Christmas Recipes

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Christmas Recipes

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Dessert Recipes

Dessert Recipes
Dessert Recipes

St. Lucy Saffron Buns

I baked these gorgeous Saffron Buns for St. Lucy Day, which is tomorrow! Saint Lucia (or Saint Lucy) is a symbol of hope and light in dark times.

In Sweden, St. Lucia marks the beginning of the Christmas season and it all starts with a young girl crowned with fresh greens and lit candles. Guess what she is carrying? Right! A delicious tray filled with these spectacular spiral buns!

The saffron buns are not too sweet and are soft and fluffy from the eggs and butter. The name Lussekatter means "Lucia's cats" and it's because the spiral shape sort of resembles a cat's tail.

I had a chance to study in France during part of my university studies. There were students there from all over the world. It was on December 13th in the South of France that I learned about Saint Lucia. The Swedish students there announced that we should all meet in the courtyard to see their procession. I wasn't sure what to expect and it was amazing to see all these fair haired beauties come out one after the other dressed in white gowns with a red sash tied around their waists. We moved into the recreation area and watched as they gathered together to sing.

"Every year on Saint Lucia's Day pupils from my city's Swedish school came to our school. A girl, Lucia, led the beautiful procession of young girls dressed in white gowns holding a single candle each. She wore a white cotton gown and a red sash was tied around her waist. On her head, she wore a crown of candles and in her hands she held a single candle. And all along they sang this beautiful song, luciasången.
"Natten går tunga fjät,
runt gård och stuva,
Kring jord som sol'n förlät,
skuggorna ruva.
Då i vårt mörka hus,
stiger med tända ljus,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia"

"The night treads heavily
around yards and dwellings
In places unreached by sun,
the shadows brood
Into our dark house she comes,
bearing lighted candles,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia."

According to the Julian calendar this was the longest night of the year. Lucia was believed to bring the light into the winter darkness."

Saint Lucia was actually born in Syracuse, Sicily. But funnily enough, in Sicily, they do not eat any thing with wheat on this special day. Here is how they celebrate in Sicily:

" Santa Lucia is celebrated all over Italy. Sicilians still commemorate Santa Lucia's intervention during a severe famine in 1582. Miraculously, ships filled with grain appeared in the harbor on December 13. The people were so hungry that they didn't take the time to grind the grain into flour but boiled the grains immediately. Sicilians refuse to eat anything made of wheat flour for this day, which means forgoing pasta and bread. Instead they eat a most popular dish called cuccia which is made with boiled whole wheat berries, ricotta and sugar."

On St. Lucy's Day in Sweden they eat these lovely saffron buns and in Sicily they eat the wheat berry dish called cuccia.

Italy: Santa Lucia is celebrated all over Italy. Sicilians still commemorate Santa Lucia's intervention during a severe famine in 1582. Miraculously, ships filled with grain appeared in the harbor on December 13. The people were so hungry that they didn't take the time to grind the grain into flour but boiled the grains immediately. Sicilians refuse to eat anything made of wheat flour for this day, which means forgoing pasta and bread. Instead they eat a most popular dish called cuccia which is made with boiled whole wheat berries, ricotta and sugar - See more at:
The spiral buns are not that hard to put together. I followed along King Arthur Flour's tutorial here.  I used the buttery brioche dough I just love and added a bit of saffron to it. I happened to have some raisins soaking in grand marnier from another recipe I recently made. You could soak your raisins even in orange juice for about a 1/2 hour before using them for the recipe if you do not have any type of liqueur on hand.

The dough is cut into 12 pieces and I weighed them to all be about 90 grams.

Once you have them portioned out, you flatten them and them roll them into spirals.

They should roll out to be about 13 inch long ropes, and then they bounce back a little. As they describe on King Arthur Flour's site, you "don't want to bully the dough." Let it rest a little  covered if it doesn't seem like it's ready to roll out.

You form them into the spirals and place them on the baking sheet. Leave a little space between them because they do expand a little while baking.

Tuck the raisins into each end. (I had some pearl sugar on hand and tossed it on some of the spirals, but I do know that is not traditionally Swedish).

After you let them rise for about 30 minutes, you then brush with the egg wash and let them bake.

I found this on a lovely Scandinavian blog and it described exactly what I saw and the song they sang. Find out about her story  here .

Photos and text updated from Dec. 2014.

Yield: 12 large buns

St. Lucy Saffron Buns

These St. Lucy Saffron Buns (St. Lucia Saffron Buns) are traditionally served for breakfast on Lucia Day, in mid-December. The saffron-hued buns are mildly sweet, but feel free to add a little more sugar if you have a sweet tooth. Decorated with raisins and sometimes just pearl sugar, the perfect addition for your hot latte!
prep time: 2 hour and 15 minscook time: 18 minstotal time: 2 hours and 33 mins


1 cup whole milk
1 (1/2 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
2 tsp. saffron, lightly crushed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
4 1/2-5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
egg wash (1 egg plus 1 Tablespoon of water whisked together in a small bowl)


Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Meanwhile, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bowl.

Add 1 Tablespoon of the sugar and the saffron; let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes). Beat in the remaining sugar, eggs and butter. Beat in cooled milk. Gradually add the flour and salt, scraping down side of bowl, until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough onto a floured work surface and knead the remaining flour into the dough, adding more flour if too sticky. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth. The dough will be soft.

Grease a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

Divide dough into 12 pieces and roll each piece into a 13"-long rope. Form each rope into an S shape and then roll each end into a tight spiral.

Place shaped dough pieces 2" apart on parchment paper–lined baking sheets; cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

While the spirals are rising, heat the oven to 350F.

When ready to bake, place a raisin in the center of each of the spirals.

Brush on the egg wash. (I happened to have pearlized sugar on hand and tossed some on a few of the spirals, but I know that is not how they are traditionally made in Sweden).

Bake until buns are golden brown and cooked through, about 15-18 minutes. Transfer buns to a wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Created using The Recipes Generator


  1. I'm so bummed that I just couldn't get to making these this week. Yours turned out great - they're really beautiful!

  2. I love recipes with a history and story behind them! These look wonderful - and thank you for the history lesson too!

  3. Lora, love the story and history about Saint Lucia . . I love learning about things like that .. and love that "Lucia was believed to bring the light into the winter darkness.” These saffron buns are beautiful!!! love these and the significance behind them! Wishing you a very merry Christmas and happy new year to you and your family!! :)

  4. These are even more lovely with the story behind them! so pretty!

  5. Happy St. Lucia!! I love the story behind the Saint and those Swedes know how to make the best desserts! I've had these cookies before and they are amazing.

  6. How have I never heard of St. Lucy Day and these amazing saffron buns! They're beautiful!

  7. What a wonderful experience to be a part of that St. Lucia Day celebration! And these buns...well, they're absolutely beautiful.

  8. I love St. Lucia. I love Sweden and I love these buns. Not necessarily in that order. :)

  9. What a lovely story! And these buns are beautiful!!

  10. Love the history of Saint Lucia and these buns are beautiful!

  11. You always make the most beautiful bread - and these are no exception!

  12. Pinned! These are so gorgeous. I'm going to have to give them a try.

  13. Oh wow. I totally celebrated this a few times as a kid (bins and all) but i completely forgot about it. Thanks so much for the reminder! Off to make some saffron buns...

  14. Beautiful and I love the story behind them....that was new for me!

  15. Whoa! These are gorgeous. You and your yeast skills put me to shame. And never mind my question on IG. ;)

  16. I love food that comes with a story - such an interesting one, too!
    Your step by step directions are a massive help to all those of us who are a bit challenged if it comes to baking. These buns look super tasty!

  17. My 3rd grader has been telling us about St. Lucia; I love traditions and this sounds beautiful. The St Lucy Saffron Buns sounds and look amazing. I may have to make them one day yet before Xmas.

  18. This is such a fantastic post, Lora, For years now I was curious about these buns and St. Lucia and you shed a light on it and I don't feel in the dark. :) It's also nice to learn something new about you. That you studied in France. So many layers to this posts so I can go on and on...

  19. I was at Ikea this past weekend and almost bought these in their food section. I didn't, and now I know I can make them myself by using your easy to follow recipe. BTW, yours look WAY better than what I saw in the store! Just beautiful, Lora!

  20. These little buns look adorable and delicious! I want them all!

  21. I've never tried saffron before but I've always wanted to! It reminds me of Ratatouille, when he needs that little thread to make his dish complete. I definitely need to give it a whirl sometime soon!

  22. Spectacular. Bread baking is an art and you are gifted at it. And I love saffron. I'll have to try my hand at this.

  23. These look incredible as well as the fact you had French adventures! How lucky!

  24. I probably looked at a dozen different recipes and was very glad when I read yours. I made these for a tea gathering yesterday and they were wonderful. Thank you for posting your recipe and sharing it on Pinterest. I used your picture and made a link to your site if people want the recipe. I look forward to reading more of your recipes. Merry Christmas!

  25. Hi Danielle-Fantastic! I had fun making these buns and not sure why I waited so long to finally get to them;) Happy Holidays to you!!