Soft, buttery yeast rolls made with saffron and golden raisins. St. Lucia Buns are a Christmas treat you do not want to miss!
I have wanted to celebrate St. Lucia’s Day for nearly 22 years, and last December, I finally did it. When I was eight years old, I received a Kirsten doll for my birthday. If you were a girl in the 80s and 90s [or have a little girl today!] you know how much of a Big Deal that was. I read every single one of Kirsten’s stories again and again, and all the other doll’s stories again.
This photo isn’t from Christmas, but it was the best digital photo I could find with Kirsten, except for some embarrassing college photos of my friend and I with our Kirsten dolls. 😉 Yes, we were the kind who brought our dolls to college for a birthday party… wild and crazy, huh? Ha! Since Kirsten is from Sweden, her family always celebrated the Christmas season with a visit from St. Lucia… only their first Christmas in America, according to the wonderful book, Kirsten’s Surprise, all the necessary supplies for the day were stuck in town! You can imagine the drama, if you haven’t already read the book. 🙂 And you can probably predict the outcome too–Kirsten saves the day [along with some help from dear ‘ole Dad] and the family celebrates St. Lucia Day as usual. It was glorious!
Traditionally, St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated on December 13th–this coming Sunday! Lucia, who died as a martyr for her faith, is the saint of light and as such, an important symbol throughout Scandinavia as a promise of light through the dark and wintry months. Typically, the eldest daughter in the family wakes the family with singing and the treat of these delicious buns. She wears a white gown with a red sash and a crown of berries, twigs, and candles. It always seemed like such a lovely tradition to me, but for some reason I never woke up earlier than my parents with a freshly baked batch of sweet, golden yeast buns! Funny! Ha.
These rolls, though a bit labor-intensive, are worth every bit of the time and effort. They’re absolutely SO soft and buttery, and a beautiful shade of golden yellow from the saffron. Saffron can be expensive [ugh] but it’s pretty reasonably priced at Trader Joe’s. I’ve also seen it at World Market in the past, and found mine in the Latin section of my local Publix… a tiny amount for a few dollars. I’m sure it’s not the best quality, but c’est la vie… These buns taste amazing straight from the oven with some fresh butter, but they’re also enjoyable for breakfasts with coffee and fruit over the next few days. #perfection Hope you can try these this weekend to celebrate St. Lucia!
one year ago: Art Smith’s Macaroni and Cheese
two years ago: Cranberry-Pistachio Citrus Butter Cookies
three years ago: Streuseled Cran-Apple Sweet Potato Casserole
four years ago: Cranberry Pineapple Sauce
five years ago: Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits
St. Lucia Buns
from King Arthur Flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant potato flakes [I used the flakes]
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs – 1 egg will be divided [see below]
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg white, reserved from dough + 1 tablespoon cold water – for topping
- coarse pearl sugar, optional – for topping
- golden raisins, optional – for topping
Place milk and saffron in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Heat to just a simmer [so not long at all!] and remove from heat. Stir in butter, then set aside for the butter to melt and the mixture to cool to lukewarm. This will take about 35 minutes, but you can speed it up about 10 minutes by placing the entire saucepan in the refrigerator.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, yeast, potato flour, salt, and sugar. Crack the eggs into a small bowl, reserving the white for the topping later.
When the milk mixture has cooled sufficiently, pour over the dry ingredients. Add the eggs [2 whole eggs and 1 yolk] and vanilla. Mix to combine, then knead until the dough is smooth. In the mixer this should take about 7 minutes; by hand, 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl, then cover and let rise for an hour. The dough doesn’t have to be quite doubled, but should be puffy.
Gently tap to deflate the dough, then divide into 12 equal pieces. King Arthur Flour recommended a scale–each piece should weigh about 92 grams or 3.25 ounces. You can also do the ‘ole divide in half and half and half trick too.
Roll each piece into a short log, then cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Then roll into a thin 15-18 inch rope. It’ll shrink when you stop rolling, but that’s okay. Shape each roll into an “S,” then place a golden raisin in each of the coils if you would like.
Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat, or grease lightly. Place buns about an inch apart on the baking sheets, then cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until puffy. They shouldn’t double in size. At this time, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add 1 tablespoon cold water to reserved egg white, then brush mixture on each bun. Sprinkle with coarse pearl sugar if desired.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Check on the rolls after 15 minutes for doneness–especially if your oven runs hot or if you used raisins, as you’ll want to tent with foil for the last few minutes to prevent burning.
Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!