One more recipe before Christmas – a treat that is a holiday essential in my family. I’ve saved the best for last.
Danish ‘Lucia brød’, known to Swedes as ‘Lussekatte’, is a traditional Swedish bun baked in celebration of Saint Lucia, a Christian woman who was persecuted and killed because of her religion. On ‘Saint Lucia day’ on December 13 a procession of young girls dressed in white and holding candles sing a song for Saint Lucia. This tradition, originally from Sweden, has been commonplace in Denmark since WW2.
A perfect example of the intertwinement of Nordic cultures which has given us a rich common heritage, baking being no exception. I’m especially happy with the import of the Lucia bun – a really quite simple sweet bun with just that pinch of saffron, and that spike of raisin, that makes it quietly extraordinary. And extremely moreish.
Merry Christmas everyone.
Makes 10-12 buns:
250 ml whole milk
25 g fresh yeast or 2 tsps dried yeast
¼ tsp saffron threads
100 g butter
500 g plain flour
4 tbsps sugar
½ tsp salt
1 beaten egg
1 egg, for glazing
raisins, for decoration
1. In the microwave, melt butter with milk and heat the mixture until tepid.
2. Now add the yeast and stir until it has dissolved completely. Add saffron, sugar and the beaten egg.
3. Gradually add flour (save some for later) and knead until you have a firm and elastic dough. Hold back on the flour as much as you can – you might not need all of it. Too much flour in the dough and you end up with stodgy buns. At this point you’d rather have your dough a bit wet than a bit too dry – you can always add more flour later.
4. Put in a bowl, cover with cling film or a tea towel and allow it to prove for 30-45 minutes until doubled in size – ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place.
5. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees celsius or 200 degrees fan-forced.
6. Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it unto a flour-dusted worktop and knead, adding more flour as you see fit. Divide the dough into 10-12 portions. Roll out each portion and shape into an ‘S’, then place each bun on a baking tray covered with baking parchment. Stud with raisins and leave to prove (again!) for 15 minutes.
7. Glaze with egg wash and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until risen and golden.