What is this? How should one properly explain the pure love we, Swedes, have for this simply delightful bun of goodness? Okay, if you couldn’t care less skip the part in italics. However if you’d like to achieve a better understanding of the Swedish culture and this amazing pastry keep reading or watch this hilarious yet educating video:
For a Swede, the 13th of December does not only mean that it’s only 11 days until Christmas, (as we celebrate it on the 24th) it is also one of the highlights of the year, literally.
During the winter, Sweden is very dark. Seriously, around 3-4 PM it’s as dark as it should be in the middle of the night. Therefore Lucia, the most delightful and bright celebration all year, certainly is needed.
Originally, Lucia is an old tradition from Sicily, celebrating the sacrifice that Lucia, the martyr saint, made. Everyone in Sweden knows the legend about Lucia. Lucia was a daughter of a rich merchant/duke, yet she was extremely humble and kind. She even snuck out and gave away all her belongings to the poor. She had hundreds of suitors who all begged for her hand, yet she refused to fall for any of them due to her strong belief in God. One time when she visited a jail, where the sick and insane were kept, one of the guards fell on his knees begging for her hand. He said that she had such beautiful eyes and he wanted them beyond anything else. Therefore, without hesitating, she took her eyes out, which left her with two large, dark holes in her face, and gave them to him. He started screaming and called her a witch. Later, she was sentenced to be burned alive on a pyre, tied to a wooden stock. The legend goes that she was not consumed by the flames and that suddenly she obtained new bright blue eyes (she used to have brown eyes before the removal) that God had given her as a reward for her faithfulness. Due to the burning not working she was later killed with a sword through her throat.
As a result, every 13th of December we celebrate Lucia, the bearer of light. Everywhere you go, schools, churches, hospitals, kindergartens, elderly care, Lucia is celebrated there. It can be as simple as eating a traditional Swedish saffron bun, “Lussekatt”, “Lucia’s cat”, also known as “Lussebullar”, “Lucia’s buns”, drinking mulled wine and eating ginger bread or by attending a traditional Lucia “performance”.
There’s always one person elected Lucia who gets to lead the procession wearing a long white gown, a kind of crown with candles, representing the light, and an extra thick red ribbon, symbolising the blood from the sacrifice, around their waist. Before only a girl could be elected but nowadays both genders can (usually) be elected. Some controversy is still around it but that is honestly just dumb. The rest of the girls are “tärnor”, “maids”, holding lit candles as well as wearing the same kind of white gown as the Lucia but with thinner red ribbons around their waists. Boys usually are “stjärngossar”, “star boys”, wearing the same kind of gown but also a special kind of paper cone hat as well as holding a stick with a star attached to the end. Smaller children often are dressed up as cute gingerbread men or elfs.
Special songs are sang during the “Luciatåg” and most Swedes know them well enough to sing a couple from memory, always with pride. I, myself, has actually been Lucia twice, once in church, as I sang in church choir for four years, and in 9th Grade, the last year before heading of to the Swedish equivalent of High school. It certainly is an amazing experience. I truly recommend Googling “Luciatåg” and watching some clips of a traditional performance. Interestingly enough, every year, a National Lucia is elected who receives a status, comparable to someone like miss America, for the rest of the year. Also there is always a Lucia performance, held in Stockholm, aired on national TV so anyone can watch it in the comfort of their home (even though he real thing in person is the absolute best)
Guys, I truly hope you have learned something new. If you have I’d love to know what traditions you have in your countries so comment down bellow! Sending you guys lots of love and have an amazing day!
The spice known to be more expensive than gold! This is what it actually looks like before grounding. It gives any dish or pastry a beautiful yellow color and a delightful taste.
The most traditional way to make Lussekatter is to make them into S shapes and sticking a raisin in each swirl. However, there are many other creative ways to make your buns a little but more interesting out there. The ones displayed bellow are actually still rather traditional.
Another way that has become more and more common is to braid the dough. I found it to stay more moist for a longer amount of time.
Veganized Traditional Swedish Saffron Buns
[Vegan, whole food, refined sugar-, oil-free, low fat, fruit sweetened, paleo]
Serving 16 larger ones, 30 smaller ones or one very long braid
Time 1-1,5 hours
- Optionally 25g / 2 tbsp margarine, butter, oil of choice
- 2 ½ dl/ 1 cup milk of choice
- 125 gram / 4,5 oz / 1/2 cup thicker yoghurt of choice (I used Alpro’s Go on)
- 3-6 tbsp honey, depending on preference
- 1 package of yeast, 14g dried or 50g fresh yeast
- 1g / 1/2 tsp saffron
- A pinch of salt
- 7,5 – 10 dl / 3-4 cups of flour of choice (I used whole grain spelt flour)
- 1 beaten egg or a couple of tbsps plant cream or plant milk for “egg washing”
- A couple handfuls of raisins
- On low-medium heat combined the margarine, milk. yoghurt and honey in a small pot. Wisk, beat, until smooth.
- Pour the mixture into a larger bowl and let cool down until luke warm, around 100ºF/38ºC.
- Once cooled down, crumbled the yeast on top. Mix and let sit for a couple of minutes.
- Add 2/3 of the spelt flour. Stir in until it is thick enough to knead with your hands. Add more flour until the dough is easy to work with and has formed into a round ball that doesn’t stick to your hands yet not too dry, for optimal results it got to still be moist.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute, form it into the shape of a baguette. Divide it into 16 equal pieces and, using your hands, roll each piece into a long 1/2-inch ( about 1 cm) thick string. Then roll both ends tight in opposite direction into an S-shaped bun. Place buns, well spaced apart, on 2 baking sheets, cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm spot to rise for about 30-60 mins.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F (225°C). Brush the buns with an egg yolk, plant milk or plant cream, and then place one raisin in each circle. Bake the buns until golden brown on top, about 7-9 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool slightly. Enjoy!
*If you want to make it into a braid here’s a link for a great video made by BakaMedFrida. I incorporated the raisins in the dough instead when using this technique.