Traditional saffron buns (lussekatter in Swedish) can be found everywhere in Sweden throughout all of December and are served best with a cup of warm mulled wine (glögg).
To get the most colorful and tastiest buns you need to make som preparations the day (or at least a couple of hours) before baking. Raisins in saffron buns are essential but they are often picked off come munching-time since they are easily burned in the oven. Let's prevent this by soaking them in some mulled wine!
You can really get creative with the shape of the buns or just stick to the traditional lussekatt-shape. I wanted something new and decided to try both a braid and a wreath filled with a sweet almond paste combined with tart lingonberries, which turned out to be delicious! But if you're not feeling overly ambitious you could easily opt out of making the filling and just do the buns with raisins, they are after all a tradition in Sweden for a reason!
Step 1: Ingredients + Tools
Ingredients for the dough:
- 400 g water
- 2 packets of saffron (each 0.5 g)
- 35 g fresh yeast
- 150 g sugar
- 3 g salt
- 90 g softened butter
- 700 g flour (400 g + 150 g + 150 g)
Ingredients for the filling:
- 100 g almonds
- 2 bitter almonds
- 50 g powdered sugar
- Water to blend
- 50 g softened butter
- ca 50 raisins
- Mulled wine (or water) for soaking
- Leftover raisins
- Almonds shavings (optional)
- Rolling pin
- Mixing bowls
- Parchment paper
- Baking pan (optional)
- Baking tray
- Knife + cutting board
- Oven preheated to 225 C
Step 2: Preparations (day Before Baking)
Soak the raisins in enough mulled wine (or water) to cover them.
Bring the water to a boil and add the saffron. Let it cool down and then store in fridge overnight.
Step 3: Mix the Dough Starter
Add yeast, salt, sugar, saffron infused water, 400 g of flour, and softened butter to a large mixing bowl. The dough should be quite firm but very sticky to touch.
Step 4: First Proofing
Cover the dough starter with a plastic bag and let it sit in room temperature for 2-3 hours to proof.
Step 5: Make the Filling
Bring water and almonds (not the bitter almonds) to a boil in a small pot. Let it boil for 1-2 minutes to soften and then rinse the almonds in cold water. Pop the almonds out of their shell by squeezing them with your fingers.
Add the blanched almonds plus the bitter almonds to a blender and pulse to a fine consistency, scraping down the sides when needed. Mix in the powdered sugar. Add water until you get a nice creamy consistency and then transfer the mixture to a bowl and combine with softened butter. Set aside for later.
Step 6: Add Flour to the Dough and Knead
Time for kneading! The dough starter should have now doubled in size after the first proofing.
Scrape the dough onto a work surface and start by adding 150 g flour. Incorporate the flour into the dough by hand and knead for at least 15 minutes. Add more flour if the dough sticks to your hands but be careful not to add too much as it will result in dry buns.
Step 7: Second Proofing
Time to rest again... but only for 30 minutes this time.
Step 8: Forming the Buns!
Check the dough, it should now have risen significantly after the second proofing (if it hasn't, leave it to proof some more). At last, time for the fun part!
Start by cutting the dough into two pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll out one of the pieces into a 1 cm thick rectangle and spread out an even layer of the almond filling on top (you will get some leftover). Sprinkle with lingonberries before rolling it together tightly. Cut the roll in half lengthwise and use one piece for the braid and one piece for the wreath.
Place one half of the roll on a parchment clad baking tray. Take a small scissor and cut a 2 cm thick wedge almost all the way through but make sure the roll is still connected at the bottom. Fold the wedge to one side before cutting another wedge which gets folded to the other side. Continue alternating sides throughout the whole roll.
Take the other half of the roll and piece the ends together so it forms a circle before placing it in a baking pan (or just on the parchment paper). Repeat the same cutting process as with the braid.
Use the other half of the dough and weigh out smaller pieces of 70 g. Roll each piece between your hands into a 20 cm long shape before swirling each end until they meet. Place a raisin in each of the swirls.
Step 9: Last Proofing
Let the formed buns rest under a kitchen towel for 30 minutes.
Step 10: Baking
Brush the proofed buns with some milk and sprinkle on your desired toppings. I used almonds shavings and the rest of the raisins. Bake the braid and wreath at 225 C for about 20 minutes or until golden. Bake the buns for about 8 minutes, the bottom should be golden but not the top.
Place the baked goods on a cooling rack and then cut the braid and wreath into 2 cm thick slices when cold. The buns are best enjoyed while still warm and fresh out of the oven. Don't forget to serve with a hot cup of glögg!