The more I’ve learned about Santa Lucia Day in Sweden, and about saffron buns, and why they are called lussekatter, the more I am in awe of how traditions come to be. And how good these buns are with hot cocoa on a cold, dark, and rainy night!
I remember the first time I made something with saffron. And it wasn’t something I liked. It kind of smelled like bleach to me. But I was intrigued. And I kept using it. And little by little, I started liking it more and more.
I’ve made these a couple of times for this post. The first time, I skimped in the ingredients, because saffron is expensive! But that’s what ended up making me want to do it a second time. I didn’t regret going out and buying some good quality saffron and to make sure and use enough of it. And I made sure to soak it in a little bit of rum this time, instead of the milk, to extract more of the flavor and color and infuse it into the dough.
Also, the other reason for making them again was strictly because I painted one of my backgrounds a nice light blue. And if you are a fellow food blogger I know that has used a light blue background with greens, yellows, and reds, I have likely been influenced by it! I hope you don’t mind. I really like Christmas-y colors with the light blue.
santa lucia buns (altered slightly from this recipe)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons saffron threads
2 Tablespoons rum or vodka
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon, divided use
2 and 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream (room temperature)
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) softened room temperature butter
egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon milk)
raisins (I used golden raisins)
Place the alcohol in a microwave-safe bowl and heat up the alcohol in the microwave just to get it warm, like 25 seconds. After heating it up, crush the saffron with a mortar and pestle, then add to the warmed up rum and let steep for about 30 minutes. Set aside.
Get sour cream, eggs, and butter out of the refrigerator and up to room temperature as well. Soak raisins in a bowl of hot water.
Meanwhile, stir together the flour, the 1/2 cup of sugar, and salt with a whisk several times in a large bowl. Set aside.
In another microwave-safe bowl, heat up the milk in a microwave for about 30 seconds, then dissolve a teaspoon of sugar into it and let it sit until it is just lukewarm. Lukewarm is like a warm bath, about 110 degrees F.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture in the large bowl and add the milk with the yeast and sugar, the saffron with the rum, the sour cream, the unsalted butter, and 2 lightly beaten eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough starts to form. Scrape all of the contents along with the forming ball of dough unto a clean well-floured surface or counter.
Add flour to hands and knead well for about 5 to 10 minutes. The dough will be very sticky, so add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough is workable. Be very judicious about not adding too much flour. I would say about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of flour at most. Eventually, the dough will workable and elastic, but still a little tacky. Place back to the bowl and cover with plastic tightly and let rise for about an hour until doubled.
After the dough has doubled, return to a clean counter and divide the dough into about 15-18 pieces, each weighing about 2.5 ounces or more. You can also calculate however many buns you would like by getting the total weight of the dough and dividing by the number of buns desired to get the weight of each bun.
Form each piece of dough into a long sausage of about 14-16 inches. If the dough is too sticky and sticking to the counter, add a little flour, but be careful not to add too much flour, as it might be difficult to roll (Dough needs a little friction to roll.)
Roll each of the ends up tightly towards the middle in opposite ends to create an “s” shape. Place spaced apart from each other on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place one raisin on each end of the s shape in the center. Place plastic wrap loosely over the buns to double, about an hour. They will be ready to bake when an indentation in the dough with a finger comes back to its original shape very slowly.
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Make an egg wash by beating an egg with 1 tablespoon of milk in a small bowl. Brush each of the buns with the egg wash.
Since they don’t take long in the oven to bake, about 11 minutes, I placed the first batch of buns that were formed first. I fitted 9 buns to a tray and 2 trays.
Bake for 11-12 minutes. Sides should still be yellow but fairly bronzed by baking. Remove from the oven and let cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes before eating.