Today is St Lucia day and although not a national holiday, it’s celebrated in Sweden. Despite the fact that St Lucia was actually Italian there are hundreds of Swedish girls desperately hoping to be named St Lucia today. They dress in white, wear candles (battery operated!) around their heads then lead a torch-lit procession accompagnied by their hand maidens down the street. Although the Swedes aren’t huge fans of beauty pageants, St Lucia day involves some pretty tough competition and many a Miss Sweden started their careers on the back of St Lucia
St Lucia buns or Lusekatte as they are known is Sweden are a baked treat made with crushed saffron and shaped into the letter ‘S’ or figure ‘8’ based on traditional Christmas bread designs and are distributed in St Lucia’s honour, to thank her for bringing light to dark Swedish Winters (or so the story goes!)
These took a while to make because of the proofing, but the smell of the crushed saffron mixed with the crystallised sugar cubes was divine and seemed to follow me all around the house. The end result was very pretty and the saffron taste was quite pronounced and really gave the buns a distinctive unusual taste. The buns weren’t really sweet but I tried all kinds of combinations with them and found that sliced banana was the winning flavour.
I ‘gluten-freed’ the recipe from the King Arthur flour blog which incidentally is a great blog for interesting, different recipes:
¼ cup hot water
1 tsp saffron threads
½ cup milk
¼ cup Demerara sugar
3 tbsps butter
1 ¼ tsps salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
1 tbsps yeast
1 cup sorghum flour
½ cup potato starch
½ cup tapioca flour
1 egg white (reserved from the yolk)
¼ cup crystallised sugar (optional)
Grease a baking pan or line it with baking paper.
Toast the saffron, and then grind it with a few cubes of crystallised sugar.
Pour the hot water into a bowl then add the ground sugar-saffron.
Add the potato starch and mix together.
Mix the flours together then add the saffron mix.
Add the milk, butter, salt, egg, egg yolk and yeast to make soft dough.
Cover the dough then leave it to rise for an hour and a half.
Knead the dough then divide it into 12 pieces. Roll the dough then shape it into balls.
Leave it to rise for 15 mins.
Shape the dough into 12 long ropes then, form the ropes into coils in the shape of an S or loop them into a figure 8
Brush the buns with the egg whites and sprinkle with crystallised sugar.
Add raisins into the centres then bake at 180°C for 20 minutes.