For many years, I have enjoyed Martin’s mother’s lussekatter around Christmas, which is why I knew I had to talk about these here.  I have fond memories of staying cozy under a blanket, drinking dainty cups of glögg heaped chock-a-bock full of raisins and slivered almonds and nibbling on these tasty saffron-infused buns.  This year, I finally tackled them on my own and got to use our kickass Sweden 2010 souvenirs.  Double win!

There are many, many recipes out there but I picked the one featured by the Scandinavian and Nordic Cultural Association.  For that extra level of authenticity, you know?  I ended up having to tweak it slightly because some of the measurements seemed slightly off, so I’ve included it below.

I looked at many recipes first and each one always listed a saffron measurement in weight and volume, which usually followed a ratio of 1g to 1/2 tsp.  However, I diligently bought 1g of saffron from the spice store and it was probably 1 tbsp in volume.  The store associates also told me that the saffron was quite potent, so for my recipe, I took a teaspoon of saffron threads and crumbled it between my fingers.  I had a devil of a time getting the yellow to come out of my fingers afterwards!

While I was mixing the dough, I fretted about the saffron measurements and continually ask Martin to gauge the Swedishness of my bread.  He assured me that it would be fine, even if it ended up as a worthy entry for But I Suck At Cooking.

Here they are, shaped and formed.  This was my favorite part, as it involved rolling the dough out in long ropes and then curling the ends up on each other. At first, they seemed too small but the dough puffed up beautifully right before I shoved them into the oven.  Martin even had a hand in these, dabbing the egg whites on there to help with the browning.

Here they are, fresh out of the oven.  I am not sure if they are supposed to be this fluffy, but I firmly believe you can never go wrong with soft, fluffy bread.  I have never eaten a bad lussekatter and Martin’s mom makes truly great ones, but fresh out of the oven is a completely different experience.  They are slightly warm and so amazingly soft and fluffy!  I had to restrain myself from eating at least four right then and there.

The ultimate test came the next day, when we took the lussekatter to a Swedish Christmas party.  I am normally quite shy and critical about the results of my food, but I can’t help but share that two Swedish-born women came up to me at the party and told me that my lussekatter was delicious.  I thought that the ultimate of compliments.

Adapted from the Scandinavian and Nordic Cultural Association Recipe

1kg white flour at least (more will be needed) (approx. 4.5 cups)
5 dL milk (2 cups)
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp saffron threads (uncrushed)
175g butter
2dL sugar (approx. 3/4 cup)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Dissolve 1 tbsp. yeast and 1 tbsp. sugar in enough water to cover and dissolve the yeast and sugar.

Melt butter in a pot, then add milk.  Heat to 110-degrees F or until lukewarm.

Crumble saffron between fingers (or grind in a mortar and pestle) and add to milk mixture.

Pour the liquid into the bowl of a stand mixer and gntly stir in the 1kg of flour in half cup increments until a soft, sticky dough has formed.

Add the yeast mixture, 2dL of sugar and egg.  Mix to combine.

Snap the bowl into the mixer and put the dough hook in.  Slowly keep adding dough (I lost count here but probably at least another 2 cups) until dough is soft, thick and pliable.  The dough will still be fairly sticky to the touch and will not remain firm like other breads when shaped, but if you stretch it into a boule, it will keep its smooth outside shape.

Oil a bowl, place bowl in, flip to coat and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out and break into small pieces, about 40g in weight.

Roll into long ropes, about 10″ in length.  Coil each end in to make compact S-shapes.  Place on parchment covered baking sheets and press a raisin into the center of each spiral.

Cover and let buns rise until approximately doubled in size again.  Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.

Gently brush a beaten egg onto the buns and pop into oven.

Bake until golden in color and puffy.  Let buns cool and serve.

Yield: Makes approx. 50 buns (if each rope of rolled dough is approximately 35 – 40g in weight)

These refrigerate and freeze well.  Take them out of the freezer the day before you need them and let them thaw in the refrigerator.