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Swedish Lucia Buns

I’ve always loved how this time of year allows us to experience and share in other people’s traditions. This year, I was beyond delighted when my friend, Macki, offered to come over with her daughter and teach me how to make Lucia Buns for Lucia Day. Lucia Day is December 13th and on that day every Swedish town crowns its own Lucia. Lucia is dressed in white and wears a crown of candles on a brass circle in her hair (yikes) and wears a silk sash around her waist. She often carries a tray of saffron Lucia buns.

Making Lucia buns is so much fun and they only call for a small amount of saffron but they taste oh so good. It’s important not to over do the saffron because it won’t enhance the flavor but it will make your buns turn out hard as rocks!

Lucia buns are most commonly formed in an s-shape which is also know known as the “Christmas Hog” but there are also found in other shapes like “the priest’s hair” or the “Lucia crown.” No matter the shape they’re always saffron flavored and dotted with raisins.

Before Macki came over I had never even heard of Lucia buns. When they were done baking I could not wait to try them. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve already eaten 4 of them and they aren’t small. Someone please get me a stomach pump! I can’t stop! The kids can’t stop either… including the baby. Now for the recipe…

Lucia Saffron Buns
adapted from Swedish Christmas in America [1]

Prep Time: 2 hours (mostly unattended) Cooking Time: 5 mins

5 oz butter
2 cups lowfat milk
1 1/2 packets active dry yeast
1/2 gram of saffron
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 to 7 cups all purpose flour
egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon of water, lightly beaten)

Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Turn down to a very low simmer. When the butter temperature reaches 98.6 degrees remove it from the heat and whisk in yeast. Grind saffron with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon and add it to the milk. Add milk to the butter and stir. Add sugar, salt and egg. Transfer to a large bowl and add flour three cups at a time working it in with your hands as you go. Cover with a dish cloth and let rise for 40 minutes. Once dough has risen, knead it for 5 minutes and then roll it between your hands to form ten inch snakes. Shape each snake into an S and place a raisin into the center of each twirl. Place buns on greased cookie sheets (we used Silpat) and cover with a cloth. Let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 480 degrees and brush buns with egg wash. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until buns begin to brown and hold their shape. Serve warm. Makes about 25 buns.

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[1] Swedish Christmas in America: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/9178431778?ie=UTF8&tag=mookd-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=9178431778

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