If you want to infuse your kitchen with the smell of a Swedish Christmas, this Scandinavian recipe will do the job. These raisin-filled buns are traditionally eaten for Saint Lucia Day on December 13 in Sweden and throughout Scandinavia, but then again, they’re delicious all year long.
For the buns:
¾ cup milk (175 ml)
½ teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon plus ¼ cup (50 g) of white, granulated sugar
1 packet of active dry yeast (¼ ounce)
3½ to 4 cups (490 g to 570 g) of all-purpose flour
Add the milk, saffron and 1 teaspoon of sugar to a pot and heat until the milk is steamy. Remove from heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Leave it to cool until it’s just warm to the touch.
Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture while it’s still warm and leave it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes until foamy.
Whisk together 3½ cups of the flour, ¼ cup of sugar and salt.
Pour the foamy milk-mixture into the centre of the flour (that you just whisked) and add the eggs, butter and sour cream. Mix it all together into a dough.
Knead the dough, while slowly adding flour (just a tablespoon at a time). Do this until the flour is all kneaded in and the dough is still a bit sticky, but doesn’t completely stick to your hands.
After shaping the dough into a ball, put it in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
When the dough is ready for shaping, roll a bit into a ball about 2 inches wide (60 to 70 grams). Stretch the ball out into a sausage-shape about 14 inches long, then curl the ends in opposite directions, so it looks like an ‘S’ with spirals at each end – forming the signature shape it’s famous for. Place on a lined baking sheet and repeat until all the dough is gone.
Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit until the dough shapes double in size (should take about 30 minutes to an hour).
Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Meanwhile, brush some beaten egg over the tops and sides of the uncooked buns, and then place raisins in the centres of the ‘S’ spirals.
Pop then in the oven and bake at 400°F (205°C) for about 10 to 11 minutes (don’t forget to turn halfway through cooking so it browns evenly), until the buns are golden brown. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes before eating.
Background: Saint Lucia saffron buns
These saffron-scented buns have a special place in the hearts of the Swedes but are popular all over Scandinavia where Saint Lucia Day is celebrated every year on December 13th — it marks the winter-solstice and pays homage to Saint Lucia, a third-century martyr.
In many households, Saint Lucia saffron buns are traditionally served for breakfast on this day, often presented by children to their parents.
But traditions aside, you’ll also find them being baked and eaten at all times of the day throughout the lead up to Christmas.
They taste great served with coffee, or if you feel like getting your full Scandi on, they’re nicely complemented by Glögg (mulled wine).