Santa Lucia and Saffron Buns – Lussekatter

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Today it is Saint Lucy’s Day, Luciadagen (Swedish)! Saint Lucy day is a Scandinavian festival of light and it is of both Christian and pagan tradition as it falls near the winter solstice. Saint Lucia was a Sicilian saint, the patron saint of Syracuse, and lived in the 4th century. There are many legends of her but little scientific proof and in one story she refuses an arranged marriage and the fiance revels her being a Christian, in another she prays for her mother to be cured of an illness and when the mother recovers she becomes a nun and in a third one she gives her eyes for the sake of her love.
Well, Lucia is a celebration of light today. In Sweden and the Swedish speaking Finland a Lucia arrives with a crown of candles and her maids. They come singing and brining the light to the dark winter. She sings Lucia song, a Neapolitan folk song. At this very moment (early in the morning) Lucy arrives to many schools and there’s singing everywhere. Many families have their own lucies and it does not matter if you are a boy, you can still be a lucy. Then it is time for saffron buns (lussekatter in Swedish) and gingerbread cookies.
I enjoy the last month of my sabbatical and the long lovely mornings. This morning and started baking buns early (around 7 am) and switched the SVT1 (TV channel) on to listen and watch the Lucy in Stockholm. Tonight we’ll go to town, Helsinki, to see the Finnish Lucy being crowned. Swedes party hard today and here in Finland we take it easier, there are Lucia crownings and processions.

Saffron Buns

This is a recipe for 30 smallish buns.

The recipe is very close to that of cinnamon rolls and ordinary Finnish buns. There is more butter, the saffron and less sugar in it. I googled some Swedish recipe sites and Maku.fi site for help with the quantities. I went almost with the maku.fi recipe otherwise but doubled the amount of saffron. The Swedish recipes all gave the advice of using a mortar with sugar for the saffron, and also the hint of freezing the add leftover buns.

100 g butter
2,5 dl milk
1 egg
25 g yeast
1/2 dl sugar
1/2 tsp salt
0,5 g saffron
8-9 dl flour
1 egg for the brushing, raisins

Heat the milk and melt the butter. Grind the saffron with a tablespoon of sugar in a mortar. This helps it give more taste to the dough. Add the saffron to the milk-butter mixture.
Add yeast to the luke warm mixture. Add the rest of the sugar and the salt. Turn in the flower using a fork first and then work it in by hand. The dough is ready when it is moist and elastic, and when it does not stick to your hands.

Let the dough rest for half and hour in a warm draftless place. Turn the oven on to 225 Celsius.
Bake the dough into small finger-thick rolls and turn into swirls. Place the swirls on baking paper, cover with a cloth and let rest for 10-20 minutes. Brush the buns with wished egg and place raisins to both ends of the swirls (see the picture). Bake for 10 minutes. And enjoy! The buns are best the same day and if you don’t eat them all freeze them. That way they’ll keep the fresh saffron taste.

Maku.fi Lucia buns http://www.maku.fi/resepti/luciapullat-lussekatter (Finnish). You can find alternative models to the buns by googlin pictures with lussekatt.
Read more about the day at http://www.sweden.se/eng/Home/Lifestyle/Traditions/Celebrating-the-Swedish-way/Lucia/

20121213-093939.jpg The dough resting and doubling in size.

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20121213-093953.jpg The brushed and decorated buns ready for the oven.

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