Today’s recipe comes to us from reader Naomi Suchan. Celebrating St. Lucia Day is one of her family’s long-standing traditions and it wouldn’t be the same without this delicious S-shaped bread! Spoiler alert: I managed to get my act together and make this recipe correctly.
For those of you not familiar with St. Lucia Day or its customs, a very quick history lesson. . .
St. Lucia Day History
St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred in 304AD, and is considered the patron saint of light and blindness. She would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She wore candles on her head so she could free up her hands to carry things.
December 13th was the Winter Solstice according to the Julian Calendar, and the pagan festival of lights in Sweden became St. Lucia’s Day. In Scandinavian homes, the feast of St. Lucia is marked by the serving of St. Lucia buns. Traditionally, they are served by the eldest daughter of the family, who wears a wreath with lighted candles on her head.
The St. Lucia Day Tradition continues…
11 years ago, my friend Naomi invited me to a St. Lucia Day party at her parents home in Prince Albert. Her parents invited all their friends for a morning celebration with good food and music. Naomi and her sisters would take turns every year dressing up in a white gown and a wreath with lights, serving all of the guests.
St. Lucia Buns
2 tbsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups light cream
2 tbsp Saffron threads
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
4-6 cups flour (Start with 4, 6 is usually too much)
1/2 cup ground blanched almonds
1 egg white for brushing over the buns
The original recipe has raisins, but the Piggot family never uses them, so we won’t either. I’ve also taken a few small liberties with updating the original recipe. Our yeast no longer comes in cakes, nobody is going to dry their saffron in the oven on a saucer for 20 minutes, and Naomi assures me that using actual cardamom pods is a disastrous idea.
Dissolve tsp of sugar in lukewarm water. Add yeast and set aside for 10 minutes. In a saucepan, combine light cream, saffron threads, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and cardamom until just before boiling. Set aside. Add eggs, flour, almonds, & cream mixture to the yeast. Start with 4 cups of flour and gradually add 1/2 cup of flour at a time.
Let the dough rise until doubled. I freaked out at this point, because the dough ended up orange rather than yellow, but Naomi assured me that this is entirely normal and the dough would lighten when cooked.
Last time I made my strings of dough WAY too thick (hence the sea cucumbers), so this time I decided to roll out the dough and cut it instead. It worked much better for me this way. At this point, you’ll want to brush on the egg wash to your buns.
Word to the wise, do not let your buns rise once they are in the S-shape. You will lose the beautiful shape. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown.Get ready for December 13 and celebrate St. Lucia with this easy version of Swedish saffron bread.Click To Tweet
Serve These buns the morning of December 13th with a cup of tea and enjoy! Read this too late? Save the bottom image to your Pinterest board for next year, or turn them into cinnamon buns and enjoy any time of year.
Thanks again Naomi!!
What is your family’s favourite Christmas food tradition? I’d love to hear about it! Do you and your family celebrate St. Lucia Day? What do you do to celebrate?