Lussekatter (Swedish Saffron Buns)
Lussekatter are buttery and lightly sweet buns traditionally prepared for St. Lucia’s Day in Sweden. The dough is infused with saffron which gives it its signature bright yellow color and because St. Lucia (13th of December) is so close to Christmas, they’re often associated with the festive season in general.
There is much folklore attached to these traditional treats, which are said to resemble a curled-up cat, with some people believing they would ward off evil spirits around this period of time in winter when the nights are longest. It’s probably how they came to be associated with Saint Lucia, the patron saint of light.
Either way these pastries are sure to brighten up the day, whenever you choose to make them, so enjoy!
Lussekatter (Swedish Saffron Buns)
To prepare ahead:
- ½ tsp saffron threads
- 2 tbsp milk warmed to 80° F
- ½ cup raisins
For the dough:
- 1 ½ cup milk
- 2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
- ¾ cup sugar
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter melted and cooled
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 – 6 ½ cups all purpose flour unbleached
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg
How to Make Lussekatter:
- We'll begin by preparing some of our ingredients about 1 – 1 ½ hours ahead of making the dough.
- Place the raisins in a bowl and top with warm water and leave to rehydrate.
- Grind the saffron threads either in a bowl or by using a mortar and pestle. Put the ground saffron in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of milk on top. Leave the milk to infuse with color from the saffron until it's time to make the dough.
How to Make the Dough:
- Warm the milk in a saucepan (careful it's not too hot!) and add it to a mixing bowl along with a couple of tablespoons of the sugar and 2 ¼ tablespoons of active dry yeast.
- Stir together until everything has fully dissolved and leave to proof for 5 -10 minutes until bubbles start to form on the surface.
- Meanwhile, in a separate bowl combine the melted butter, egg, sugar and saffron milk. Add a pinch of salt for flavor and start gradually incorporating the flour 1 cup at a time, incorporating well between additions.
- Knead the resulting dough onto a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes, adjusting the consistency with more flour if necessary until you get a smooth and elastic dough that doesn't stick to the hands.
- Place the dough into a clean and lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp kitchen cloth or plastic wrap to keep the dough moist and let it double in size in a warm spot in the kitchen for 1 – 1 ½ hours.
- After doubling, knead the dough for a minute to deflate and take out handfuls of dough at a time. Roll between your hands to shape into a ball.
- Roll out your dough ball onto a floured surface into 12-inch (30 cm) long ropes, about the width of a finger.
- Coil each end of the rope in a spiral (each going in the opposite direction from the other to form the traditional "scrolled" S-shaped Lussekatter.
- Place the finished buns on a tray lined with parchment paper. Repeat the process until you use up all the dough.
- Drain the raisins and dry them on a piece of kitchen paper. Add one in the middle of each spiral of the bun.
- Cover the buns in a damp tea towel and place them in a warm and draft-free place to rise for about 30 minutes.
- When it's almost time to bake them, preheat your oven to 425° F/ 220° C.
- Beat the egg set aside for the egg wash, adding a few drops of water to loosen it a little and brush the mixture on the buns.
- Place in the oven and bake the buns for 8-10 min minutes, until beautifully golden-brown.
- Take out of the oven and place on a wire rack to cool a little before eating. Enjoy warm or cold, preferably within 3 days of making them!