lördag 13 december 2008


Lucia is celebrated on the 13th of December. Originally the day was dedicated to St. Lucia of Syracuse, but the Swedish holiday seems to have little to do with her person. According to folk tradition, this date marked the longest night of the year — an artifact of the medieval calendar. It was thus a time when Man and beast needed extra nourishment. Originally, only men celebrated this festival, with much food and drink. Documents from the late eighteenth century, however, tell of young girls, dressed in white with crowns of candles in their hair, serving the master and mistress. This ceremony has since spread, not least through the activities of clubs and mass voluntary organizations. When, in the 1920s, a Stockholm newspaper arranged a contest to choose a Lucia-girl to represent the city, the custom spread like wildfire.Lucia morning is celebrated in practically every Swedish home, and every community, office, school or club chooses a Lucia, who — dressed in a white gown and with a crown of candles in her hair — brings a tray of coffee, traditionally shaped saffron rolls, and ginger biscuits. She is generally accompanied by a train of white-clad attendants, the girls wearing glitter in their hair and the boys wearing tall paper cones with stars on them. All sing the traditional Lucia carols.

I found a recipe for saffron bread already translated into English — but the part of drying the saffron in the oven is new to me. I have looked at other recipes, and haven't found anything about drying it — so you can skip that part, unless you want to bake one batch with dried and one without drying it and compare the results! These buns are eaten not only at Lucia — they taste just as much Christmas as Lucia.


Saffron bread is traditional for Swedish Christmas. It is strange that this exotic spice used so much in the rice dishes of the Orient has found its way to this northern country. Here it is put into a sweet dough which is shaped into very artistic looking buns "lussekatter" in Swedish. These buns are served traditionally on the thirteenth of December the day of St. Lucia with the early morning coffee. Saffron gives the breed a lovely yellow colour And a piquant flavor.

½ teaspoon saffron1 cup lukewarm cream or milk1 package fresh yeast (50g)
1/3 cup sugar1/3 teaspoon salt1 egg beaten1 cup butter, melted1 cup raisins4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (about)

Dry saffron a few minutes in a very low oven temperature (otherwise it loses its colour). Crush with mortar and pestle or with a spoon in a bowl until powdery. Spoon one tablespoon of warm cream or milk over saffron and let stand for a few minutes.Dissolve yeast in remaining creem or milk add sug ar salt egg butter raisins dissolved saffron and half of flour. Beat with wooden spoon until well blended then gradually add more flour until dough is smooth and not too firm.Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.Place dough in a buttered bowl turning the dough over so that it will be greased on all sides .Cover with towel and let rise in a warm place (85 F) until double in bulk (about 1 ½ hours). Punch down dough. Knead dough lightly. Flour handsand shape the buns pinch off small pices of dough and roll out on floured surface into 7-inch long strips. Pinch 2 stripes together in the center curl in each end. Stick a raisin in each curl. Place buns on buttered cookie sheet. Cover let rise for about 45 minutes or until impression remains when finger is gently pressed into dough.Brush buns with beaten egg.Bake in hot oven(400 F) 10-15 minutes.Makes about 20 buns

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