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Have you ever heard of St. Lucia buns? These bright-yellow saffron buns are a traditional Swedish Christmas bread, served on December 13 for St. Lucia’s Day. In Swedish homes, a young girl will dress up as Lucia, wearing a long white dress and a crown of white candles and greenery on her head. She serves these delightful buns to her family as a special breakfast. Who could resist a plate of these buns? 😋
In this recipe, I’ve included 4 shapes of buns: a pig, an ox, a cross, and Baby Jesus. The most popular shape is the S-shaped bun that represents a pig. I’m not sure what connection a pig has to Christmas, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful shapes of these buns. The other bun that looks similar to the pig represents an ox, with two horns. The long, twisted bun represents Baby Jesus, wrapped snugly in swaddling clothes. 😊 The cross represents why Jesus came: to die on the cross and pay the penalty for our sins. What a special way to commemorate the Christmas story!
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until December 13 to make St. Lucia buns! They are very tasty and fairly easy to make. Their unique color is what really makes these buns stand out, so make sure to infuse the saffron in the milk for at least 30 minutes to get this rich yellow color. Watch the buns carefully as they bake, since the dough browns quickly, especially on the bottom.
Pull out the bag of bread flour, and let’s get baking!Print
St. Lucia buns are special Christmas saffron buns originating from Sweden, traditionally served on December 13. They’re delicious any time, though!
For the Dough
- 250 ml whole milk
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 500g bread flour
- 5g fine salt
- 10g fast-action yeast
- 50g caster sugar, to make use blender
- 1 large egg
- 100g mascarpone cheese
For the Decoration
- 2 egg yolks
- Splash of filtered water
- 24 raisins
Infusing the Milk (5 minutes + 30 minutes infusing time)
- Combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan, and heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is gently simmering. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the saffron.
- Let the saffron infuse the milk for about 30-45 minutes, until the milk is about the color of an egg yolk and the milk has cooled to 115 F.
Making the Dough (20 minutes + 1 1/2 hours proving time)
- Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Stir in each one with your finger, then mix in the caster sugar.
- Add the egg and mascarpone to the bowl.
- Pour the milk through a sieve to strain out the saffron, then add the milk to the bowl.
- Mix the dough together by hand until all the flour has been picked up from the bowl and a soft, slightly sticky dough has formed. You may need an extra splash of plain milk.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and need for about 5-8 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky. The dough should also have a glossy skin and be very smooth.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
- Let the dough prove for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in size. Speed up the prove by putting the dough in a cold oven and putting a pan of boiling water in the oven. The warm steam helps the yeast work more quickly.
Shaping the Buns (25 minutes + 30 minutes proving time)
- Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Once the dough has proved, turn it out onto a flour-free work surface. Punch it down all over to knock out large pockets of gas.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, using a kitchen scale for accuracy. Each piece should weigh approximately 80 grams.
- Roll each piece of dough to make a 16-inch rope using the palms of your hands.
- Curl 3 strands into S-shapes to represent a Christmas pig.
- Fold 3 strands in half, then twist the ends together. This shape represents Baby Jesus.
- Fold another 3 strands in half, make a loop on each side, then twist the ends together to form a cross.
- Place the shapes on the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them as far apart as possible. Put each tray inside of a clean garbage bag and tuck the ends underneath the tray to seal.
- Let the buns prove for 30-45 minutes, until the dough springs back when lightly pressed with a fingertip.
- About 15 minutes before the buns are done proving, preheat the oven to 375 F.
Baking the Buns (5 minutes + 20 minutes baking + 20 minutes cooling time)
- Put two egg yolks in a small bowl, add a splash of water, and beat with a fork until well combined.
- Brush the risen buns all over with the yolk.
- Place a raisin inside each twist of dough.
- Bake the buns for 18-20 minutes, until well risen and a rich golden brown. Watch them to make sure the bottoms aren’t getting too dark.
- Move the buns to wire racks to cool completely, then serve.
- Don’t open the oven door during the first 10 minutes of the bake. This is when the crumb structure is setting, and a sudden draft from the door opening could cause problems.
- There are other many other shapes you can make with your St. Lucia bun dough. Things like the golden wagon, the lyre, Lucia’s crown, wheel, wreath, lily, Christmas cake, priest’s hair, cat, horse, and bird. If you make a double batch of the dough, you’ll be able to make them all.