December 13 is the feast of St. Lucia, who was said to have brought food to starving Swedes during a time of famine. Today, to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas festivities, fair-haired Swedish-American girls serve hot coffee and the fancy-shaped saffron rolls known as Lucia Buns. The rolls have a light sweetness and gorgeous golden color, and they’d make a lovely addition to any holiday brunch.
1. Crush the saffron threads in a mortar and pestle or with the flat of a knife. Combine the crushed saffron with the milk in a small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted. Cool mixture to very warm, 120-130 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Stir the warm milk mixture into the flour mixture. Add the whole eggs and beat until dough comes together.
3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until springy, 3-5 minutes. Place in buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
4. Grease three baking sheets. Punch the dough down; knead briefly.
5. Divide dough into 6 portions, then divide each portion into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a 7-inch rope. Place two ropes side-by-side; pinch along centers to join them and coil the four ends outward and down. (Alternatively, dough may be twisted into S-shapes or other forms.) Place on baking sheet.
6. After all the buns have been shaped, let them rise in a warm place until puffy, 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 375 degrees.
7. Brush buns with egg yolk mixture. Bake until lightly browned, 12-15 minutes. While buns are still hot, use a little egg white to "glue" dried fruit in each of the coils.
8. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Copyright by Terese Allen