Lucia Cats – really late or really early?

Oops… speaking of really late… Happy New Year!!

Of course, I meant to come in to say that earlier. Really I did. But we got distracted by our feasting and playing with our new camera. But enough excuses. Let me get back to the Lucia cats….

click on image to see more about making Lucia cats

festive rolls - Lucia Cats Ever since the middle of last December when I saw jg’s post about Lucia cats, I wanted to make them. I left a message in his shout box and lo and behold, an email arrived not long afterward with the recipe. And then our traditional Christmas cooking interrupted as I made cheese cookies, ginger shortbread, several loaves of French-style bread, cranberry sauce, etc. etc.

Finally, a couple of days ago, I decided it was time for us to try Lucia cats. (Even though Santa Lucia Day is long over – or a long way in the future – depending on your point of view.) After some clarification e-mails between here and Sweden (I LOVE the internet!!) at last I was ready to try my hand at making them.

The recipe called for fresh yeast. I usually use active dry yeast and found to my dismay that none of my books had quick and easy equivalent measures. Really?? They all mention that fresh yeast can be used in place of active dry or instant. But I found some information and calculated that I should use around 20gm active dry yeast. What??!!! That seems like a tremendous amount! An email was sent to jg to find out if the 50gm of fresh yeast was a typo. No. That is the correct amount.

And then I remembered some talk in the bread newsgroup (alt.bread-recipes) about baking sweet breads – that sugar, eggs, milk, butter can inhibit yeast action. (Because I usually make lean breads, using only flour, water, salt, and yeast. In fact I’ve been playing with reducing the yeast in those too to make the rise longer so that the bread is even more flavourful. But that’s another story. Don’t let me go off on that tangent just now.)

And then, as we were buying ham at our favourite Polish deli, I saw a little block of yeast in the dairy case. A 100gm block of yeast. It called to me. It told me I HAD to use it in the Lucia cat recipe. I listened to it and bought it.

And I yesterday morning, as snow fell outside, I went about making a batch of Lucia cats. The dough is really soft!! And the smell of saffron and sugar is intoxicating. It really reminded me of one of our favourite Indian desserts srikund.

We tasted the buns in the late afternoon yesterday. They are fabulous!! They are delicate and soft with the lovely hint of saffron that isn’t apparent right away. And they are not nearly as sweet as I expected. They would be fine as dinner rolls. But they’re GREAT with honey and a little more butter (like they need more butter) for breakfast!

I don’t know how you people write entries and add photos to each of your blog entries and still have time to go about the rest of your lives!! I can’t stop playing with the images in photoshop! Or deciding which one(s) to use… I promise that I WILL post images of kneading etc. etc though…

Oh yes, and one other thing: remind me to bake the buns on the TOP shelf of the oven so that they don’t get too dark on the bottom. Rrrrrrrrrrrr. (Good thing our steak knives are perfect for scraping off any charred bits.)

edit 10 January 2006:
Here are more photos of Lucia Cat preparation

edit: some of the traditional shapes

Traditional Shapes for Lussebullar (Lucia buns)
In Italy, the Julgalt shape (I thought the shape was a “Luciakatt”….) is known as occhi di Santa Lucia, which makes a little more sense to me and perhaps explains why this shape appears to be the most popular….
See the following for another recipe and more shapes:

Here is our take on jg’s mother’s recipe:


9 responses to “Lucia Cats – really late or really early?

  1. jg

    Those are lucia cats alright! Wow, those look quite big, at least compared to our homemade buns. Storebought lucia cats can be rather enormous.

    Excellent that you managed to make them (I naturally never doubted you would), but they’re buns, not rolls! Although butter and honey isn’t exactly sacreligious, it’s a very strange idea. As you probably saw in my blog, they are traditionally eaten as-is, with some coffee or julmust and other buns and cookies.

    One additional note. My mother scrutinized your take on the recipe, and felt the need to correct something. The recipe actually calls for two eggs (although since this wasn’t written down, it’s not in the recipe I sent you); it’s one for the dough and one for brushing.

  2. ejm Post author

    Yes, we think they are rather on the large side as well. I didn’t know how many buns I was supposed to make from that so just made an executive decision to make 12 (12 days of Christmas, 12 months, 12 apostles….)

    I did wonder if another egg was supposed to be used. Last week, I made challah with a friend and the recipe we used told us to reserve some of the egg for brushing, so that’s what I chose to do. There wasn’t enough though – hence the cream as well.

    I think next time, I’ll make half a recipe and reserve half the egg for brushing on top. (I’ll still make 12 buns though – much smaller)

    And really, you said that they are eaten as is? I must have conveniently missed that point. They really are good with extra butter and honey. (Wheeeeeee!)

    What is julmust?

  3. jg

    Well, I guess there’s no way for us way over here to control how culinary heathens way over there choose to eat their food. 😉

    Here’s the wikipedia article on julmust that I linked from my blog entry:

  4. bing

    Lussekatter! Hey, I never knew that meant “Lucia cats”. My husband is Swedish; I sometimes learn the Swedish names for things without knowing exactly what the individual parts of the word mean. I learned “lussekatt” when I tried one at a public St Lucia event here in Toronto – I bet yours are better, ejm. Your’s look delicious, aside from being beautifully shaped.

    My husband (from Västerås) says they’re supposed to have a currant in the middle of each end. Maybe that’s a regional thing, to include the currant. I see that jg’s picture doesn’t include a currant either.

  5. ejm Post author

    We discussed adding raisins and decided against them for this time. But this page that was linked from jg’s page (or was it in the recipe e-mail from him??) definitely shows raisins (or currants) in the middle of each spiral.

    And get a load of the complex shapes that are pictured on that page below the recipe!

    edit: And this wikipedia article also shows raisins (or currants?) on the bun:

  6. ejm Post author

    I can easily imagine drinking coffee or tea while eating Luciacats, but, without having ever tasted it, I would think that julmust would be tooooo sweet. (heh heh, and this comes from someone who thinks it’s okay to put honey on the buns)

    I’m guessing that julmust is a bit like gingerale or gingerbeer but without the ginger? I wonder if some people drink lager with Lucia buns…

  7. Deyne

    My Swedish “Grandmother by affection” always used dried currants at the center of each spiral in the Lucia Buns. She said they represented eyes. I have adapted the recipe for a milk free diet, and it works beautifully, with the same wonderful saffron aroma. Julmust I usually skip, it is too sweet for me as a drink.

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