Lussekatter, the taste of St Lucia's Day
Updated: Apr 29
Sunday 13 December sees the Nordic celebration of St Lucia. Here in Norway, Luciadagen is a popular celebration and is marked with it's own special food, the lussekatter and special events at schools. Originally a pagan festival, that has been largely incorporated into the legend of the 4th century Lucia of Syracuse who brought food and beverages to Christians hiding in the Roman catacombs. She wore a candle on her head to keep her hands free to carry more food. These days, the day is marked with church services, but also on a more secular level with children dressed in white robes and walking in procession singing a special song and carrying lussekatter. The child chosen to lead the procession wears a crown of 4 candles to symbolise advent.
Lussekatter (Saffron Buns) Makes 18
900g / 2 lb plain, all purpose flour
165g / 6 oz sugar
0.5 tsp salt
1g saffron (or at a push you can use 0.5 tsp ground turmeric)
0.5 tsp ground allspice (or mixed spice)
180g / 6.5 oz butter
350ml / 10 fl ozmilk
50g /2 oz fresh yeast or 25g 7 1 oz dried yeast
1 egg, beaten
About 40g / 1.5 oz raisins
Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly. Warm the milk to about 35 degrees C and gently blend in the yeast and the saffron. In the bowl of your stand mixer put all the dry ingredients and blend together. Alternatively place in a large bowl and stir together to blend. With the dough hook on your mixer and the speed set to slow (or with a blunt ended knife if you are doing this by hand), add the egg, melted butter and the milk/yeast mix. Blend together and keep the mixer on slow speed to knead the dough for 10 minutes. If it's a little sticky you can add some more flour (but do it very gradually). Or turn out onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes. At the end of the kneading time you should have a smooth, slightly shiny and elastic dough that is no longer sticky. Return to the bowl and cover with a damp cloth to prove in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 180C or 355F
Divide the dough into about 18 pieces. Roll each following the photo below or use your imagination! Push a raisin into the scroll of each lussekatter. Place a baking sheet lined with baking or greaseproof paper, leaving some space between each, cover with a damp cloth and leave to prove again for about 30 minutes.
Paint the lussekatter with the beaten egg and bake in the centre of the oven for about 12 minutes, until a lovely golden brown colour. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Lussekatter are best eaten warm.
If you happen to have lussekatter left over the following day, I can confidently report that they are great cut in half lengthways, toasted and spread with butter!