lördag 4 december 2010

Lucia Saffron Buns

During the olden days, spices weren't readily available and very expensive in Sweden (true pretty much all over the world) therefore they were only used during one time of year and that was Christmas. Then the Swedes used all the exotic and flavorful spices that they could find. Saffron, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, all spice and other spices were and are used in abundance - to make the Christmas as warm and wonderful as possible, both due to the harsh times (during the rest of the year) as well as the cold of the winter. The traditions have lived on and although they have been altered, but it's still a very Swedish tradition during Christmas time is to bake lots of goodies. 

Usually, in the olden day, Lussebullar or Lussekatter (direct translation Lucia buns or Lucia cats) or in English Lucia saffron buns were made for Lucia, celebrated the 13th of December, on the day that Lucia brings her light to the cold and dark north. (But more on Lucia on the 13th. ) But now a days, Lussebullar are baked pretty much at the first Advent Sunday or when people start to long for Christmas. 

Lussebullar are a soft yellowish bun and spiced with saffron. They are easy to make a really very tasty. In our house it's Andy that is the Lussebull's expert, so he makes the dough (by hand), kneads, bakes the buns and he does them extremely well. 

Lussebullar / Lucia saffron buns
(makes about 38-48 buns depending on the size)

1 g saffron
150 g / 1 1/3 stick unsalted butter
5 dl / 2 cups milk (which ever you prefer)
50 g fresh yeast (dry works fine too)
½-1 tsp salt
1½ dl / 3/4 cup sugar or corn syrup
1 egg
14-15 dl (about 875 g) / 6 cups all-purpose flour
Optional: 1 dl / ~½ cup raisins

Egg wash (egg + 1 tbsp water / milk wisked together) + raisins

Oven temp: 225 -250 C /437-482 F

  1. Place the saffron in a mortar together with 1 tbsp of sugar and grind it to a fine powder. 
  2. Cut the butter into cubes and place into a pan and let it melt on low heat. Add the milk and let the liquids warm to body temperature, 37 C/98.6 F. If it becomes too hot, it will kill the yeast and buns won't rise, so try to whisk it cool.
  3. Crumble the yeast into smaller pieces and place into a bowl or the mixer bowl for your kneading appliance. Add a couple of tbsps of the warm liquid and mix into a paste. Then add the rest of the liquid and mix well. 
  4. Add the salt, sugar/syrup, the ground saffron mixture and the cracked egg, and if you want raisins add them now. Mix throughly.
  5. Sift the flour and add ½ cup at a time, while working the dough, weather it's by hand or by machine. Add flour until the dough is mailable and it easily pulls of the work surface or the sides of the bowl. 
  6. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly floured bowl and cover with a tea towel and let it rise for about 30 min. The dough should rise in a room temperature or little warm environment. To make sure the dough is done rising - poke the dough lightly and if it bounces back then it's done, otherwise let it rise a little more. 
  7. Knead the dough, lightly for a couple of minutes. Dived the dough into 38-48 parts and start rolling each part into a long snake. Then start rolling one end inwards towards the center and roll the other end on the opposite side towards the center. It will look like an eight. (See below)
  8. Place the "buns" on a oven tray lined with baking sheet, not too tight, they will rise quite alot. Cover with a tea towel and let them rise, again warm, for about 30 min. Test if the dough has risen enough. 
  9. Place a raisin (if you chose to) in the center of each round part and brush with egg wash. 
  10. Bake the "buns" in the middle of the oven for 5-10 min. They should get some color but still be quite soft. 
  11. Remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack under a tea towel. 

These buns are excellent right out of the oven. Place them in plastic bags for storage. And they freeze great. Just remember to warm them slightly in the microwave for 15-30 seconds, from thawed or in bags, to get that great warm saffron taste and smell. 


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