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Friday, December 11, 2015

Lussebullar - Saffron Buns

I recently acquired Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking by Darra Goldstein and immediately flipped longingly through each page. The book is filled with intriguing recipes from across Scandinavia that seem just right for this time of year. (Apple soup with juniper? Meatball and celery root stew? Sign me up!)

Today, though, I made Lussebullar, or Saffron Buns. Enriched with whole milk, butter, and a healthy dose of saffron, these sweet buns are typically served on December 13, also known as St. Lucia's Day. As Goldstein describes, the symbolism of the buns stems from either Christian or Pagan traditions; whatever the origin, their golden hue brings a little touch of brightness in dark December days.

These buns would be just right during a holiday dinner, or as an afternoon snack with hot cocoa or mulled cider.

Lussebullar - Sweet Saffron Buns
Adapted from Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking by Darra Goldstein

1 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons butter, cut in chunks
1/2 teaspoon Afghan or Spanish saffron threads, crumbled
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup turbinado or cane sugar
2 large eggs, divided
4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
36 currants or raisins
Maldon salt, optional

Combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring just until the butter melts. Remove from heat and stir in the saffron, then let steep and cool for at least 10 minutes.

While the milk mixture cools, stir the yeast, water, sugar, and 1 egg together in a large bowl. Add 4 cups of the flour and the salt, stirring with a wooden spoon and adding more flour as needed to make a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface a knead, adding as little flour as needed, until smooth and elastic, about 5 to 8 minutes. Put the dough into a large greased bowl, turn to coat the top of the dough, then cover with a towel and let rise for about 2 hours, until almost doubled in bulk. (After the dough has risen for 2 hours, you can put it in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours, then bring it back to room temperature before proceeding.)

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Gently deflate the dough, then divide it into 18 pieces. Divide one of the pieces in half, then roll each half into 4-inch long ropes. Make an X with the two ropes, then turn the 4 ends toward the center to form a sort of coil. Repeat with the remaining 17 pieces of dough, placing each formed bun on the baking sheets. (See photos below the recipe!)

Press a raisin into the center of each coil, then cover the rolls with kitchen towels and let rise for about 30 minutes, until slightly puffy.

Preheat the oven 15 minutes before you're ready to bake. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl. Brush the buns with the egg and sprinkle each bun with a pinch of Maldon salt, if using. Bake until golden (about 15 minutes), rotating the sheets halfway through.

Yield: 18 buns

Form an X, then curl each end inward.
The raisins or currants are tucked into the center of each coil.

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