Lussekatter (Lucia saffron buns) are eaten on December 13th to celebrate Lucia (the patron Saint of Light). The celebrations are one of the highlights of the Swedish calendar and the Saint Lucia procession is truly magical.
Each bun is shaped into an S-shape, which is supposed to resemble a curled up cat, and then two raisins are added to represent the eyes. Nobody knows for sure the origins of the shape and the connection with Saint Lucia, but it seems likely that they were originally called djävulskatter (the devil's cats). Lussekatter are enjoyed throughout Advent.
Recipe shared by: UIla Gustafsson Carlson, a member of our Swedish Cultural Society.
Makes approximately 32 buns
- 1 tsp saffron
- 1 sugar cube or extra pinch of sugar (to grind with saffron threads)
- 2/3 cup butter
- 2-1/2 cups milk
- 2 pkg yeast (2 T)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cardamom (optional)
- 7-1/2 cups flour (approximately - use just enough flour to handle the dough)
- 1/2 cup raisins (for the dough - optional)
- 1/4 cup raisins (appoximately 64 raisins, or two (2) per bun)
- 1 egg (to brush on top of buns)
Grind saffron threads and sugar in a mortar (unless you have powdered saffron) and set aside. Melt butter. Add milk to butter, and pour a little into the saffron and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add to a mixing bowl with yeast. (Be sure milk is now lukewarm so as not to kill the yeast.) Add egg to remaining milk mixture and stir mixture in. Add salt, sugar, cardamom if wanted, and almost all of the flour, (reserving some flour for kneading) and stir well. If you want, add ½ cup raisins. Knead dough using some of the reserved flour for easy handling. Knead until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
Prepare 2 or 3 baking sheets by covering each with parchment paper.
Knead, Shape and Rise
Place dough on a floured board and knead until elastic. Divide dough in half, and then divide in half again. Divide each section into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope, 5 to 6 inches long. With the rope lying flat on the work surface, roll each end towards the center, in opposite directions, creating a curled S-shape. Place the buns on the prepared baking sheets and garnish by pressing a raisin in each of the curls. Cover and allow to rise for an additional 25 minutes.
Brush with Egg and Bake
Preheat oven to 435 degrees.
When the dough has risen, brush with beaten egg. Bake 10-12 minutes in center of oven.