St. Lucia Buns (Swedish Saffron Christmas Bread)

Source: Adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book

Yield: 24 buns

2 packages active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water, 110F to 115F

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, room temperature

4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

Swedish pearl sugar

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast in the warm water; stir gently and briefly with a fork. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar; stir again. Let mixture stand until the yeast foams, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining sugar, butter, cream, milk, saffron, salt and eggs. Fit mixer with the paddle attachment and beat well on medium-low speed until combined. Remove paddle attachment from mixer and fit with the dough hook. Add flour 1 cup at a time mixing well with each addition to keep the dough smooth and satiny. You may not need to use all of the flour.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 24 even pieces (about 2-inches square). Roll each square into a long rope, about 12-inches long. Curl each end of a rope in opposite directions, creating an "S" shape (or a backward "S" shape). Lift the bun onto the parchment; repeat curling with remaining dough ropes until there are 12 per baking sheet.
  5. For the glaze, beat the egg in a condiment cup and stir in the milk. Brush each bun with the glaze then sprinkle over pearl sugar.  Place sheets in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy.

Heather's notes:

I use a stand mixer with a dough hook to make this bread, but it requires no intensive kneading. You can stir the ingredients by hand until a satiny, soft (but non-sticky) dough is formed.

You may not have to use all the flour. I used a little less than 4 cups. I stopped adding flour when the dough started pulling away from the sides of the mixing bowl (while beaten with the dough hook).

I place the sheets of buns on the range-top of my preheated oven. The heat from the oven encourages the dough to raise.