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

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6 thoughts on “Swedish Saffron Buns

  1. Turmeric in baking sounds like a nice touch. Something about German baking at this time of year – a friend who is in her eighties (came from Germany as a child) baked us a delicious spice cake. I ate too much of it myself.

    My daughter wants to bake brownies today for a family Chanukah party we are having today. I’m looking forward to the party.

    Wonder when the Scandinavians got saffron or turmeric available – I suppose one has to import from a much warmer country.

    • Swedish cooking often involves spices so I suppose the merchant navy has been strong for centuries.
      Nice of your daughter to cook. can she do it without too much supervision now?
      Enjoy the party!

  2. Those sound and look very tasty indeed. Thank you for sharing them, and also the mythology. This time of year sees to evoke a lot of myth and legend – perhaps because there were so many hours of dark in the Northern hemisphere where communities needed to stay in, keep warm and communicate!

    • They’re tasty indeed and nice with a cup of tea or coffee. Yes, it is interesting to see the similarities as well as the differences in the way we react to common human experiences.

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