Saint Lucy’s day is celebrated today, December 13th throughout Nordic countries, it is more commonly associated with Sweden. December is very dark throughout these countries and 13th is considered to be the longest night. Little girls don white gown with red ribbon and wear a candle crown made with evergreen lingonberry. It’s a beautiful thought until I imagine hair on fire or wax all over it. Luckily these days things are battery operated! Girls carry lussekatter aka saffron buns with tea. Lussekatter, traditionally are made as ‘s’ shaped buns with currants or raisins.Saffron is stamen of purple crocus flower. It is world’s costliest spice by weight, owing to factor that each stamen needs to be handpicked and dried; but fear not a little goes a long way. The moment you taste saffron in food you have added too much. It is prized for its fragrance and a vibrant yellow hue it imparts. Never buy powdered or from a place you cant be sure of its reliability. Look for a grade A coupe from Spain here in US. Iranian saffron is revered for its fragrance though it gives little less color.
Saffron is used a lot in Indian cuisine from some curries to biryani and almost every dessert. And it is always paired with cardamom, though a bewitching combination; here I stayed away and added freshly ground nutmeg and orange zest to jazz up the whole bun. You can go old school, skip the almond paste filling or nutmeg or orange zest.
This recipe comes from Fika by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall. Fika (fee-ka) is the swedish word for coffee break which includes coffee/tea with some baked goods. This book is sans photos but it is beautifully and playfully illustrated with handmade drawings. The word fika which means to take a break, slow down with a cup of coffee and some delicious home baked goods. This book allowed me to enjoy the life’s small moments, away from the hustle and bustle of life; book is full of simple straightforward and classic Swedish recipes for pastries and other treats. The author holds your hand takes you around a classic fika recipes and gives you the sense of how charming a small yet important tradition can be.
Recipe adapted from Fika by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon grand mariner/ whiskey/ cognac
- 85 grams/ 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 240 grams/ 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 egg, lightly whisked (use half in dough and other half for egg wash)
- 50 grams/ 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
- 360 grams/ 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 65 grams/ 1/4 cup almond paste, grated
- 42 grams/ 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon orange zest, optional
- In a small bowl add saffron threads and crush with back of spoon. Add liquor and set aside.
- Melt butter in a saucepan, add milk and heat till it is warm around 110°F. Put yeast in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of this milk mixture, mix well and set aside for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk half egg, sugar, salt, zest, nutmeg and saffron mix. Add milk mix and yeast mix to this and stir well.
- Slowly add flour and stir using wooden spoon or dough hook. Once mixed cover and wait for 10 minutes.
- Lightly flour your work surface and dump the dough on it. Knead for 5 to 7 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.
- Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let it rise for 1.5 hour or until it is doubled.
- Meanwhile mix together all ingredient from filling and make a paste, set aside.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Lightly flour work surface and roll the dough into 12 inch by 12 inch square. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, spread the almond paste evenly all over it. Fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter. Re-roll into 12 by 15 inch rectangle. Cut 15 even strips and form buns as shown in pictures.
- Places formed buns on baking sheets, keeping 2 inches of gap. Cover with kitchen towel and proof for an hour.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400°F. When ready to bake, egg wash the buns with remaining egg. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and cool on rack.
- Eat them warm or freeze them once completely cool. Best eaten on same day.