Christmas Around The World: Sweden

We’re back in Sweden for St Lucia’s day! Around Christmas time in Sweden, one of the biggest celebrations is St. Lucia’s Day (or St. Lucy’s Day) on December 13th. The celebration comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden.St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304.
The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name.
December 13th was also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, in the old ‘Julian’ Calendar and a pagan festival of lights in Sweden was turned into St. Lucia’s Day.St. Lucia’s Day is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash round her waist and a crown of candles on her head. Small children use electric candles but from about 12 years old, real candles are often used!
The crown is made of Lingonberry branches which are evergreen and symbolise new life in winter. Schools normally have their own St. Lucia’s and some town and villages also choose a girl to play St. Lucia in a procession where carols are sung.
A popular food eaten at St. Lucia’s day are ‘Lussekatts’, St Lucia’s day buns flavored with saffron and dotted with raisins which are eaten for breakfast. They are slightly sweet, buttery and a beautiful shade of yellow from the saffron.
I highly recommend eating them freshly baked. Prepare the dough the night before and bake in the morning.

3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/4 cup and 1 tsp granulated sugar
10g active dry yeast
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
For the glaze:
1 egg, beaten
In a small pot heat the milk, saffron and 1 tsp of sugar together until the milk is steamy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it is touch hot (hot but cooled down enough for you to put your finger in it).
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm saffron infused milk.
Whisk flour, sugar and salt together.
Make a well in the center of the flour and add the milk mixture, the eggs, butter and sour cream.
Knead the dough. It should be slightly sticky to the touch but not stick to your hands when you handle it.
If you plan on baking them immediately, let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours, until doubled in size.
Alternatively, refrigerate overnight.
Once the dough has doubled in size, gently press it down and knead it a few times.
Break off pieces and roll out into a snake approximately 35cm, then curl the ends in opposite directions to form an "S".
Cover and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size again (this should take about half an hour).
Brush with an egg wash and place raisins in the centers of the "S" spirals.
Bake at 200 degrees (celsius) for 10 minutes, turning halfway, until the buns are golden brown.
Let cool for 5 minutes before eating (if you can wait that long!).

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