Today the famous saffron buns are enjoyed in many Nordic homes. St. Lucy’s Day saffron buns come in many different and fun shapes. I’m sure you’ve heard from “Lussekatter “but in fact, the word lussekatt originally refers to only one type of saffron buns shape.
To confuse the general lussebulle discussion even more, the most classic S shaped saffron buns is not the lussekatt shape yet it is called “Julgalt“. To make the original lussekatt shaped saffron buns, go ahead and turn the pages 276-279 from the *Nordic Baking Book by Magnus Nilsson.
Also, I’ve collected some inspiration for the different saffron bun shapes on one of my Pinterest boards so feel free to check that out, too.
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Because saffron buns are a common winter treat in our household, I baked lussekatter well in advance. When the buns are frozen immediately after cooling, you can have fresh buns every so often you wish.
I made one kilo of saffron dough and shaped two types of saffron buns: the julgalt which you see on top of the plate below and the julkuse which I’m holding in my hand in the photo above. My all-time favorite shape is the Priest’s beard but it makes such a big bun! What shape do you like the best?
Why Nordics celebrate St. Lucy’s Day?
St. Lucy brings the light to the darkness and she is the patronage saint most famously for the blind. Celebrating the 13th of December in the Nordics is a fusion of Northern pagan folklore, history, and Christian beliefs. In the Middle Ages, the darkest night happened to be the 13th of December according to the Julian calendar, and it conveniently intertwined with the believed death date of Lucia of Syracuse, a Catholic virgin martyr.
Celebrating Saint Lucia has lively and popular festivities in Sweden but the tradition holds strong also in Norway and the Swedish-speaking culture of Finland. It is actually quite interesting that we celebrate an Italian Catholic martyr and that the public celebrations came popular only a century ago.
The celebrations include that every year Lucia is crowned. I, too, remember the yearly Lucia parades in our schools. Luckily the modern celebration of St. Lucy does not require you to be a blond-haired girl anymore to wear the white dress, red belt and the candle wreath. All in all, St. Lucy’s Day seems to be an ever-evolving and adaptive Christmas tradition.
The Lussebullar aka Saffron Buns | RECIPE
This 1940s recipe* yields approximately 1 kilo of dough. I recommend kneading the heavy dough with a machine and with patience. Oh and don’t forget to whip the room temperature butter. I didn’t this time and it shows in the end result. Delicious fluffy buns nevertheless! :D
- 1 medium egg + 1 egg yolk (room temperature, plus extra egg for glazing)
- 100g granulated sugar
- 250 ml lukewarm milk
- 20g commercial yeast
- 0,5 tsp salt
- 250g all-purpose flour
- 250g cake flour (coarser than apf)
- 100g butter (room temperature and whipped)
- 0,5-1 tsp saffron
- vodka or similar
- soaked raisins for decoration
The night before, infuse saffron in alcohol. Deduct the amount of alcohol from the milk total when making the dough.
The lussebulle dough
In the morning, take the ingredients to room temperature. Mix fresh yeast with lukewarm/warm milk and 2 tablespoons of flour. Set aside to bubble. In a small or medium bowl, whip butter until fluffy and pale yellow. Set aside. Soak raisin in hot water.
In a large bowl with a stand mixer, whip egg, egg yolk, and sugar until you have achieved a pale yellow mass. Add the bubbly yeast mix into the bowl as well as the infused saffron liquid.
Replace wire whip with a dough hook. Start adding flour into the batter while mixing at a low speed. Do not add all the flour at once. Mix salt with the last batch of flour.
Once the dough is consistent, add whipped butter into the dough and keep kneading at a low speed. At this stage you may need to assist your mixer a couple of times: stop the machine and scrape the butter from the sides back to the middle. Keep on kneading at a low speed for 20-30 minutes until the dough ball is firm and shiny. Test the viscosity – of the dough tears up when pulling, continue kneading.
Let the dough rest and double in size (e.g. cold oven with only the light on 1-2 hours). Drain the soaked raisins.
Shaping and baking
Pre-heat oven 220C/428F (without a fan).
Knock the dough over to your working surface (no flour). Knead the big dough ball with your hands, press and stretch the air out of the dough. Divide the dough mass into equal pieces and keep the dough balls covered while you shape the saffron buns to your chosen shapes.
Place the saffron buns on a parchment paper lined baking trays. Push the raisins into the dough shapes. Cover the trays with a tea towel to avoid drying and let the buns double in size until puffy.
Check the raisins and push them in place back if needed. Give the saffron buns an egg wash before transferring the tray into the oven. Bake the buns in 220C/428F for 8-10 minutes until golden and brown.
Cover the hot buns with a tea towel when on a wire cooling rack. Once the buns are cooled, immediately store them in an air-tight container for a couple of days. You can also freeze the buns in plastic bags.
I’ve adapted this bun recipe from one of the most loved Finnish cookbooks* and this book gets new editions decade after decade. To me, that’s a strong sign of a true vintage – a treasure that shows quality through the years. I hope you enjoy saffron buns this winter and have fun with the different shapes!
P.S. If saffron is your thing, why not brighten up your cookie box with these saffron and white chocolate cookies?
*The cookbook: *Oksanen Aili, Harmio Liisi (2004) Maija keittää. Jyväskylä: Gummerus Kirjapaino Oy. 18. Edition