Saint Lucia Saffron Buns or Lussekatt

Saint Lucia's Day is celebrated on December 13th all across Scandinavia, Italy and in the West Indies.  There are many stories about the origin of Saint Lucia.  In one version, Lucia worked tirelessly to help Christians hiding in catacombs under Roman Emperor Diocletian's reign of terror by bringing with her as many supplies as needed.  She attached candles to a wreath on her head to free her hands to gather more supplies. 


A darker version of Lucia's folklore discusses how she consecrated her virginity to God and though she was promised to enter an arranged marriage, she refused to marry the unbeliever and had her dowry given away.  Her would-be husband revealed to the local magistrate that Lucia was a Christian.  The magistrate ordered her to be taken to a brothel as punishment.  She was so filled with the Holy Spirit that the guards who came for Lucia could not move her.  According to some traditions, Lucia was tortured by eye-gouging.  Other sources state that she willingly gave up her eyes because some undesirable suitor admired them.  Whatever the case, Saint Lucy, as some refer to her, is the patron saint of the blind and those with eye trouble.  

In traditional celebrations, a young woman is chosen to represent Saint Lucia wearing a white gown, red sash and a wreath with candles on her head leading a procession in church and/or nursing homes, hospitals, etc.  Large grains of wheat represent her eyes.

Lussekatt or saffron buns are associated with Saint Lucia.  In some families, the eldest daughter will serve as Saint Lucia offering hot coffee and saffron buns to her family early in the morning while it is still dark.  The following recipe comes from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas.  What I love about this version of lussekatt is that there is no kneading of the dough required.  After mixing, just put the dough into the fridge until you're ready to bake!

Saffron Buns / Lussekatt:
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water, 105 - 115 degrees Farenheit
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup light cream (you may substitute 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup milk)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Golden raisins
  • Pearl sugar or sanding sugar
    1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast into warm water.  Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and let stand until yeast foams, about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining sugar, butter, cream, saffron and eggs.  Beat well.  Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well to keep mixture smooth and satiny.  All of the flour should be moistened.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 - 24 hours.  
    2. To make buns, shape and glaze with egg/milk mixture.  If you wish you may dot the ends of the buns with golden raisins and sprinkle pearl sugar for a traditional touch.  I did not have pearl sugar so I used sanding sugar.  Then bake at 375 degrees for about 12 - 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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    Recipe Adapted From:  The Great Scandinavian Baking Book


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