Friday, 13 December 2013

St. Lucia Buns (Lussekatter)... A Swedish Treat for 13th December

The 13th December is a special feast day celebrated annually in Sweden.

Swedish folklore tells the story of a man who was awoken in the middle of the night upon hearing a beautiful voice.  He was confronted by a beautiful young woman clothed completely in white and carrying a candle who was singing and dancing in his room and gently fluttering her beautiful wings. It was St Lucia who brought with her food, wine and comforting light during the long and cold wintry night.
 
These days, girls dress up in long white dresses and carry candles and baskets of St. Lucia bread or buns to celebrate the saint’s day and in recognition of the ancient folk-story. As they walk, they sing the carol of St. Lucia. This is an important tradition in the run up to Christmas in Sweden and the yellow saffron buns are mandatory fare.
 
I have never made these buns before but was delighted with how they turned out. I have made yeasted saffron loaves and cakes before and have always enjoyed them, but there was something special about these buns. I will definitely be making them again. They are traditionally served with coffee in Sweden but I enjoyed mine liberally buttered with a hot mug of tea.

Ingredients:

7g fast action yeast
250ml milk
3g saffron threads
100g butter melted
500g plain white flour
50g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
40g raisins, plus extra to finish
To glaze:
1 egg, beaten
 

Method:

1. Add the saffron threads to the milk and heat until just below boiling. Leave aside and allow the saffron to infuse its yellow colour into the milk and to give the milk time to cool down until it is lukewarm.
2. Once the milk has cooled a little, add the melted butter.
3. Meanwhile, sift the flour into a separate mixing bowl, and add the yeast, sugar, raisins and salt.
4. Add the milky saffron mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough starts to form and comes away from the edge of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work-surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky and bounces back when prodded with a finger. Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl and leave somewhere warm for about an hour and a half until it has doubled in size.
5. Once it has risen, turn out once more onto a lightly floured surface and briefly knead.
6. Divide the dough into ten equal pieces and roll into sausage shapes and then curl the ends so that each roll looks similar to the number “8”. Put a raising in the centre of each circle of the “8”. Cover with a clean tea-towel and leave to rise again for 30 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4.
8. Brush the risen buns with beaten egg and then bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
 
Makes 10.