Cristina Roca | 23 | From greece, living in nicosia, cyprus
It was late 2010. My youngest sister had just been born and they’d named her Lucia (I didn’t like the name, but I came round to it). I was a teenager desperately looking for excuses not to study for my end-of-trimester exams. My hobbies (i.e. procrastination techniques) included baking, fighting with my 14-year-old sister over control of our shared desktop computer, where I would read obscure blogs, and watching classic films borrowed from the school library (which was old-school even back then, but it was my thing).
So on a Sunday night where I was supposed to be preparing for school but had actually decided to watch “Rain Man”, I decided to try a recipe I’d discovered in a gothic Swedish girl’s blog: Saffron buns.
As it turns out, Swedes make these buns, called lussekatter, on the day of saint Lucia — my sister’s name! —, December 13th. It was December, my sister had just been born, we had all the ingredients I needed in the house and I had a movie to watch while the dough rested. I decided it was as good a time as any to give them a go.
I don’t know whether it was the saint behind their name, but my first batch of saffron buns filled the house with what I can only describe as olfactory heaven: warm, sweet, butter-loaded carbs. I tried the lussekatter almost straight out of the oven. They were as fluffy, as soft, and as comforting as their aroma had promised and I knew right then that a new tradition had been born.
I say that it’s because they’re named after my sister that I make them every year, but it’s about more than that. I like the process of making them: you can’t rush it. You just have to give everything the time it needs and let things happen.
And when you’re done, most importantly, you get to share the love and initiate others to these strange little wonders. Lussekatter are best warm out of the oven and they go stale after a couple of days, so they’re meant to be shared (though that doesn’t mean you can’t snaffle away a few in the freezer for a moment of need, hehe)!
- Melt the butter in a bowl and add the milk. Heat till lukewarm (37 degrees C). Add the yeast and stir until it's melted.
- Use a mortar and pestle to grind the saffron together with the lump of sugar to bring out its lavour even more. Pour it the bowl and stir, then add all remaining ingredients except for the raisins. Put on medium speed in the dough mixer for 10 minutes (or use some good old elbow grease!).
- Put a towel over the bowl of dough and rest it for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Cut the dough into bits of 60 g (about 24 pieces). Turn each piece into a bun by tucking its edges under it. When you’ve made last one, roll, starting from the first one you made, out to a 10 cm sausage and put under clingfilm one by one - do NOT use flour. When the last one is done, roll your lussekatter starting with the first one. Roll them out to about 30 cm, and then wrap each ends into a spiral until the two spirals meet in the middle. Put in a raisin at the centre of each spiral and place on a tray.
- Let the buns prove until they double their size. It takes at least 90 minutes.
- Bake them at 230 degree C for about 3-5 minutes.
- Let cool on a grid under a towel. Freeze the ones you won’t eat in the next day or so.
700 g flour
300 ml milk
196 g caster sugar
150 g butter
50 g yeast
14 g salt (2 teaspoons)
0,5 g saffron
1 lump of sugar