A centuries-old Scandinavian tradition, these soft, slightly sweet, saffron-scented Lucia buns are delicious with a cup of coffee!
This week I made something I had never made before!
Every year at this time, I see all the pretty Lucia Day pics, and I fall in love. It’s such a beautiful tradition, and I’ve always longed to be a part.
So, when my friend Melissa asked me to share a recipe from her beautiful book Scandinavian Gatherings, I jumped at the chance to try my hand at her Lucia Buns recipe!
You may remember back in late October I shared a cute idea for Day of the Dead cupcakes. Well, that got me into trouble. I was accused of “cultural appropriation.” You see, I’m not Mexican, and Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday. Ok.
Can we please agree that learning about and celebrating other cultures is one of life’s greatest pleasures? If I only made and ate the foods I was fed as a child, my life would be pretty boring. No offense Mom!
But there is nothing I love more than trying some delicious morsel of food that I’ve never tried before. Something completely unfamiliar, but something that I fall instantly in love with!
That was just how I felt about these pretty little Scandinavian pastries.
And honestly, it goes for more than just food. Paging through Scandinavian Gatherings is a feast for the eyes. Melissa has some incredible recipes in this book, recipes like Sugared Gingersnaps, Jam Cakes (aka: Swedish Syltkakor), Cream Cake with Fresh Strawberries (aka: Norwegian Blotkake), and Braided Cardamom Bread (aka: Finnish Pulla).
But they’re sprinkled in with the cutest craft ideas! I nearly died when I saw her Teacup Terrariums with red & white spotted Toadstool Garden Picks! And I will definitely be making her Straw Star Ornaments for our Christmas tree.
There are tons of ideas for Scandinavian traditions that can be celebrated all throughout the year. And all of these sweet ideas are set against a backdrop of the most beautiful imagery. Everything is light, bright, and airy, with the cutest colorful geometric floral and animal prints. It made me wish I was Scandanavian!
If I were, I’d probably be making preparations for Lucia Day right now. In case you aren’t already familiar with this holiday, here is Melissa’s explanation:
On the thirteenth of December, when the darkness of the year is growing ever longer, this celebration of light is most welcome. Cities and towns throughout Scandinavia (and American cities with large Scandinavian populations) hold Lucia festivals filled with music and candlelight. The main attraction is always the Lucia procession, featuring a girl clad in a long white gown with a red sash and wearing an evergreen crown with towering candles. In family celebrations at home, one of the daughters dresses up as Lucia and serves her family coffee, gingersnaps, and saffron buns before the sun rises. Lucia Day reminds us of light and generosity, even in the darkness of midwinter.
Doesn’t that sound so nice? Wouldn’t that be such a great way to celebrate this time of year, to take a pause from all the hustle and bustle?
I can’t think of anything nicer than to wake up to a tray of these airy, soft, and slightly sweet saffron-scented buns. Melissa recommends sprinkling them with Swedish pearl sugar, but since I didn’t have any on hand I substituted white nonpariel sprinkles. That extra sweetness and crunch was so nice against the pillow-y, rich bread.
I hope you’ll think about stepping outside of your cultural box this holiday season. There are so many incredible traditions, just begging to be tried! And be sure to pick up a copy of Melissa Bahen’s Scandinavian Gatherings for inspiration!
More great bread recipes on my “Bread Recipes” Pinterest board!
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- 1 pinch saffron strands
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1/3 granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for proofing the yeast
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 36 dried sweetened cranberries
- Swedish pearl sugar or nonpariel sprinkles for garnish
Grind the saffron in a mortar & pestle or on a small bowl or plate with the back of a spoon.
Heat the milk in a small pot over medium-low heat, until steaming.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the ground saffron and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.
Allow the mixture to cool to the temperature of a warm bath.
Stir in the yeast and set aside until foamy (about 5 minutes).
Place the sugar, flour, sour cream, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix together on low speed (with the dough hook attachment) until combined.
Pour in the warm milk mixture and continue to mix until the dough forms a ball and pulls away cleanly from the sides of the bowl.
Add the soft butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, while continuing to mix on low speed.
When all the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough pulls away cleanly from the sides of the bowl (this may take as much as 10 to 15 minutes).
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to proof in a warm place until doubled in volume (about 1 hour).
Punch down the dough, knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface, and divide it into 18 equal portions.
Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 12 inches long.
Roll one end of the dough in a clockwise direction until it reaches the middle. Roll the other end of the dough in a counterclockwise direction until it reaches the middle, so you have a shape that resembles a tightly rolled "S."
Place the shapes on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Beat the egg and water together in a small bowl.
Lightly brush the egg wash on the risen dough shapes.
Place a cranberry at the center of each swirl, and sprinkle the unbaked pastries with pearl sugar or nonpariel sprinkles.
Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
Recipe from Scandanavian Gatherings, by Melissa Bahen.