December 13 is celebrated as St. Lucia day in Scandinavia. St. Lucia is an Italian saint who has been "adopted" by the Swedes and Norwegians. She gave her dowry to the poor causing her fiancee to disown her. She was blinded and burned but the flames didn't touch her so she was stabbed in the heart. It is said that she appeared during a famine in Sweden in the middle ages carrying food to the farmers across Lake Vännern.)
These saffron buns are called lussekatt. At first they had nothing to do with celebrating Saint Lucia, but were just buns coloured with saffron to scare away the
devil, (Lucifer). And they do not look like cats, right? Lucifer
often came to bad children in Germany in the shape of a cat… In 1600
the lussekatt came to Sweden but first around 1800 people started celebrating St. Lucia and associated the bun with the celebration.
To make these buns you need:
1/2 gram saffron threads
8 fluid ounces of milk
500g plain flour
60g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 fluid ounces quark or sour cream (room temperature)
45g soft butter
Crush the saffron threads with a mortar and pestle. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan
just to the simmer and add the saffron. Stir it, turn off the heat and
let it cool until it’s just warm (about body temperature).
Meanwhile, stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Pour the
milk mixture and the quark or sour cream and stir to combine it a bit. Add the
flour steadily and stir until a dough forms. Knead the dough for about 7 minutes until it’s very elastic and comes
away from the sides of the bowl. Then add the soft
butter about a tablespoon at a time until it’s all incorporated.
Turn the dough out into a large bowl and let
it rise about 40 minutes or until about doubled in size. Flour a work
surface, and cut the dough into 15 (or so) pieces. Roll them
out into snakes about 14 inches long. Flatten the snakes slightly with a
pin, then roll the strips inward from each end into an “S” shape. Lay
them on parchment lined sheets to prove for about another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, set your oven racks in the lower half of the oven and
preheat to 200oC. Paint them with egg wash and dot them
with raisins. Bake 8-12 minutes until golden.