Lucia Buns {Lussekatter}

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Santa Lucia & Lucia Buns {Saffron Buns}

Santa Lucia & Lucia Buns {Saffron Buns}

Santa Lucia & Lucia Buns {Saffron Buns}

Santa Lucia, Star Boy & Lucia Bun

As a kid it always seemed a bit crazy yet exciting and invigorating to get up so early on December 13, one of the shortest, darkest days of the year, just for breakfast.  In fact, it always seemed dreamy and surreal.  As a child my family celebrated Santa Lucia with some good family friends every year.  We would alternate houses, each family hosting it every other year.  We rolled out of bed and convened in the kitchen, still half-asleep and groggy, in the pitch dark of the winter morning (around 6am), the house lit by candles and Christmas lights.  The adults would get the coffee going and inevitably there would be a last-minute scramble to get the lighted Lucia crown working and to determine who would be Lucia that year.  Everyone would take a seat at the table, someone would start the Santa Lucia song on the cassette player and Lucia would serve breakfast.

For us, our Santa Lucia breakfast always consisted of cinnamon rolls (or monkey bread), orange rolls and egg dish, with plenty of hot chocolate and orange juice for the kids and lots of strong coffee for the adults.  As breakfast progressed, the sugar and caffeine kicked in and everyone started to wake up. Our little candle-lit breakfast and celebration of light would come to a close just as the sun started to rise and the morning sky got lighter.  And then as suddenly as it all started, we would go back to reality at daybreak and everyone would race off to school and work.  I still cling to memories of this tradition.

That hour or so of a tranquil family breakfast (as opposed to the typical morning with people scarfing cereal or toast as they rush to start the day) was always perfection.  It is the essence of what food means to me: bringing people together.  It is not about gifts, celebrating a specific person or having a holiday vacation.  At least in my family, it is simply a beautiful tradition of coming together and gathering around the table for a special meal with family and loved ones.

Now, I can carry on the tradition with my {star} boys.

Through all of these years, however, I have never tried making the traditional Lucia Buns {lussekatter} which are dense saffron buns rolled in the shape of an S and studded with a raisin in each curl.  This year, I decided that it was the time to try them.  Though I am sensitive to the flavor of saffron, the rolls were surprisingly tasty.  The most satisfying part was working with the bright gold dough, naturally dyed from the saffron threads.  I followed a recipe from SemiSwede and I highly recommend reading her post because it so informative and starts with the origins of Santa Lucia and the traditional Lucia bun.

Wishing you all love and light during this winter season and in the year to come!

Lucia Buns {Lussekatter}
Recipe type: Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24+
These traditional Lucia Buns {lussekatter} are dense saffron buns rolled in the shape of an "S" and studded with a raisin in each curl.
  • 11 tablespoons butter
  • 2½ cups milk
  • 1 gram saffron
  • 1 ounce active dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 egg for brushing the tops before baking
  1. Place the raisins in a small bowl and add enough warm water to cover them. Soaking them for a couple of hours will help to keep them from getting rock hard during baking.
  2. Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbles just begin to form on the sides of the pan.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the saffron, pushing down on the threads to submerge them (you can skip this step if using powdered saffron).
  4. Don’t use a wooden spoon as it will soak up the flavor of the saffron and you want all of that flavor to go into your baked goods, not your spoon.
  5. Let steep for at least 20 minutes and up to 24 hours. If steeping for an extended period of time, let the milk cool to room temperature and then refrigerate it.
  6. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  7. Add the saffron milk and heat until just warm to the touch.
  8. Add the yeast to the bowl of your mixer.
  9. Pour in the butter and milk mixture and stir until the yeast is dissolved.
  10. Add the salt, sugar, and most of the flour.
  11. Work the dough until it is sticky, but doesn’t stick to your hands. Use the minimum amount of flour possible to achieve this.
  12. Let the dough rise in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a kitchen towel until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  13. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth adding flour as needed if the dough is too sticky.
  14. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
  15. Work a ball of dough into an 8-inch long snake and shape it into an “S” curling the ends in well and place on the baking sheet.
  16. Continue until all the buns are formed and let rise, covered with a kitchen towel, 30-40 minutes.
  17. Once the buns have finished rising, place a raisin in the center of each curve on the “S.”
  18. Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush it over the tops of the buns.
  19. Bake the buns at 475 if you want them very browned on top or 400 degrees for less browned in the oven for 5-10 minutes.
  20. When they are browned and sound hollow when tapped they are finished. The buns dry out quickly so once they have cooled to room temperature place them in an airtight container.
  21. The buns also freeze really well so you can enjoy them for a longer period of time.

Santa Lucia, Star Boy & Lucia Bun

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