In its honor, I’ve made these St. Lucia buns, the official bread of this holiday. The buns are scented with saffron, which also gives them their lovely yellow color.
The buns are slightly sweet, but not overly so, and are delicious served warm just out of the oven.
To celebrate the winter solstice in Sweden, girls dress in long white dresses with red sashes (to symbolize martyrdom) and carry candles in a procession, lead by the eldest girl, who wears a crown of candles. They carry these St. Lucia buns, along with Swedish gingersnaps (pepparkakor), and Swedish Glogg. (Does anyone remember Pogens? The pepparkakor are kind of like them.)
Christmas in Sweden is not Christmas without these treats. Little girls also serve these treats as breakfast in bed for their parents on December 13…
St. Lucia was originally a Sicilian girl of means who became a martyr by helping persecuted Christians in Rome. The story is that she lit the way to deliver food in the underground tunnels of Rome by wearing a crown of candles.
The holiday eventually made its way to the Scandinavian countries, where light is coveted during the winter. The buns are often adorned by just two raisins, one in each coil, to symbolize eyes.
The aroma of this bread from the saffron is incredible. My grandson went completely nuts over these buns, pretty much devouring two of them fresh from the oven. I asked him if he’d like some butter, but he declined. They were that good.
While the traditional St. Lucia Bun does not include turmeric, this recipe adds a little to enhance the yellow color of the saffron. You cannot taste it, and you can use a little bit less of the saffron, which is so expensive.
Hint on finding discounted saffron: I usually hit the ingredient aisles of Home Goods, TJ Maxx, or Marshall’s whenever I am there. They always seem to have some overstock saffron at discounted prices. You never know when you are going to have a saffron emergency, right?
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
- 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 17 1/2 ounces (3 1/2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast (I used Red Star Platinum, but SAF Gold would also work)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 large room temperature egg
- 1/3 cup dried currants
- 1 egg white, plus a teaspoon of water (optional)
- 2 tablespoons Swedish sugar pearls (optional)
- Add the saffron and turmeric to the boiling water and let steep for at least 15 minutes.
- Add the flour, yeast, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk to combine.
- In a large (at least 4 cup) measuring cup, combine the milk, butter, sugar, egg, and saffron mixture and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, and stir with a large spoon or dough whisk until just combined. Switch to the mixer, and mix with the dough hook on low or about 2 minutes.
- increase the speed to medium low and mix for another 8 minutes, until you have a smooth dough. Reduce the speed to low, add the currants, and mix for another 2 minutes, until combined.
- Transfer the dough to the counter, knead it for about 30 seconds, and then form it into a ball. Place it into an oiled boil, turn it to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for one to two hours, until doubled.
- Transfer the dough to your work surface, and press it down to deflate and roll it out to a 16 inch by 6 inch rectangle. Using a bench knife or dough scraper, cut the dough into 16 one inch by 6 inch strips. While shaping the dough, cover the pieces you are not working with with oiled plastic wrap.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and top with oiled plastic wrap.
- Working with one dough strip at a time, roll the strip out with your hands to 16 inches long. Coil each end of the rope in opposite directions to form an S shape. As you shape each, place the shaped dough onto the baking sheet, under the greased plastic wrap. You should be able to fit eight buns on a baking sheet.
- Preheat the oven, with a rack in the middle, to 350 degrees F. Let the buns rise until puffy, about an hour. When ready to bake, brush the buns with the egg white wash, and sprinkle with the Swedish pearl sugar. Bake the buns, one sheet at a time, for about 20 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through to bake evenly if necessary.
- Cool briefly on a wire rack before serving. These are best served the day they are made, but are excellent warmed briefly in the microwave, or split, toasted, and buttered.
Yield: 16 buns
Tags: St. Lucia Buns
Recipe adapted from Bread Illustrated
#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.
We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.
For another wonderful Swedish bread recipe, check out this Kardemummabullar.
Here’s a lovely video about the day.
You can learn more about St. Lucy here.