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St. Lucy Saffron Buns-Lussekatter

St. Lucia Day, also known as the Festival of Light, is a day of celebration that dates back as early as the 4th century. On this day we commemorate our beloved St. Lucy and seek to imitate her acts of charity and service to others. The legend tells us that she used to deliver bread and food to Christians hiding in the catacombs and wore a wreath of candles around her head to light the way.

The devotion to St. Lucy is celebrated with great pride in Sweden. It is said that around 1100AD Catholic monks brought the story of St. Lucy to them and their culture has perpetuated the story of this saint ever since. Tradition holds that on December 13th, the eldest daughter in the family will dress in a white gown with a red sash. She would be called “Lucia” and wear a crown of lit candles, or in modern times battery powered ones, and deliver baked goods and coffee to the family. The other children in the family would walk behind the eldest carrying a single lit candle.

This is a day of great festivity with community celebrations, processions, and singing that carries on into the evening. In the old calendar, St. Lucy's day marked the longest and darkest night in the year, and it's no coincidence that her name means light!

The name Lussekatter translates to "Lucia cats" and the "S" shape is meant to represent the curly tail of a cat. Lussekatter is a Swedish saffron-infused bread that is uniquely designed in various shapes, some "S" shaped as I mentioned, and others resembling a blonde girl's hair. It is a time-honored tradition that is clearly must-bake for the feast of St. Lucy on December 13th.

For your domestic church, have your the oldest daughter deliver coffee and lussekatter, or "S" shaped saffron buns, to the rest of your family. You could also make these delicious buns together with your family or friends and light your Advent wreath.

You can also read more about my writing on St. Lucy here!

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

Yields: About 24 servings


Prep Ahead

  • ½ tsp saffron threads

  • 3 Tbsp milk

  • 55 raisins

For the Dough

  • 1 ½ c milk, warmed between 100F-110F

  • 2¼ tsp, or 1 packet, instant yeast

  • ¾ c sugar

  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled

  • 1 egg, lightly whisked with a fork

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 5½ c unbleached flour

For the Egg Wash

  • 1 egg

  • 1 Tbsp water


Carefully grind ½ tsp saffron threads with the back of the spoon until it is finely crushed. Add 3 tbsps milk to the crushed saffron and set aside for an hour. Stir occasionally so as to mix in the saffron and infuse the milk.

Each vial is about 1/8 tsp!

While your saffron is setting, you can also plump your raisins by placing them in a small bowl of warm water and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups milk warmed between 100F-110F. I sped up the process by microwaving the milk for about 1 minute and checking the temperature with a thermometer. If it gets over 110F let it rest on the counter to lower back down a bit. Milk that is too hot will kill the yeast. Pour in 1 packet of quick rise yeast and cover with a tea towel for about 10-15 minutes.

You will know your yeast is activated if it is foaming and bubbly!

In your stand mixer, pour in the yeast mixture, ¾ cup sugar, 1 stick of butter melted and cooled, one slightly beaten egg, and the saffron milk that we prepared earlier.

In a separate bowl whisk together 1 tsp salt and 5 1/2 cups flour. Slowly sprinkle in the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in your stand mixer, allowing the dough time to come together.

Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for about 3-5 minutes. When the dough is smooth and springy, shape it into a ball and place it in a bowl greased with cooking spray. Cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes or until doubled.

Oliver loves the smell of baking and fresh air from open kitchen windows. I like to stop at this point too to take a deep breath and enjoy the beauty of baking. Then I clean the kitchen of all the dirty dishes so that I have a refreshed space for the second phase.

You can also take this time to drain the raisins then let them dry on a paper towel.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 24 even pieces. Roll each piece into a 5-6 inch snake.

Then go back to your first piece and roll each snake out even longer to about 12-13 inches. Saffron bun dough has a tendency to spring back so give it time to relax by rolling it in phases.

Roll each snake into an “S” shape and place it onto a lined baking sheet.

Add one raisin to the center of each curl. I use a toothpick to help me pull the curl ever so slightly apart so that I can fit the raisin in. If they aren't tucked in then will pop out!

Make an egg wash by combining 1 egg and 1 tbsp water then brush that on top of each saffron bun.

Set the buns in a warm place and let them rise for another 20-30 minutes or until they have doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 400F and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Let them cool on a rack and serve with coffee or hot tea.

You can also garnish with a little bit of powdered sugar if you like!

Did you make this recipe? If so I would love to see it, drop a picture in the comment or send it to me on social media, Facebook @HisGirlSunday or Instagram @steffani_hisgirlsunday.

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