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two plates of St. Lucia buns with a cup of coffee

St. Lucia Buns Recipe

  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 55 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 12 large buns 1x


These amazing saffron buns from Sweden make a beautiful Christmas breakfast!  Learn how to twist this yellow dough into gorgeous shapes, then enjoy these sweet yeast rolls with a hot cup of coffee.  Baking this traditional Swedish bread couldn’t be more fun!



For the Dough

  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 3 tablespoons boiling water (45 ml)
  • 1 cup whole milk (240 ml)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (56g)
  • 4 1/8 cups bread flour (500g)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (10g)
  • 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (50g)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese or quark cheese (100g)

For the Decoration

  • 2 egg yolks
  • Splash of filtered water
  • 24 raisins


Infusing the Saffron (5 min + 30 min infusing)

  1. Toast. Preheat the oven to 275 F.  Spread the saffron on a small cookie sheet and bake at 275 F for 10 minutes, watching it carefully to prevent burning.  You'll know that it's done when the saffron gets brittle and turns a dark red.
  2. Infuse. Pour the saffron threads into a small bowl and rub them between your fingertips to crush them into smaller pieces.  Pour the three tablespoons of boiling water on top, stir with a metal spoon, and let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes.  The water will turn a dark orange-red.

Making the Dough (20 min + 1 1/2 hrs proving)

  1. Heat and butter. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then add the milk and heat the mixture until it reaches 115 F on a meat thermometer.
  2. Mix dry ingredients. 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 sugar.
  3. Add wet ingredients. Add the egg and mascarpone to the bowl, then dump in the infused saffron liquid and half of the milk mixture.
  4. Mix up the dough.  Mix the dough together by hand until all the flour has been picked up from the bowl.  Add more of the milk-butter mixture as needed to create a soft, slightly sticky dough.
  5. Knead. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and need for about 10-15 minutes, until the dough is smooth, glossy, and no longer sticky.  The dough should also pass the windowpane test.  Break off a lump of dough and stretch it as thin as you can; if it can be translucent without tearing, the dough is kneaded enough.  If not, knead for a minute longer and check again.
  6. Prove. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly buttered bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let the dough prove for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until at least doubled in size.

Shaping the Buns (25 min + 30 min proving)

  1. Prep.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Knock back.  Once the dough has proved, turn it out onto a large work surface and punch it down all over to knock out any pockets of gas.
  3. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces with a bench scraper, using a kitchen scale to make sure each piece weighs the same amount.  Roll each piece of dough into a 16-inch rope with the palms of your hands.  Spread your fingers apart as you roll to get a thinner rope.  If the dough isn't rolling easily, let it rest for a minute, then try again.
  4. Shape the ropes into pigs, baby Jesus, cross, oxen, ram's horns, or priest's hair.  There are many other traditional Swedish shapes you can use if you would like.  Please refer to the step-by-step photos before the recipe card for a visual demonstration of the following shapes.
  5. Pig: curl the ends of the rope in opposite directions to make an S shape.  This is the most popular shape, so go with this shape if you only want to do one design.
  6. Baby Jesus: fold the rope in half and twist the ends together.
  7. Cross: roll the rope extra long.  Fold rope in half to create a loop at the top, then create a loop on each side with each side of the rope.  Twist the remaining ends together to form the base of the cross.
  8. Oxen: curl the ends of the rope towards each other.
  9. Ram's Horns: curl the ends of the rope away from each other.  Make a downward point in the uncurled part in the center to create the head.
  10. Priest's Hair: cut the rope into three pieces and fold one piece in half, curling the ends upwards slightly.  Place the other two strands above the bottom piece, curling their ends likewise.
  11. Prove. Place the shapes on the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them as far apart as possible.  Cover the trays with plastic wrap and let them prove for 30-45 minutes, until the dough springs back when lightly pressed with a fingertip.
  12. Preheat.  About 15 minutes before they are done proving, preheat the oven to 375 F.

Baking the Buns (5 min + 20 min baking + 20 min cooling)

  1. Egg wash. Break up the two egg yolks with a splash of water to thin it, then brush the mixture all over the risen dough.  Place a raisin inside each curl of dough.
  2. Bake at 375 F for 18-20 minutes, until well risen and a rich golden brown.  Watch them to make sure they aren't getting too dark.
  3. Cool completely on wire racks.
  4. Serve with salted butter and a hot cup of coffee.
  5. Store. Freeze leftovers within 24 hours of baking for best freshness.  Defrost in the microwave or at room temperature, then enjoy.  Do not refrigerate, as it will make them go stale.


  • Do not use all-purpose flour.  Bread flour will give you the extra protein necessary for soft, high-rising buns.
  • Use the windowpane test to see if your dough has been kneaded enough.  See the instructions above.
  • Save time by making the dough the day before and letting it prove overnight in the fridge.  Shape the buns the next day, let them rise in a warm place until springy to the touch, and bake.
  • Experiment with different shapes.  Popular ones include priest's hair, pig, ox, baby Jesus, golden wagon, cross, and Christmas cat.
  • Freeze leftovers within 24 hours of baking for the best freshness.  Defrost in the microwave and enjoy later with salted butter.
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Swedish

Keywords: st lucia recipes, swedish saffron buns, best saffron bread recipes