15 December 2006

The Day of St Lucia

On 13 December, Sweden celebrates St Lucia. Amongst other things, special saffron buns (lussekatter) are made.

And this is the story of how I discovered that there are different types of flour. The first time I made these in the UK, I used plain flour and so they didn't rise. They went into the bin and I made a second lot the next day, again with plain flour and again with the same result. I'd invited friends and treated them to these horrible things. They politely tried them, so many thanks for that. I binned the rest after they left and decided never to make these again, I'd lost it, it was as simple as that.

But then I found out about different types of flour and so this year I tried again. Needless to say there was much worry involved and I ended up adding too much flour which made them a bit dry and dense. They did rise very well, but I made another mistake too - I decorated them with raisins and egg after they'd proofed, which caused them to collapse.

Also a bit more sugar would have been better.


50 g fresh yeast (or corresponding amount quick dry yeast)
200 g unsalted butter
6 dl full milk
1 g saffron
1 tsp granulated sugar
2 dl caster sugar
1 dl glucose or light syrup
½ tsp salt
1000 g + 200 g strong white flour
1 egg yolk

  1. Place the butter and milk in a saucepan and let the butter melt on low heat and warm up the milk to just above 37 degrees.
  2. In the mean time, grind the saffron with a teaspoon of granulated sugar with a pestle and mortar. Then add to the milk and butter and stir in well.
  3. If using fresh yeast, break it up and dissolve in the liquid - very important that it isn't too hot or the yeast will die.
  4. If using dried yeast, blend it well with the 1000 g of strong flour.
  5. Add the sugar and syrup to the liquid, then incorporate the 1000 g flour.
  6. If needed, add more flour to form a fairly soft dough, that just about doesn't stick to the fingers. This is where I made my first mistake of adding too much flour, making the dough hard and difficult to work. Hot tip: use a kitchen machine to mix the dough or you won't have strength enough to make the buns.
  7. Leave to rise until it doubles in size, so in a warm place and covered with a tea towel.
  8. Make the buns and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Add the raisins and brush with the whisked up yolk. Then leave to proof for about 30 minutes.
  9. Pre-heat the oven at 225 degrees C or gas mark 7, but turn it down to 200 degrees/gas mark 6 when you bake the first lot.
  10. Bake one sheet at a time in the lower middle of the oven for 10 - 15 minutes.
  11. Leave to cool on a rack. The buns can be frozen. This recipe yields about 30 buns. And they are particularly nice when they are warm.
I'm including some links to traditional bun shapes

Saffron buns 1
Saffron buns 2
Saffron advent candle holder

Today was my last day at work and as a leaving do, I made these for my colleagues yesterday, along with gingersnaps and Swedish non-alcoholic mulled wine (courtesy of IKEA). The buns didn't quite turn out too well and so I still have quite a lot of them. They weren't sweet enough but I thought this would off set the extreme sweetness of the mulled wine. The gingersnaps went down very well though. Also I've had a glimpse of what it may feel like when you retire and leave colleagues and good friends behind. But a new job is lurking behind the corner and possibly less time to cook. So twice as sad in a way.

If you don't have time for buns, you can make a large plait and cover it with pearl sugar or make a wreath by rolling the dough and spreading the filling from the cinnamon buns mixed with some finely chopped or ground hazelnuts. Then make it into a roll and snip through half of it with scissors. Then put the two ends together to form a circle and alternatively pull the cut bits to the outside or inside of the wreath.

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