Buns of magic!

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1/2 tsp Saffron 1 packet
3 g Sea salt
1/2 tbsp Vodka
36 Raisins
300 ml Milk
1 Egg lightly beaten
500 g White flour strong white bread flour
100 g Caster sugar
7 g Instant dried yeast
90 g Butter softened and cut into small cubes




Lussekatter (Lucia saffron buns) are eaten on December 13th to celebrate Lucia (the patron Saint of Light). December 13th was originally thought to be the shortest day of the year and is still the date chosen in Sweden to celebrate the return of lighter days. The celebrations are one of the highlights of the Swedish calendar and the Saint Lucia procession is truly magical, so do try and see one if you can.

Each bun is shaped into an S-shape, which is supposed to resemble a curled up cat, and then two raisins are added to represent the eyes. Nobody knows for sure the origins of the shape and the connection with Saint Lucia, but it seems likely that they were originally called djävulskatter (the devil’s cats). Whatever the origin, I think it’s a perfect excuse for a celebration. 🙂

These days lussekatter are enjoyed throughout Advent, also a rather special time in Sweden. I recommend baking some for breakfast each Sunday in Advent to enjoy as you light a new Advent candle, a popular tradition in Sweden.

This recipe produces lovely light and buttery lussekatter. As the dough is very wet it is quite hard to use this recipe if you are making the dough by hand.

Place the saffron threads in a mortar with the salt and grind with the pestle until evenly mixed. Pour over the vodka and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes.

Place the raisins in a bowl, pour some hot water over them and then leave them until required.

Heat the milk until warm, between 35°C and 40°C.

Sift 500 g of the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the sugar. Add the yeast and mix.

Fit the dough hook to your stand mixer and with the machine running on minimum slowly add the milk, saffron, salt, vodka and half of the beaten egg, reserving the rest of the egg for glazing.

When all the milk has been added, increase the speed to medium low and slowly add the softened butter, a cube at a time. Do this slowly, taking about 3 minutes. If the mixture looks too wet add a couple of tablespoons of flour.

Continue to knead on medium low speed, slowly adding additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, until you have a nice soft dough. The idea is to add as little flour as possible until the dough is still a little sticky to the touch, but does not completely stick to your hands when you handle it. The exact amount to be added varies, but you will normally need to add 3 or 4 tablespoons of flour. Once you have added enough flour, continue to knead for a further 2 or 3 minutes.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Clean out the bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with clingfilm or a cloth and leave in a warm draught-free place for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.

Tip the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knock it back a couple of times. Divide into 16 pieces, between 65 and 70 g each if weighing.

Using your fingers roll out each piece so that it is about 30 cm long and curl into tight S shapes. Place each piece on a lined or greased baking sheet, cover loosely and leave for about 30 minutes until doubled in size again. Another way to do this is to roll the dough into a thick rectangle about 30 cm x 20 cm. Divide the rectangle into two and then keep dividing until you have sixteen pieces. Using your fingers then roll out each piece of dough until it is as thick as your finger and about 30 cm long.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Brush the buns with the beaten egg and add a raisin into the centre of each of the two coils. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm with coffee, hot chocolate or glögg. Enjoy!

Some extras:

  • For a little more flavour, add half a teaspoon of ground cardamom to the flour. Although cardamom was not traditionally added to lussekatter, many modern bakers in Sweden add a little to enhance the flavour of the buns.
  • As saffron buns can dry out very easily take them out of the oven as soon as they are just the right colour, put them on a wire rack and cover them with a cloth.
  • Lussekatter are best eaten when freshly baked, so for a real breakfast treat prepare the dough the night before, cover with clingfilm (food wrap) and store in a fridge overnight.
  • Freeze the buns as soon as they are cold and defrost only what you will use on the same day.
  • Lussekatter can be served slightly warm. If necessary, they can be reheated in a microwave for about 30 seconds on a medium setting.

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