You know those foods that take you back to your childhood? Especially foods that were reserved for special occasions? Lussekatter, or Lucia buns as my mother always called them, were such a food for me.
In Sweden the eldest daughter is selected to act as Santa Lucia on the 13th of December. The origin being tied to something about Santa Lucia providing food for Christians hiding in some catacombs, but the celebration does occur near the winter solstice and is a celebration that brings light in winter to make it less bleak. If you want to geek out with me, check out sweden.se’s explanation of the holiday and make sure you watch the video, the music is a crucial part of the holiday (plus it’s quite cheeky).
Having dressed as Santa Lucia myself, in the 1st grade mind you, and after years of attending Swedish camp in northern Minnesota where I participated in the rounds of delivering early morning hot chocolate and lussekatter to the other campers, the songs are ingrained in my head. And the buns, well, it’s just not December without them.
In years past my mom made the buns for our family, but as she’s gotten older, I’ve taken up the staff and roped my own kids into making them with me. It doesn’t take much convincing because they love to eat them as much as I do.
- 2 (1⁄4-oz.) packages active dry yeast
- 2 cups milk, heated to 115°
- 2 tsp. saffron, lightly crushed
- 3⁄4 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar
- 6 1⁄2 cups flour
- 3⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
- 3 eggs
- 12 tbsp. unsalted butter,cut into 1⁄2” cubes, softened
- Canola oil, for greasing
- 64 raisins, for garnish
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix together yeast, milk, saffron, and 1 tsp. sugar; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining sugar, along with the flour, salt, and 2 eggs. Mix on low speed until dough forms and gathers around the paddle.
- Replace paddle with dough hook and add butter; knead on medium-high speed until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, 8 minutes.
- Transfer dough to a large bowl greased with oil and cover with plastic wrap; let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 hour.
- Divide dough into 32 pieces and roll each piece into an 8″-long rope. Form each rope into an S shape and then roll each end into a tight spiral. (See Shaping Saffron Buns for illustrated step-by-step instructions.)
- Place shaped dough pieces 2″ apart on parchment paper–lined baking sheets; cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 400°.
- Uncover the dough pieces and place a raisin at the center of each of the spirals. Lightly beat remaining egg with 1 tbsp. water and brush each bun with egg mixture. Bake until buns are golden brown and cooked through, 16 minutes.
- Transfer buns to a wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Ok, so this isn’t totally recipe related, but it is hilarious. I was still pretty cute in 1978, and I doubt I was as pissed as I look, but who knows, that plastic wreath on my head probably wasn’t that comfortable.