Swedish Saffron Buns

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I made these buns last nigh for a last celebration of Chanukah; butter is oil, isn’t it?

In Sweden they are called Lussekatt and are associated with the celebration of Lucia – a Scandinavian festival which has roots in indigenous Germanic pagan, pre-Christian midwinter mythology and marks the observance of the winter solstice and the rebirth of the sun. It was commonly believed in Scandinavia, as late as the end of the 19th century, that this was the longest night of the year, coinciding with the winter Solstice. A belief that is also found in the poem A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day, Being the Shortest Day by English poet John Donne.

Ingredients for a dozen buns:

3/4 ounce yeast / 21 grams
1 cup lukewarm milk
a pinch of saffron or tumeric
Scant 1/2 cup butter, melted
1 pounds all-purpose flour / 1 cup – I used 3/4 plain white flour and 1/4 spelt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup raisins

24 raisins
1 egg, beaten

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a mixing bowl, then add the saffron and keep stirring until the mixture turns yellow. Add the melted butter. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then stir in the sugar and raisins.

Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until the dough comes cleanly from the edge of the bowl. Knead the dough on a floured counter for 10 minutes, until it is shiny but not sticky. Put the dough back in the bowl and let rise for 1 1/2 hours at room temperature.

Lightly knead the dough again on a floured counter. Divide into 22 equal pieces. Roll them into sausages then curl the ends so that each piece is shaped like the number eight. Put one raisin in the middle of each circle. Place the breads on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, cover with dish towels, and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the risen breads with beaten egg. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown all over. Let cool on a wire rack. Eat them as they are, or spread with cold butter.

Slightly adapted from a recipe found in The Scandinavian Cook Book – A Year in the Nordic Cuisine