This wonderful bread, also known as Santa Lucia Bread, is served in Swedish tradition every December 13th as part of the Santa Lucia holiday. Santa Lucia marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Sweden, much as the passing of Thanksgiving marks the Christmas season in the USA. Those interested in traditional Swedish breads, or those just looking to try out a new sweet bread, will enjoy this recipe. Traditionally, this bread is served by children to their parents on the morning of the thirteenth, while wearing candles in their hair. Of course, it can be a fun treat for any family member, regardless of whether or not they are a parent, or whether they have candles on hand. Most versions of this bread call for cardamom but my family has been making it with saffron for as long as I can remember and every batch still comes out delicious.
This recipe makes approximately 30 rolls, but can make more or less depending on the size you choose to make them.
Ingredients (Shown in Image 1):
1/2 Cup of Warm Water (around 110 - 115 F)
1/8 to 1/4 Teaspoon of Saffron (Mixed with 2 Tablespoons of Hot Water)
2 Packets of Dry Yeast
1 1/2 Cups of Lukewarm Milk (2% is best but nonfat milk works as well)
1 1/4 Cups of Sugar
2 Teaspoons of Salt
3 Eggs (only 2 will be in the actual dough)
1/2 Cup of Melted Butter (usually one stick)
7 Cups of All-purpose White Flour
Raisins to Decorate
Large Mixing Bowl
Small Mixing Bowl
Spoon or Whisk to Stir
Cookie Sheets (You will probably need at least three)
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Step 1: Milk and Butter
Put the milk and solid butter together in a saucepan. Heat on medium and stir occasionally until the butter has entirely melted and the mixture is warm. Leave this as you do the next step to allow it some time to cool.
(See Image 2)
Step 2: Pretty Much Everything Else
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, the saffron, 2 of the eggs (only 2! You will need the third later), the lukewarm water, and the salt. Stir until the texture is consistent.(See Image 3)
Step 3: The Dough
Once the butter and milk is fully melted and lukewarm, stir it in with your ingredients that are already in the large mixing bowl, until the mixture is smooth. If a bit of froth forms on the top of the mix, don’t worry. That won’t affect how the bread tastes at the end. (See Image 4)
Give the mixture a few minutes to cool before adding the yeast and the first 3-4 cups of flour. If you add the yeast while the mixture is still too warm, the dough might not rise all the way, but a little over lukewarm should be fine. (See Image 5)
Continue mixing in flour, half of a cup at a time, continuing to stir with each addition. Once the dough becomes difficult to stir (usually in the last one or two cups), roll it out onto a floured surface or counter and begin kneading in the remaining flour, ensuring a smooth consistency. Once you have added in all seven cups of flour, knead it five of six more times, then form into a rounded ball. (See Image 6)
Step 4: The Waiting Game
Place the rounded dough into a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl and set it in a warm place (85 F) for about one and a half hours. Then, punch down the dough (Once it has doubled in size, push your fist into the center of the dough, roll it out onto a floured surface, and knead it two or three times to remove air bubbles that accumulate as it rises).
Step 5: Shaping the Dough
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Begin preheating once you are ready to start shaping the rolls, and it should be heated by the time you are done.
Cut off sections of dough, about one fourth of a cup, to form into the shapes shown in Image 7. To prevent the dough from sticking to you or the surface you’re working on, lay down some flour and dust the outside of the dough with it if it becomes too sticky. You can also coat your own palms with flour whenever the dough starts sticking. Each of these are composed of either small balls of dough or longer rolls curled into spiraling shapes. It has a little bit of a rubbery texture at this point so will often spring back from shapes that it is forced into. To keep it from retracting, start from the middle of your piece of dough and roll it through your hands (the harder you press your hands together while rolling, the thinner the piece will be) until you reach the end of the piece. Repeat in both directions until it is sufficiently stretched out and will not spring back.
You can have fun with creating your own shapes too! Once you have created your shapes, place them onto a greased cookie sheet.
Step 6: Decoration
Stir up the third egg in a small bowl and, using a basting brush, lightly coat the tops of the buns with egg. (See Image 8)
Push raisins into the dough rolls where dots are shown on the image 7 diagram. The raisins should go in the middle of each round piece and the center of each spiral. Be sure to push them in all the way or the raisins may fall out while the rolls cook. (See Image 9)
Step 7: The Waiting Game Part II
Let the buns rise in a warm place for about 20 more minutes. Then, bake at 400 F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the tops of the buns have begun to brown slightly. (See Image 10) Poke a couple in each batch with a toothpick to make sure they are cooked all the way through. Let them sit for about five minutes or so to let them cool before eating.
Step 8: The Payoff
This bread is best if served immediately, but is also delicious when stored and reheated. Save any leftovers by covering them and keeping them in a cool, dry place until you want to eat more.
Enjoy your delicious, fresh Baka Lussebröd!