These buns are traditionally served the morning of St. Lucia’s Day—which always falls on December 13. Find out more about St. Lucia—and how to make these sweet rolls!
Who is St. Lucia?
St. Lucia (also called Lucy) was a fourth-century Italian martyr. Her name is derived from the Latin lux, meaning “light,” so she has become associated with festivals and celebrations of light.
Before the Gregorian calendar reform in 1752, her feast day occurred on the shortest day of the year. Hence, there is a famous saying,
Lucy light, Lucy light,
shortest day and longest night
St. Lucia Day is especially important in Italy and in Sweden, where the oldest (or sometimes youngest) daughter dons a crown of burning candles and wakes the family these sweet rolls seasoned with saffron. Lightly sweet, the lussekatter—or S-shaped buns—are best served with coffee.
Of course, you’re invited to make this tradition your own—and enjoy these delicious buns any day of the year!
Stir salt and saffron into ¼ cup of the warm milk and allow saffron to steep. Dissolve yeast in water. Beat together egg and sugar. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the milk, yeast, and egg mixtures. Slowly beat in 4 cups of the flour and the cardamom (if using), keeping the batter smooth and elastic. Stir in the butter, then add enough flour to form a stiff dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning it over to grease the top, cover, and let rise until doubled (about 1-½ hours). Punch down, cover, and let rise again until doubled. To shape buns, roll dough into 8-inch strands the size of a pencil, and form into crosses with curled ends. Imbed a raisin firmly in the center of each curlicue. Place buns on lightly greased baking sheet and let rise 20 minutes until puffy but not doubled. Brush with beaten egg. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.