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Swedish Saffron Buns, also known as St. Lucia Buns, are the traditional way to celebrate December 13, St. Lucia Day. They’re also great with coffee or as part of a buffet.
While my grandfather is Swedish, we didn’t celebrate too many holidays in the Swedish fashion while I was growing up.
Once I was an adult and decided to learn more about the culture, I found out I had missed out on years of being St. Lucy in early December, wearing a white gown and a candle crown on my head.
Granted, I’m not sure how well I would have done with a bunch of fire on my head, but as the youngest cousin I probably wouldn’t have minded a little extra attention.
Now, I may not have a little girl to dress up as St. Lucy, but I can still pull in elements of some of the Swedish traditions, such as making Saffron Buns.
what are saffron buns?
Saffron Buns, also known as St. Lucia Buns or lussekater, are the traditional way to celebrate St. Lucia Day on December 13. Reminiscent of cinnamon roll dough, these rolls are formed into an S-shape and then studded with dried currants or raisins.
They’re made even more special with the addition of saffron, infused into the milk as it warms. The saffron, combined with quality salted butter, gives saffron buns their lovely golden color.
The Saffron Bun dough is easy to put together, especially with the aid of a stand mixer and dough hook, and doesn’t require much kneading either.
While there is a bit of time required for the dough to rest, the hands-on time to make St. Lucia Buns is minimal, and the recipe makes enough buns for a celebration, or to save for breakfast or coffee breaks throughout the weekend.
how to shape saffron buns
Along with their characteristic golden color, the most recognizable thing about Swedish Saffron Buns is their unique “S” shape.
To shape Saffron Buns, start by dividing the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. The easiest way to do this is to divide the dough in half, and divide each half into 8 pieces.
Next, roll each piece into a snake about 6 inches long. Form each snake into the shape of an “S”, coiling each end in.
After the St. Lucia Buns have finished their second rise, you’ll place a raisin into the center of each coil (2 per bun) before baking.
how to serve saffron buns
You might be tempted to add a glaze to these Saffron Buns, but trust me, they don’t need it. Simply eat them while still warm, or dip them right into your coffee or hot chocolate, and revel in the tradition of both St. Lucy’s Day and the classic fika, or Swedish coffee break.
I chose to make these as part of my julbord, along with Dill Potatoes, Aquavit and Homemade Gravlax, to extend the spirit of the season, but they’re perfect any time of year. They’d be a lovely addition to an Easter brunch buffet, for example.
Keep Saffron Buns stored in an airtight container, and warm them in the oven or microwave for a quick breakfast or snack.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1 tablespoon sugar, water, and yeast and let rest until foamy.
- Meanwhile, heat butter, milk, and saffron in a saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Let cool until temperature is around 90°F, then strain and add yeast mixture.
- Add flour and 1/2 cup sugar, and mix together with a dough hook until dough comes together cohesively and does not stick to the sides of the bowl.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and supple, about 2 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Divide risen dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a 6-inch snake and form into an S-shape. Place each coil onto a parchement-lined baking sheet and let rise 1 hour.
- Brush buns with beaten egg and place a raisin in the center of each coil, 2 per bun.
- Bake for 15 min, until golden brown.