Wednesday, December 16, 2020

St. Lucia Saffron Buns (Lussekatter) #BBB

Our December Bead Baking Babes challenge was the easy and delightful saffron bun known as Lussekatter.  St. Lucia's Day is celebrated most commonly in Italy and in Scandinavia. In Scandinavia, it falls on December 13th, considered to be the shortest day of the year (Julian calendar). Lucia means light, with the saffron providing the color of light. In Swedish tradition, young girls wear a crown of candles and wake their families bearing Lussekatter, special sweet yeast buns flavored with saffron and studded with currants or raisins. The shape is said to resemble the curl of a cat’s tail.  They are soft and light as a feather, with a beautiful creamy yellow from the saffron.

I was a Lucia Princess once, a long time ago, in a play about Christmas traditions around the world.  I explained about the Lucia, Queen of Light tradition and sang a solo.  It was the first time my parents had ever heard me sing.  Mom still talks about it; they didn't know I could sing. Somewhere under their house, we still have my wreath of candles that I wore.  I grew up in a town with strong Scandinavian roots and tradition, with a festival and royal court each year.  I was never a princess in that court but have a strong appreciation for Scandinavian baking!  This dough is soft and beautiful to work with and I love anything with cardamom in it.

These lovely little buns are not something to be missed, no matter what shape they come in.  Do try them out and bake along with us this month!  No blog is necessary to participate, a picture will do. Just send a picture or your post of your finished focaccine to our host by the 29th of this month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th. Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

St. Lucia Saffron Buns (Lussekatter)
Makes 12 to 14 good sized buns

¾ cup milk (175 ml)

½ teaspoon saffron threads (I crushed mine with a mortar and pestle to release more color and flavor)
¼ cup (50 g) + 1 tsp white, granulated sugar, divided
One ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
3½ to 4 cups (490 g to 570 g) all-purpose flour (I only used the 3½ cups 490g)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ cup (1/2 stick, 4 Tbsp, 56 g) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup of sour cream (I imagine yogurt would work or quark if you can find it)
2 large eggs
Raisins, currants, dried cherries or cranberries

1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water

In a small pot, heat the milk, saffron, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar together until the milk is steamy.  (Scald the milk.) Remove from heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the butter and stir until melted. Let cool until about 110-115°F.  That's warm to the touch, but not hot.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together 3½ cups (490g) of the flour, yeast, remaining ¼ cup of sugar, salt and ground cardamom (if using).  Add the milk mixture, the eggs, and the sour cream. Mix the ingredients until well incorporated.

Switch to the dough hook of your mixer (if using, otherwise knead by hand). Start kneading on low speed. Slowly add additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition. Do this until the dough is still a little sticky to the touch, but does not completely stick to your hands when you handle it.  (I did not need to add any additional flour beyond the 3½ cups.)

Cover dough with plastic wrap. (Note at this point you can make ahead and refrigerate overnight if you wish.) Let sit in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.  (This time is forgiving, I forgot to set a timer and went long, mine had more than doubled.)

When the dough has doubled in size, gently deflate and knead it a couple of times. Break off a piece and form it into a ball about 2 inches wide.  (I divided my dough into 12 portions of ~76g each.) Roll the ball out into a long rope, about 14 inches long.

Curl each end in opposite directions, forming an "S" with spirals at each end. Place on a lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough. 

Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and place in a warm spot until the dough shapes double in size.  About 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Using a pastry brush, gently brush the egg wash over the tops and sides of the uncooked buns. Place raisins or cherries in the centers of the "S" spirals.  Press down lightly.

Place in the oven and bake at 400°F (205°C) for about 10 to 11 minutes (turning halfway through cooking to ensure even browning), until the buns are golden brown.  (I probably should have used two trays as my buns puffed up enough to touch at the ends and the middle row needed a couple more minutes to brown properly.)

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before eating.

The only picture of all my Lucia buns.  The cats decided
they were very tasty and nibbled the tops off of seven!

You can't prove anything.

I'm too cute to be in trouble.

Soft and light as a feather. And we
salvaged the nibbled ones!

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes




  1. What a great story! How funny that your family didn't know you could sing. P.S. Gorgeous rolls.

  2. Our moms and dads know us so well and yet somethings they can be oblivious about. Lovely story and perfectly gorgeous rolls! Wow all perfectly spaced out and shaped!

  3. You were a Lucia Princess!? With a crown of candles? And a red sash? AND a solo? I'm SO envious. I'm also envious of the beautiful Lucia buns you made. I am not, however, envious of your naughty kittens! Did they imagine that just because they knew where their mittens were, they could just help themselves? Shocking!

  4. What a great experience to play St. Lucia and to sing a solo! Your buns are lovely...great color and crumb and shape and everything Kelly!

  5. Gorgeous S shapes and your crumb looks so soft and fluffy! I love anything with cardamom in it as well. What a wonderful memory.

  6. Those look like fun to make and eat. And very festive for the season. And you got to wear the crown!!!!

  7. We love your buns..... and cats! :-)

  8. Lucia princess? Wow!
    Those buns are just perfect.
    Season's Greetings & Happy Holidays.


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