Today is St. Lucia’s day! It’s the day that our Swedish friends celebrate Saint Lucy, a symbol of hope and light in dark times. The festival begins the Christmas season in Swedish custom, and she comes as a young girl crowned with fresh greens and lit candles carrying a tray of baked goods.
Saffron buns are the traditional pastry served on this day (and you can find my recipe for them here) but this year I wanted to make something a little different. This time the saffron dough was given a sweeter treatment of cinnamon-sugar and and red currants.
The dough is rolled out into a long rectangle, and then covered with what seems like too much butter (but it’s not). The cinnamon-sugar applied next soaks into the butter, and then things don’t seem so strange.
The filling is rolled into the dough by a long side, and then the roll is sliced down the center. Then, very carefully cross the dough in the center. However carefully you do this, you’ll still end up losing a currant or two (just be at peace with it). Cross the dough over each other repeatedly, braiding it to the end, and then braid the other side in the same manner.
I decided to make the shape of this pastry reminiscent of the original lussekatter buns, by rolling each end of the braid in different directions to create an “S” shape. I think it turned out really pretty.
The pastry baked up beautifully, and it’s BIG! It’s definitely something to make and share.
I really loved how the cinnamon and currents swirled the inside of the bread. I think this is my favorite version of saffron bread so far. It’s so soft and yeasty, and it has that unmistakable flavor of saffron.
Swirled Swedish Saffron Bread
with Red Currants
(Swedish Saffron Bread)
Yields one 11-inch loaf
1/2 cup (120 ml) warm water (110° to 115°F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk (110° to 115°F)
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 capsules (.100 gram each) powdered saffron
4- 5 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup dried red currants
Egg wash (1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water beaten together)
Place half of the warm water (1/4 cup) in the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle in the yeast and stir briefly with a spoon. Add the remaining water and the milk, sugar, butter, salt, saffron; add 1 1/2 cups flour. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low until combined. Add the two eggs and mix again; exchange the paddle attachment for the dough hook. Add flour a little at a time until it forms soft and slightly sticky dough (you may not have to use all of the flour). Set a timer and knead the dough on medium-low speed for 6 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and turn the dough over once. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour (mine took longer at 1 hour 35 minutes).
Gently deflate the dough with a fist and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with flour and then roll dough to approximately 13×32. Brush the entire surface of the dough with the melted butter; use all of it. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle over the butter. Scatter the currants on top evenly. Roll the dough up jelly roll style, starting at a long end. When the dough is all rolled up, cut the roll down the center using a sharp knife or a bench scraper. Carefully lift the two pieces of dough to crisscross them in the center. Continue to braid the bread on one end by crossing them over one another; repeat on the other end of the dough pieces. Curl each end of the braid in opposite directions, creating an “S” shape. Lift the assembled pastry onto a parchment-lined baking sheet by using a cake lifter or a large spatula and your hand. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and lightly drape over the loaf. Let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaf with egg wash using a pastry brush.
Bake the loaf for 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on the bread during the last 10 minutes of baking. If the bread starts to over-brown place a sheet of aluminum foil on top. When done, transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool slightly.
Serve warm with hot tea or coffee.
Swirled Swedish Saffron Bread for St. Lucia Day
Published: Swirled Swedish Saffron Bread with Red Currants Recipe