These little Swedish Christmas buns with saffron and raisins are very popular in Sweden at this time of the year and throughout the Advent. They are served traditionally on the 13th of December, the feast day of Saint Lucia–a symbol of light and hope–and they signal the beginning of the Christmas season.
It is very interesting how an exotic spice like saffron, that is used throughout the Orient and the Mediterranean countries, found its way to this northern country. Good quality saffron makes all the difference as it gives these buns a lovely yellow color and their distinct flavor.
The dough for these Swedish Christmas buns is an easy yeast dough to make, and one that you can make ahead and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. The next day the rolling and shaping is even easier because cold dough is much easier to handle.
These slightly sweet, spiral, yeast buns (also known as lussekatter in Sweden) are enjoyed with the early morning coffee and later in the day with hot mulled wine (glögg). The buns are supposed to resemble a curled up cat and the raisins represent the eyes. An egg wash before baking gives them a deep golden color. If you don’t have the time to shape them into this shape, then simple round buns will taste just as good!
- ¾ tsp. crushed saffron threads
- 1 TBSP. hot water
- 1 cup lukewarm whole milk or light cream (110°F-115°F)
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup butter, melted
- 1 large egg, beaten, room temperature
- ½ cup raisins
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Place the saffron threads in a little bowl and add the one tablespoon of hot water. Stir and let stand for a few minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a hook, combine the yeast, the lukewarm milk and one tablespoon of the sugar. Let the mixture stand until the yeast foams, about 5-6 minutes.
- Add the remaining sugar, salt, melted butter, egg, raisins and dissolved saffron. Mix well and then add half of the flour. Gradually add the rest of the flour and mix until dough is smooth and not too firm. (It should clear from the sides of the bowl.)
- Place the dough in a medium-sized bowl that has been buttered. Turn the dough over in the bowl so that it is well greased on all sides. Cover and let rise for two hours at room temperature.
- Punch the dough down. With floured hands, pinch off small pieces of dough and roll them out on a lightly floured surface to form a thick strip, about 8” long. Curl each end of the strips in opposite directions, creating an “S” shape. Place one raisin at each end and gently press it in the dough. Place the buns on two baking sheets, lined with parchment paper. Let them rise for 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Make the glaze by beating the egg in a small cup and then stirring in the two tablespoons of milk. Brush each bun with the glaze and bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on the size), or until golden brown and puffy. Be careful not to over bake!
— You might also like my recipe for Swedish Cardamom Coffee Cake – it is divine!
— Also, these Swedish Almond Butter cookies, are so delicious!
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