As I write this post it is St. Lucia day. The day that Scandinavian families celebrate Saint Lucia, a symbol of hope and light in dark times. Briefly, the festival of St. Lucia begins the Christmas season in Swedish custom, and she comes as a young girl crowned with fresh greens and lit candles carrying a tray of baked goods. These sweet spiral buns are traditionally served on this day. However they can be served anytime, and so I include the recipe today with thoughts of how special they would be on Christmas morning.
Originally candles were woven into the greens making up the wreath, but now-a-days, battery operated candles are used instead. A young girl is chosen to represent St. Lucia and wearing a long white garment with a crown of greens and candles on her head, she carries the tray of buns and leads a procession of young girls and boys, singing the traditional St. Lucia songs.
Lucia celebrations include ginger snaps and sweet saffron-flavored buns shaped like curled up cats. Sometimes raisins are placed in the center of the spirals to represent eyes. You eat them with glögg (spiced wine) or coffee.
St. Lucia Buns are also called Swedish Saffron Christmas Bread. This is one of the easiest yeast breads I’ve ever made. It’s almost no-knead, and the dough can be refrigerated overnight, which is a nice convenience if you’re considering these for breakfast. The flavor of these buns is outstanding and the golden color is achieved through the inclusion of saffron. They are light and airy with a sprinkle of pearl sugar on top. Swedish pearl sugar is a non-melting sugar that can be found in some large grocery stores or ordered online.
St. LUCIA BUNS: SWEDISH SAFFRON CHRISTMAS BREAD
Yield: 24 buns
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water, 110*F to 115*
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 tsp. crushed saffron threads
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- Swedish pearl sugar
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yeast in the warm water; stir gently and briefly with a fork. Add 1 Tablespoon of the sugar; stir again. Let the mixture stand until the yeast foams, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining sugar, butter, cream, milk, saffron, salt and eggs. Fit mixer with the paddle attachment and beat well on medium-low speed until combined. Remove paddle attachment from mixer and fit with the dough hook. Add flour 1 cup at a time mixing well with each addition to keep the dough smooth and satiny. You may not need to use all of the flour.
2. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 375*F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 24 even pieces (about 2-inches square.)
Roll each square into a long rope, about 12-inches long. Curl each end of a rope in opposite directions, creating an “S” shape.
Lift the bun onto the parchment; repeat curling with remaining dough ropes until there are 12 per baking sheet.
5. For the glaze, beat the egg in a custard cup and stir in the milk. Brush each bun with the glaze then sprinkle pearl sugar over the top. Place baking sheets in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
6. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy.
SOURCE: The Big Book of Bread Recipes