Sweet St. Lucia Lussekatter SWEDISH Saffron Buns Recipe

Holidays, especially the Christmas season, are some of the best times to celebrate traditions across the globe. Each country, and even city or community, has their own way to ring in the season, through festivals, recipes and decor.

Sweden is no different, as they celebrate St. Lucia Day in December during Advent with lussekatter (lussebullar) or saffron buns.

Swedish Saffron Buns Recipe

What does Lussekatter mean?

Lussekattermeans “Lucia cats.” The buns have gone through a few different names, but eventually morphed into lussekatter thanks to the swirl in the dough that looks like a cat’s tail.

Why Saffron Buns?

As you will see, if you make this saffron bun recipe, each lussekatter is a little burst of sunshine, bringing light to your cold winter day. The saffron brings a warm yellowish-orange color to the dough. If you add cardamom, you infuse a bit of warm winter spice to each bite.

Throughout December, many bakeries make these buns in place of cinnamon buns to be enjoyed with your Swedish Fika, or afternoon coffee and cake break.

Learn more about Fika in Stockholm now!

Swedish Saffron Buns Recipe

What is St. Lucia Day in Sweden?

St. Lucia day is a festival of light celebrated in Sweden, Norway and parts of Finland. Traditionally, it is celebrated on December 13th during Advent. It is also referred to as Lucia Day or the feast of Saint Lucy.

St. Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred and killed by Romans for her faith way back in 304 AD. She is now the patron saint of the city of Syracuse (Sicily) and of virgins. As Christianity spread over the centuries, monks brought the tale of Lucia to Sweden, solidifying her in the culture.

Celebrating Lucia Day

Today, one girl is elected “St. Lucia” to lead the procession of young girls dressed in white with lit wreaths on their heads through town or the church.

Young girls dress in white robes or dresses, with crowns made of evergreens and lit candles balanced on top. Boys dress all in white as well, and everyone sings traditional songs to mark the day.

Families celebrate at home, with the oldest girl designated as St. Lucia, serving coffee and saffron bread (lussekatter) and ginger biscuits to family and friends who visit during the day.

Swedish Saffron Buns Recipe

Saffron Bun Recipe

The trick to this recipe is to not overthink it. I stressed unnecessarily over the dough proving.

After the first proof, I didn’t really think the dough had doubled in size. I gave it a bit more time in my warm oven (100 degrees F/ 32 degrees C max!), but eventually moved on to shaping my saffron buns and doing the second proof (or dough rise).

The buns looked perfect after that second sit in a warm, dry space for 30 minutes. I didn’t need to stress over the first proof after all. Several batches later, and I still see the same pattern in the dough rising.

Lucia Saffron Buns Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • 1/2 tbsp vodka
  • 32 raisins
  • 1 1/4 cups of milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 cups of bread flour (plus extra)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 packet of fast-acting dry yeast (1 1/2 tsp yeast)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature, cut into cubes)
  • Egg wash: 1 egg with 1 tbsp whisked together

Special Baking Equipment

St Lucia Swedish Saffron Buns recipe

Saffron Buns Instructions

  1. Grind the saffron with a mortar and pestle
  2. Combine vodka and saffron in a small bowl. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over raisins and let sit.
  4. In a pot, heat the milk and sugar to 105 degrees F.
  5. Using a Stand Mixer, sift the flour and salt into the mixer bowl.
  6. Sprinkle yeast into bowl, and give it a quick stir.
  7. Using the dough hook, set your speed to SLOW.
  8. Slowly add in the milk, saffron, cardamom and beaten egg.
  9. Increase your speed to medium low (KitchenAid 3). Slowly add in the butter one cube at a time.
  10. If the mix looks too wet, add one tablespoon of flour at a time, but dough should stay a little sticky.
  11. Knead the dough on medium for another 3 minutes.
Swedish Saffron Buns Recipe
  1. Move the dough to a clean, dry large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow about one hour for the dough to proof (rise) in a warm dry place ( you can set your oven to 95-100 degrees F. Turn it off and set the bowl in the oven to proof).
  2. Once dough is about double, punch down the dough, knead the dough a few times and then divide dough into about 16 pieces (70 grams each).
Swedish Saffron Buns Recipe
  1. Roll each ball into a long thin stick, about 12 inches long. Set aside all rolls, and then roll each roll again until it’s a bit longer and thin (about 14 inches). Start rolling it into an “S” shape, curling each end into a tight swirl.
Swedish Saffron Buns Recipe
  1. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover with a clean, dry towel (or plastic wrap).
  2. Allow the dough to rise (proof) a second time, for at least 30 minutes until saffron buns double in size.
  3. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  4. Brush tops of your saffron buns with egg wash.
Swedish Saffron Buns Recipe
  1. Place a raisin in the center of each swirl (2 raisins per bun).
  2. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Place cooked buns on a wire rack to cool for a few minutes.
  4. Serve warm with melted butter.
Swedish Saffron Buns Recipe

A little something extra: you can dust the tops of your saffron buns with a little castor sugar before baking for an extra bit sweet.

FREEZING: You can freeze the buns and reheat in the microwave.

WARM BUNS: Buns will keep for 2-3 days in a container. Pop them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to warm them up if needed.

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Yield: 16

Swedish Saffron Buns (St. Lucia Lussekatter)

Swedish Saffron Buns Recipe

Holidays, especially the Christmas season, are some of the best times to celebrate traditions across the globe. Each Scandinavian country, and even city, has their own way to ring in the season, through festivals, recipes and decor. Sweden is no different, as they celebrate St. Lucia Day in December during Advent with lussekatter (lussebullar) or saffron buns.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 8 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • 1/2 tbsp vodka
  • 32 raisins
  • 1 1/4 cups of milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 cups of bread flour (plus extra)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 packet of fast-acting dry yeast (1 1/2 tsp yeast)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature, cut into cubes)
  • Egg wash: 1 egg with 1 tbsp whisked together

Instructions

  1. Grind the saffron with a mortar and pestle
  2. Combine vodka and saffron in a small bowl. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over raisins and let sit.
  4. In a pot, heat the milk and sugar to 105 degrees F.
  5. Using a Stand Mixer, sift the flour and salt into the mixer bowl.
  6. Sprinkle yeast into bowl, and give it a quick stir.
  7. Using the dough hook, set your speed to SLOW.
  8. Slowly add in the milk, saffron, cardamom and beaten egg.
  9. Increase your speed to medium low (KitchenAid 3). Slowly add in the butter one cube at a time.
  10. If the mix looks too wet, add one tablespoon of flour at a time, but dough should stay a little sticky.
  11. Knead the dough on medium for another 3 minutes.
  12. Move the dough to a clean, dry large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow about one hour for the dough to proof (rise) in a warm dry place ( you can set your oven to 95-100 degrees F. Turn it off and set the bowl in the oven to proof).
  13. Once dough is about double, punch down the dough, knead the dough a few times and then divide dough into about 16 pieces (70 grams each).
  14. Roll each ball into a long thin stick, about 12 inches long. Set aside all rolls, and then roll each roll again until it's a bit longer and thin (about 14 inches). Start rolling it into an "S" shape, curling each end into a tight swirl. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover with a clean, dry towel (or plastic wrap).
  15. Allow the dough to rise (proof) a second time, for at least 30 minutes until saffron buns double in size.
  16. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  17. Brush tops of your saffron buns with egg wash. Place a raisin in the center of each swirl (2 raisins per bun).
  18. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown.
  19. Place cooked buns on a wire rack to cool for a few minutes.
  20. Serve warm (you can brush with melted butter before serving too).

Notes

Special Baking Equipment Needed

Saffron Bun TIPS:

A little something extra: you can dust the tops of your saffron buns with a little castor sugar before baking for an extra bit sweet.

FREEZING: You can freeze the buns and reheat in the microwave.

WARM BUNS: Buns will keep for 2-3 days in a container. Pop them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to warm them up if needed.

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