In just a few days, on December 13th, people all around Sweden will be celebrating one of the most Swedish holidays – Santa Lucia. Little boys and girls will dress up as Lucias and starboys to bring coffee and saffron rolls (lussebulle) to their parents in bed. Lucias dress in a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles, while star boys have a pointed hat and star wand. All together they sing the traditional Lucia songs, that I’m sure most (if not all) Swedes know by heart.
And it is not just in the home that people in Sweden celebrate this holiday. All this week there have been Lucia concerts and local school performances throughout the country. Many local towns and cities (including Stockholm) pick a young girl to be Lucia each year. One of the sweetest stories I read was about a 97 year old woman who has been waiting her whole life to be Lucia… and finally got to be Lucia of her elderly home. It made me smile!
Chris and I also walked to a little local Christmas market over the weekend, which had its own Lucia celebration. Snow was falling and the choir was beautiful… it was a perfect way to celebrate the holiday here in Sweden with our local community.
My sister and I used to love celebrating Lucia when we were younger. I pretty much always got to be Lucia, since I was the oldest, but sometimes we both were Lucia. We’d usually make the rolls the night before, then wake up early to serve them to my parents (although I’m sure they helped more than we realized). My sister and I also would participate in a sort of “Swedish group” Lucia that would perform at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle. It was always exciting to miss part of school to perform and it felt special to be part of this small Swedish community.
Celebrating Lucia in Sweden also has an interesting history, mostly because people aren’t exactly sure about its origins. It might be based on a martyred saint, Lucia… or Adam’s first wife, also Lucia, who had relations with the devil… so either has to do with light or lucifer (very opposite things, if you ask me). Either way, the Lucia is a mythical figure who brings lightness during the darkest night of the year, the winter solstice, to ward away the evil spirits that supposedly come out that night. The lights from Lucia are a very welcome sight when the sun is setting at 2:45pm!
Hopefully these rolls will bring you some brightness in your life, just like Lucia and her candles. I got this recipe from one of the BEST cookbooks to have if you are interested in Swedish baking, called Sju Sorters Kakor (you can get it in English as Swedish Cakes and Cookies). Many people I’ve talked to in Sweden use this recipe book and everything I have made from it is fantastic. I only tweaked a few things in this recipe because it is darn good as is. I also twisted them into the traditional Lussekatt style (supposed to look like a sitting cat with its tail curled), but there are many different ways to twist them, if you want.
Lucia's Saffron Rolls
- Part 1:
- 3 tablespoons butter / 50 g smör
- 2 cups milk / 5 dl mjölk
- 2 tablespoons dry-active yeast / torrjäst
- 1 teaspoons salt / salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar / socker
- 4½ cups flour / 10.5 dl vetemjöl Part 2:
- ½ teaspoon saffron / saffran
- 1 teaspoon pear juice concentrate / päron saft
- ½ cup butter / 125g smör
- 1 egg / ägg
- 1½ cups flour / 3.5 dl vetemjöl Topping:
- 1 egg / ägg
- Dried currants / torkade svarta vinebär
- Part 1:
- Melt butter and milk together in a saucepan over medium heat, until it feels warm to the touch, but not too hot
- Pour the milk/butter mixture into a bowl and sprinkle in the yeast, mixing with a wooden spoon until dissolved
- Add the sugar, salt, and the first part of the flour then knead the dough until it stops sticking to the side of the bowl
- Rub a bit of flour around the dough ball, then cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour (or until doubled) Part 2
- Preheat the oven to 450°F / 250°C
- Mix the saffron with the pear juice (crush with a spoon if using whole saffron threads)
- Soften the butter and beat with the sugar for a few minutes
- Add the egg and saffron to the butter/sugar mixture and beat lightly for another minute
- Knead this mixture along with most of the flour into the risen dough
- When the dough is mixed, shape the dough into lussekatt shape using about a golfball-sized amount of dough each
- Place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, cover, and let rise for about 15 minutes (or until almost double) Topping:
- Lightly beat one egg and brush as a wash over each of the rolls
- Place a dried currant in the top and bottom of the S shaped roll
- Bake in the preheated oven for 6-8 minutes or until golden on top