is unmatched. It is also one of the most expensive spices as well. Thankfully a little bit is all that one needs. In a pinch safflower can be substituted, though it does not quite have the same effect.
See the beautiful color that the saffron strands are imparting to the milk. Sprinkle the saffron, crush for more effect, on top of the hot milk . In 5 to 10 minutes the milk turns golden yellow. Remember to make sure that the milk is cooled to room temperature or just warm to touch before adding it to the dough.
Often times I leave the saffron strands as is. The milk changes color, and the strands themselves when kneaded into the dough gives rise to bright specs of color in the finished product.
The bread dough comes together as a standard bread dough. Activate the yeast in another 1/4 C milk heated to 110°F, or just warm to touch , mixed with 1 tsp. Separate one egg into yolk and white. Reserve the white. Measure the flour, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix and make a well in the center. Add the activated yeast, the cooled saffron infused milk, an egg and 1 yolk to the well. Reserve the remaining egg white . This is to be used to make an egg-wash later. Mix the dry and wet ingredients adding the butter and enough milk to make a soft dough. Knead for 10 minutes until it become soft and pliable. Form into a ball. Place in a large covered bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled – about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. At this point you can place the dough in the fridge for an overnight rising. This improves the flavor.
Once the dough has doubled in size punch it down the dough and divide into 18 pieces . Roll each piece into long ropes – 12″ to 14″ in length. You might have to roll it even longer. This dough is very elastic and shrinks a little as you stops rolling. Turn the ends to form an S shape with curled ends or form into 8s . Press a currant or raisin into the center of the curls .
Preparing an egg wash by beating the reserved egg white and 1 tsp of water together. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash. If desired sprinkle sugar on top. These buns do expand nicely in the oven . Place them a little farther apart than I did in this picture. Transfer the buns to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Take the buns out of the oven and transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely. These taste wonderful warm or cold and they freeze well too .