Last week I talked about a saint’s day that everyone knows about; St. Nicholas is quite popular the world over. This week, however, the saint’s day that I am going to talk about is not so well known. St. Lucia (or St. Lucy as she is sometimes called) is celebrated mainly in Scandinavia, even though she was probably Sicilian. The tradition of her day became combined with many other Yule traditions which then pretty much led to the celebration there is today. If you read the Wikipedia article you can see all the different traditions. I have never fully celebrated the day, though there are many times when I wish we had when I was a child. This is partly due to the fact that I am the oldest child, so I would have been the one to wear the white gown and the wreath on my head and bring coffee and buns, and maybe gingersnaps (which, by the way, I love), etc. Of course, a scuffle might have ensued, since my sister who is two years younger than me had the American Girl doll Kirsten Larsen who was Swedish and would have celebrated the day. (I had Samantha Parkinson, the Victorian one. Both dolls are retired now…stupid Mattel.)
Anyway, my parents didn’t drink coffee, nor are we sufficiently Scandinavian for it to have been a family tradition already (we’re more German Lutheran than Scandinavian Lutheran), so my attempt to celebrate it at 10 years old was half-hearted at best. But, I will share with you a recipe for St. Lucia Buns from Kirsten’s Cookbook anyway. I’ve never been able to make these myself, not having access to saffron (any recommendations where to purchase it?), but I’ve eaten some elsewhere and I really like them. Minus the raisins. Yuck. (By the way, this recipe is written so young kids have an easier time understanding it, so it may sound a bit clunky and repetitive.)
St. Lucia Buns (makes 6 buns)
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs (one for the mix, one to mix with 1 tablespoon of water and brush on top of buns before baking)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon saffron
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Cut the butter into small pieces. Add the butter pieces to the warm milk and stir, then turn off the heat.
2. Measure the lukewarm water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir well. Set the bowl aside for 5 minutes.
3. Add the warm milk and melted butter to the yeast. Stir in the sugar, one egg, salt, and saffron. Then add 1 1/2 cups flour and stir until smooth.
4. Add enough of the remaining flour so that you can shape the dough into a ball. Save some of the flour for kneading the dough.
5. Put the dough on a floured cutting board. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough. Add flour when the dough gets sticky.
6. After 5 to 10 minutes of kneading, you will have a smooth ball of dough. It should spring back when you poke it with your finger. Cover the dough with the towel and let it rest while you wash and dry the mixing bowl. (Note: you could use a different bowl, but why make more dirty dishes???)
7. Spread cooking oil in the large bowl. Roll the dough in the oil until it is coated. Cover the bowl with the towel and set it in a warm place to rise. After 45 minutes, the dough should be twice as large. If not, check it again in 15 minutes.
8. Punch down the dough. Then divide it into 6 sections. Take 1 section and divide it in half. Roll each half into an 8-inch rope. Cross the 2 ropes in the middle. Then coil the ends in tight circles. Shape 5 more buns in the same way.
9. Place the buns 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Cover with the towel. Let the buns rise for 30 to 45 minutes until they double in size. Preheat the oven to 350 while they are rising.
10. Mix the other egg and water with a fork in a small bowl. Brush this mixture lightly over the top of each bun. Decorate the buns with raisins.
11. Bake the buns for 15 to 20 minutes. When the buns are golden brown, move them to a wire rack to cool. (Note: original recipe says to have an adult move them to the wire rack, but I figured that didn’t need to be said!)
If you make these buns and enjoy them, please let me know! And again, if you know of a good place/website to purchase saffron, let me know that as well!
One last thing on this St. Lucia Day: It’s American Girl related, again. There is a CD entitled The American Girls Christmas: Music of Christmas Past, which was released in 1999, that has some Swedish Christmas songs on it. This was one of the first CDs I ever personally owned, and I still absolutely adore it.