Saffron Buns for St. Lucia’s Day

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I made these saffron buns (original recipe here) for our impromptu St. Lucia’s Day celebration this year. They were fairly easy to make (setting the alarm to get out of bed and let the dough rise was the worst part), and they were very tasty. I was pleased to read that although they are traditionally served on St. Lucia’s Day (December 13), they are also served throughout the Advent season. Perhaps in years to come, we can make the celebration more authentic by having Clara serve us the buns in bed.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (or 1 package)
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (or quark if available)
  • 2 large eggs
  • raisins

Glaze

  • 1 egg, beaten
Directions:
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, saffron threads, and 1 teaspoon sugar until the milk begins to steam. Remove from heat and let cool until it’s still warm to the touch but no longer hot (about 3 minutes).
  2. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk in the saucepan and let sit until foamy, 5-10 minutes.
  3. Whisk together 3 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt.
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the milk mixture, eggs, butter, and sour cream or quark. Mix until well incorporated.
  5. Knead the dough. You can do this by hand, but the dough hook of a stand mixer works well. Slowly add additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition. Do this until the dough is still a little sticky to the touch, but does not completely stick to your hands when you handle it.
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. (Note: if you are going to let the dough sit in the refrigerator overnight, this is when it goes in.)
  7. (Take the dough out of the refrigerator and) Let the dough sit in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
  8. When the dough has doubled in size, gently press it down and knead it a couple of times. Break off a piece and form it into a ball about 2 inches wide (about the size of a golf ball). Roll the ball out into a snake, about 14 inches long. Then Curl the ends in opposite directions, forming an “S” with spirals at each end. Place on a lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.
  9. Let the dough sit for a second rise. Place in a warm spot for 30 minutes to an hour.
  10. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the beaten egg over the tops and sides of the uncooked buns, and place the raisins in the center of the spirals.
  11. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes until the buns are golden brown.

Kroppkaka

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Kroppkaka is old-school Swedish food and one of my very favorite family food traditions. It’s basically a potato dumpling stuffed with bacon and allspice. It can be eaten plain but is much yummier cut in slices and fried in (lots and lots of) butter. We don’t get kroppkaka very often — maybe once every couple of years — because it’s really labor-intensive. (The recipe that I’ll give uses frozen hashbrowns, which really cuts down on the preparation time because the biggest task was always to grind potatoes.)

I can no longer even think about kroppkaka without telling the story of Jason’s first experience with it. Poor guy. When Jason and I were dating I took him over to my aunt’s house for kroppkaka. I knew by this time that Jason liked butter and bacon, so I really, truly thought he might be one of the rare people who just love it on first try. Wrong. So so very wrong.

I hadn’t prepared Jason at all, and to make a long story short, he didn’t know what it was made of and mistook it for basically fried lard. Oh dear. Keep in mind that it was the first time that he met any of my aunts or my grandma. He was so polite about it, but I’m pretty sure it must have been about the worst thing he’d eaten up to that point.

My grandma and my aunt made kroppkaka for Christmas this year, and Jason even agreed to give it another try (he is a saint). He did, and he still didn’t love it or really even like it, but he was at least better informed this time. Simon, on the other hand, showed that he is a good Swedish boy and eagerly ate it up. (He also liked potato sausage, the other traditional Swedish food we had this year.)

So now that I’ve scared away pretty much everyone except my own family, who already love it, I give you the recipe.

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Ingredients

  • 1 26-ounce bag frozen shredded hashbrown potatoes, thoroughly thawed
  • 2 ¾ cups flour
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 pounds bacon, cut into small bits (my dad bought bacon ends, which are considerably less expensive than regular bacon — they come in a box, and 3 pounds is something like $5.99)
  • allspice

Directions

  1. Combine the hashbrowns, flour, water, and salt to form a dough.
  2. Combine the bacon with enough allspice to coat it all.
  3. Form the dough into an oval about ½-inch thick and about the size of your hand.
  4. Add a tablespoon or so of the bacon and allspice mixture, and fold the dough around it to make a ball. Make sure all the bacon is sealed in, or the kroppkaka will fall apart.
  5. Lower the balls (kroppkakor) into pots of boiling water, and boil for about an hour.
  6. Gently remove the kroppkakor with a slotted spoon (they will be extremely delicate at this point), and allow to cool for several hours or overnight.
  7. When ready to serve, cut the kroppkakor into ½-inch slices and fry in butter until the bacon is done and the potato part is golden brown.
  8. Serve with more butter and salt to taste

You can find more information about kroppkaka here.