I wanted to spend a bit of time telling you about lussebullar, a traditional Swedish Christmas-time bun. Lussebullar (lusse buns) are also sometimes called lussekatter (lusse cats) or saffransbröd (saffron bread). As two of those names somewhat suggest, the bun has a connection with St Lucia’s Day (for reasons unknown to me). They are absolutely delicious and, to me, an integral part of the Christmas holiday season. So in this post I will share one variant of a lussebulle recipe, the one I used myself this morning. There may be better recipes out there but this is really only the third time I make lussebullar myself since it was always Mom who made them when I was living at home. This recipe turned out nice for me though.
You will need:
1 gram of saffron
150 grams of butter or margarine (for baking)
5 dls of milk or 3 dls of milk and 2 dls of quark (a sort of fresh cheese)
50 grams of yeast
Roughly ½-1 teaspoon of salt
1 ½ dls of sugar
2 eggs (1 for the dough, 1 for the coating)
12-15 dls flour
Raisins for garnishing
You start off by melting the butter (or margarine) carefully in a pot and then adding the milk. This mixture is supposed to be heated to 37 degrees C (finger temperature) and then poured over the yeast (which has been crumbled up a bit in a bowl). This is probably the most difficult part of the whole process because, as you may know, if the mixture is too warm the yeast will die and then the dough won’t rise. In addition, if you’re anything like me you might find it hard to tell (unless you have a proper thermometer, which I don’t) how hot the mixture actually is. In fact, last year a made two completely failed batches of lussebullar for this very reason. They didn’t rise and they came out overly dense, small, doughy and generally icky. This year I played it safe and made sure to let it cool off quite a bit, because while too hot might kill the yeast too cold will likely just mean it will need more time rising. Anyway, you add the milk-and-butter to the yeast and stir until the latter has dissolved. Then you add (preferably in a baking machine of some sort but I don’t have one) salt, sugar, saffron, quark (if applicable), 1 egg and most of the flour (I usually add about 10 dl at first). You stir until it’s a dough and then knead it (adding more flour as you go) until it’s a very nice dough and has the right texture for being baked (not too sticky but not too dry, etc). Then you leave it to rise under a towel or somesuch. Most recipes tell you to leave it for about 30 mins but I actually left mine for about 90 minutes this morning because of the cold yeast mix. I have it on good authority (from Mom) that leaving dough to rise for a long time when it’s the first time it rises is okay. Once it’s risen you take it out of the bowl, knead it and then begin the actual baking. A traditional lussebulle is made by taking a piece of the dough and rolling it out into a thin-ish rope-shape (perhaps a centimeter in diameter) and then rolling up the ends (in opposite directions) to make a sort of S-shape. You can also make crosses and wheels by combining two or more of these S-shapes into figures. Unfortunately I didn’t make any big ones, so I can’t show you my own pictures of how they look but you can probably find some on Google quite easily. After you’ve baked them and put them on a oven plate, you let them rise again (20-30 mins for larger ones and 30-40 for smaller ones). Once it’s risen you crack the second egg into some small bowl or cup and give it a stir to mix the yolk with the white, and then use a kitchen brush (a piece of paper towel worked okay for me this morning as I realized in didn’t have a brush) to brush the egg onto the buns to create a nice surface when they bake. Garnish by sticking raisins into strategic locations on the bun. Heat your oven to 225-250 degrees C and bake for 5-8 minutes (for larger buns heat to 200-225 degrees C for 15-20 mins). Voilá, you’ve made your very own batch of Swedish lussebullar!
I was quite thrilled this morning when my buns turned out okay. I had feared, at first, a yeast-debacle akin to that of last year and, later, an absence of baking butter in my household (but it was just hiding behind some other groceries in the fridge). It ended up going quite well! The buns turned out quite ugly but delicious, which is often the case with things I bake. I brought the bulk of them with me to work, for the pre-Christmas dinner get-together where they were enjoyed with warm, spiced apple cider. The compliments were a great Christmas gift to my baking ego, and there were a few left over so now me and the boyfriend are set until Christmas in terms of lussbullar.
So, best of luck if you decide to try your hand at making lussebullar. I promise they will be worth the effort and the somewhat amusingly high price of 1 gram of saffron. With that, I bid you good night!