These saffron-seasoned sweet buns are traditionally served the morning of St. Lucia’s Day, which is celebrated annually on December 13. Find out more about St. Lucia and see the recipe for traditional St. Lucia buns.
Who Was 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 winter solstice festivals and celebrations of light.
Before the Gregorian calendar reform in 1752, her feast day occurred on the shortest day of the year (the winter solstice). Hence, there is a famous saying:
Lucy light, Lucy light,
shortest day and longest night.
St. Lucia Day is especially important in Sweden, where the children (traditionally the eldest daughter) dons a crown of 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.