One of the benefits of living in Berlin is being so close to other cultures that I haven’t been exposed to previously. In my time here, I’ve made good friends with a wonderful (and of course very attractive, as northern europeans tend to be) Swedish couple. Girl Swede and I like to get together and bake during the week and she is always introducing me to her amazing traditional Swedish recipes. On December 13th, the Swedes celebrate St. Lucia Day and these buns are a traditional confection that accompanies the holiday. You know I’m down for any holiday that comes with it’s own special food! Bring on the light crowns and long live the Swedes!
6 ounces butter, melted
2 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
3/4 teaspoon saffron threads (or 1 gram of saffron powder)
1 cup sugar
1.7 ounces fresh yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quark or full-fat greek yogurt
2 pounds wheat flour, or as needed
Raisins, for garnish (Girl Swede and I like more raisins throughout the roll, so we added a handful or two to the dough)
Beaten egg, for brushing
Place the butter and milk in a medium bowl. Using a mortar and pestle (or a teaspoon and small bowl, since that’s all we had), grind the saffron with a pinch of the sugar, and stir into the mixture. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in a little of the lukewarm butter mixture, then add the remaining butter mixture, the remaining sugar, quark or greek yogurt, the salt and raisins as desired.
Gradually add enough of the flour (almost all of it) to make a workable dough, kneading for 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in a mixer with a dough hook. Shape into a ball, sprinkle with a little flour and cover with a cloth. Allow to rise in a warm spot for 30 to 45 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, and knead in additional flour if the dough is sticky. Break off a piece and form it into a ball about 2 inches wide (60 to 70 grams if you are weighing). 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. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough shapes double in size, 30-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400.
Brush the buns with beaten egg, and press raisins lightly into the dough. Bake until golden and risen, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a bun comes out dry. Smaller buns may take 8 to 10 minutes; larger lengths and braids, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the buns on a rack under a cloth.
Recipe adapted from The New York Times