Wild Times with Lussekatter (BBB December 2020)

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BBB: Let's Keep Baking summary: recipe for wild Lucia Buns based on Swedish JG’s mother’s recipe; difficulties with enriched dough – so what else is new? still staying at home where there are an unbelievable number of rabbit holes; I’m posting late again! Really late… one of these days I may learn to plan ahead; …maybe; information about Bread Baking Babes;

Santa Lucia

Dagen skall åter ny, stiga ur rosig sky,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.
(A new day will rise again / From the rosy sky, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.)

Here it is at last, as promised, the long long long long version:

Bread Baking Babes (BBB): Lussekatter (St. Lucia Saffron Buns)

Wild Lussekatter (BBB)

With COVID-19 numbers rising alarmingly, cold weather setting in, and strict government orders to stay at home as our part of the province is in the Red Zone (physically distance, mandatory mask in indoor public spaces, avoid non-essential travel, no visiting any other household or allowing visitors in our home, only go out for essential reasons, such as: work – but preferably work at home, school, groceries, pharmacy, health care, outdoor exercise), we neeeeed comfort and joy. And what could be more comforting, and more joyous than sweet saffron buns?

It has been ages since I’ve made them! We do love them though, so were very glad when Judy chose Lussekatter for the BBBabes to make this month.

As Christmas approaches in Sweden, families make Lussekatter a special sweet bread, in honor of the Christian martyr St. Lucia. Early on the moring of December 13, St. Lucia Day, the oldest girl in the family rises and prepares a pot of coffee. She places the coffee, some Lussekatter, and a candle on a tray. Dressed in a white robe with a red sash […] and a wreath of candles on her head […], her siblings join her in carrying the tray of bread and coffee to their parents’ bedroom […] [to begin] the festive activities of this special day
Swedes use marble bowls and mallets to grind sugar and saffron together […] *Option Substitute 1 t. ground cardamom (5ml) for saffron-sugar mixture.
– Joetta Handrich Schlabach, Extending the Table | St. Lucia Buns (Sweden), p.62-63
Saffron is undoubtedly the most expensive herb on earth, and for a very good reason. It is made with the dried stigmas of a crocus plant and literally thousands of the stigmas, harvested by hand, are necessary to yield a pound. a little saffron goes far, however.
– Craig Claiborne, The New York Times Cookbook | Saffron Buns, p.477
We do love saffron. And even though we can get boxes of Spanish saffron threads from Indiatown at a markedly lower price than anywhere else in the city, saffron is still very very expensive. As I recall, the last box (8x5x2cm) we bought cost $18 (remarkably, there is no weight mark on the box).
– me, blog from OUR kitchen | Persian Rice (Tah Dig, “bottom of the rice”) – revisited (WHB#345: saffron)

Spanish Saffron

Luckily, we did not feel we had to take out a mortgage, brave the freezing cold, and bicycle across the city to India Town to get saffron. We still have a little left in the box in the spice drawer (enough left for Lussekatter AND New Year’s Eve paella for two).

Here’s what I did to make the BBBabes’ December 2020 bread:

BBB lussekatter diary:

3 November 2020, 16:11 What a great choice!! We LOVE lussekatter!

(But thank you VERY much, Judy…. Now I have an audio virus: Santa Lucia! Sa-a-a-anta Lucia! Santaaaaaaaaaa Lucia!)

3 November 2020, 16:23 I think I’m going to try converting our recipe – actually it’s JG’s mother’s recipe – to a wild version. (JG is Swedish; for several years, starting in 2001, he wrote the clever “Nerdboy” comic strip)

5 December 2020, 10:42 I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to convert JG’s mother’s St.Lucia Buns recipe to use wild yeast instead of commercial. I’ve looked at a number of Lussekatter recipes, and have only – so far – found one that does NOT use commercial yeast.

I researched a number of recipes, all with slight variations. Some added dried fruit to the dough; some just used the fruit as decoration. Some added cardamom along with the saffron; others said ‘no way’ that cardamom was used. There were variations in the amount of saffron used. There were alternatives to the saffron, such as turmeric. Some added the saffron directly to the dough; some steeped it in warm milk or rum (if you want an extra kick!), or crushed it beforehand.
– Judy, message to BBBabes

Also, while a few of the Swedish St. Lucia Bun recipes do call for cardamom, many – including JG’s mother’s recipe – do not. But whichever recipe I follow, I don’t think I will be adding cardamom. Don’t get me wrong; I love cardamom in sweet buns. I just don’t want to have anything competing with the distinct and wonderful flavour of the saffron.

Warning Warning Warning! Rabbit holing again:
Cardamom is a widely used spice in Swedish food. It is used to scent doughs, add flavour to poaching liquids and as a flavouring in drinks. Apparently the Scandinavians are second only to the Arabs in their hunger for cardamom!
– SwedishFood.com – Cardamom Kardemumma
Despite being the world’s most expensive spice, saffron is widely used in Swedish food. It features heavily around Christmas time in saffransbullar (saffron buns), but it is also used in a number of other sweet and savoury dishes. It is used both because of its bright yellow colour and its distinctive flavour. […] Saffransbullar (saffron buns), also called lussekatter or lussebullar (Lucia saffron buns), isthe most popular use of saffron in Sweden. Although they are intended to be eaten on luciadagen (St Lucia Day), in practice they are on sale throughout December and most Swedes are excited to see their arrival in bakeries. […] There are also popular variations on lussekatter including saffron buns with almond paste and saffron buns with white chocolate and dried cranberries.
– SwedishFood.com – Saffron

And more Rabbit holing…

Norway Santa Lucia Buns:
» North Wild Kitchen | St. Lucia Saffron Buns (Lussekatter) – no cardamom…
» The Norwegian American | Butter and spice for Sankta Lucia Day – whiskey, but no cardamom
» My Nordic Kitchen | Lussekatter | Saffron Buns – no cardamom, but a hint to use turmeric as an alternative to saffron!!!!

Eeeeeeeek! Turmeric in place of saffron?! I think not!
:stomp: :stomp:

Get me out of this rabbit hole now please!

7 December 2020, 08:35 Here are the ingredients from JG’s mother’s recipe from 2007 (or was it 2006??):

50 g fresh yeast
200 g butter
500 ml milk
1 - 2 g saffron
½ tsp salt
150ml sugar
1 egg
900g unbleached all-purpose flour
cream or milk (JG's mother says to use an egg)

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.
– JG, commenting on our first try at making his mother’s Lucia Cats recipe

Just 3 grams of salt for 900 grams of flour seems quite low! That’s just 0.6% in Baker’s Percentage! When I switch this recipe to use our Jane Mason starter, I’m going to make an executive decision to use 1.8% Baker’s Percentage of salt.

And if I halve the recipe but put in a whole egg (because – while I’ve done it before – it’s a major drag to divide an egg in half), I should probably reduce the amount of milk. 1 egg is roughly 60ml, so I should subtract 30ml from the milk….

14:20 Hmmm… If Lussekatter are made with wild yeast, does that make them Lussevildkatter?

Adding oil, butter or other fat-containing ingredients will have a profound effect on the structure of your dough. Add too much or too early and they will make creating your gluten matrix an absolute pain […] [I]f you are adding lots o foil or butter to your dough, add it after the mixing is complete, or at least towards the end of it. As a general rule, if the weight of fat is less than 5% of the weight of flour, it can be added safely at the beginning. If it’s above this, it’s best to leave it until the end.
– James Morton, Ingredients and Equipment | Fat, Super Sourdough

Let’s see now… I know there is lots of butter in Luciacats. But how much?? [click... clickclickclick... clickclick.... Yes!! I was right. There IS lots. It’s 11% of the weight of the flour! I will add it at the end….

You might want to research panettone recipes for timing. They have a lot of eggs and butter.
– Karen K, on message board to BBBabes

10 December 2020, 9:49 Karen is wise! Happily, James Morton handily has a recipe for panettone in his recent book, “Super Sourdough”. But even before Karen said something, I was already thinking I’d add the butter on the second fold and turn, after adding the salt on the first fold and turn. I thought I’d follow what Samin Nosrat did when she made pizza dough:

The first paid job I had in the kitchen at Chez Panisse was called Pasta/Lettuce. […] I’d also start the pizza dough every morning, adding yeast, water, and flour into the bowl of the gigantic stand mixer […] Once the water and flour brought the dormant yeast back to life, I’d add more flour and salt. Then, after kneading and proofing, I’d finish the dough by adding in some olive oil.
– Samin Nosrat, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”, p.34

15 December 2020, 10:23 Oh oh. We’re supposed to be posting about these tomorrow, aren’t we? I’m afraid I’m going to be shamefully late with my Luciapost, but it sure has been fun rabbit-holing. I was amazed to learn that the Lucia Crown didn’t become nationally popular in Sweden until the 1920s!! Because of a newspaper contest….

21:15 I can’t believe it! I’m using instant yeast to make a starter. But. It’s not for Lussekatter. It’s for white bread!!

16 December 2020, 18:18 The commercially yeasted bread is about to go in the oven. And. Rats. I fear I am going to be hopelessly late with my Lussekatter post (but I am determined to make these buns by Christmas!)

17 December 2020, 11:13 Hmmm… here I am NOT making Lussekatter again AND about to post about why I haven’t posted about them yet. …shall I copy Kelly to say that the cat ate my homework? (Perhaps not. After all, S.C.I.C.T.T….)

The commercially yeasted bread was so disappointing that I’m definitely not going to use instant yeast to make Lussekatter!

19 December 2020, 21:59 I just built up our Jane Mason starter – whoa!! Lots of alcohol floating on top of the poor thing! Am I building it up to make Lussekatter?

[Cue hysterical laughter]

We really need bread. Real bread, made with at least some whole wheat flour.

We used up a lot of the white white white white bread making croutons for French onion soup for tonight’s dinner. We’ll finish it by making stove-top dressing for tomorrow night’s dinner of pork shoulder braised in pomegranate juice.

Tartine Bread

21 December 2020, 14:09 We tasted last night’s Tartine bread this morning. It. Is. Delicious!

Yesterday, realizing that the little bit of saffron we have on hand won’t be quite enough for Lussekatter AND paella for two hogs on Christmas eve, we decided to order some Spanish saffron online. It arrived almost immediately!

Spanish Saffron

The amazing thing is that even though the tin was tightly shut, the inside of the envelope smells of saffron!! How cool is that? I’ve decided that perhaps I will make the St. Lucia buns tomorrow…. that’s not too late, is it?? :hohoho: :lalala: :hohoho:

21 December 2020, 21:46 It’s a miracle. I have now built up our Jane Mason starter so that I will be able to mix Lucia Bun dough tomorrow!

22 December 2020, 09:03 It’s floating! It’s floating! Let the fun begin!!

10:05 Good thing that T decided we needed more saffron! It turns out that the amount left in the little box wasn’t enough for paella and Lussekatter. In fact, it wasn’t even enough for the Lussekatter. I had to steal a few threads from the new tin.

And wow. The new saffron is really really saffrony. Especially in comparison to the old saffron. I did follow Naz Deravian’s advice to make sure EVERY drop of saffron/sugar water was added to the dough.

Before you wash out the glass the saffron was steeping in, make sure there isn’t a single speck of this liquid gold clinging to its sides. This is precious stuff. Drizzle in a little more hot water, and either add it to the dish or knock it back yourself. […] Because of its price tag and precious reputation, it often becomes like the prized dress or the good china that gets stashed away for that very special occasion that never comes. And before you know it, a whole year has gone by since you last used two strands of saffron for that one recipe you once came across. The rest of your precious saffron is still waiting in vain in the back of the cupboard […] Don’t wait for that special occasion. Today, tomorrow, and every day are special occasions. Use your saffron. She’s worth it, and you’re worth it.
– Naz Deravian, Bottom of the Pot | Saffron – Z’afaran

With this new tin of saffron, we’ll be sure to follow Naz Deravian’s advice to use it sooner rather than later, instead of hiding it away in the drawer until it fades.

13:12 I have now turned the bread twice, adding the salt last time. And quel relief. Not only is the dough beautifully golden, but it had begun to rise, and it also smells like saffron. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t, when I noticed the “best before” date on the old box of saffron. It says 31 December 2018! Which means we must have bought that saffron in 2016 or so. I’m so glad we’re using it up before it has lost all of its flavour….

16:19 I have now kneaded the butter in. Mostly. It’s pretty gloppy…. I hope I didn’t jump too soon. But I did hear a few squeaks of bubbles popping. Fingers crossed that there won’t be a massive storm in the house tonight….

[S]ourdough does add considerable time to the process
– Tanna, My Kitchen in Half Cups | BBB ~ St. Lucia Saffron Buns, Lussekatter

No kidding. :lalala:

18:43 Waaahhhhhhhh!!! Now it’s not rising at all! Do I wait and hope it is going to actually work? Do I add some instant yeast? Do I toss the whole thing in the compost bin? Do I make saffron crackers? Or do I just cancel Christmas, and go and hide in bed until spring? …so many less than pleasant choices!

23 December 2020, 07:21 I rescued the dough from the cold section by the back door and put it into the oven with only the light turned on. And a minor miracle happened overnight. I think (I’m not positive) that the dough actually rose! I’ll check it again in a couple of hours. If it hasn’t moved at all, I’m going to commit a felony.

08:59 That’s it! And I can’t believe I’m really going through with this: I’m going to add instant yeast. I feel like such a failure.

09:08 Ha!! I see that the dough has risen a bit more! Maybe the sourdough police won’t be coming after me after all.

10:55 12 Lussekatter shaped!! Actually, I only managed one of the Lussekatt shapes. The rest are in the WAY easier sideways S Sideways S - occhi di Santa Lucia julgalt shape.

I actually cannot remember now where I found that so-called traditional shape of the Luciakatt way back in 2006 or 2007. Now, when I search, the ONLY image showing that particular shape is the one that I drew by copying from someone else’s drawing….

Lussekatt Shape
Just Shaped Lussekatter

Below is the Lussekatt shape that I have seen most frequently in my rabbit-holing this year. But I don’t think it looks like a cat at all!

Lussekatt Shape (unknown source)

12:46 Finally into the oven!! (I only just remembered to brush them with milk!)

13:17 It’s a miracle!! We have Lussekatter!

As soon as the buns came out of the oven, we raced to pack up Christmas package for my sister and brother-in-law, as well as thermoses of tea. Then we jumped on our bikes to ride up to sit in a park near my sister’s house. We exchanged presents and had too much fun. And suddenly it was really really cold. (When we arrived it was about 6C; when we left it was 3C.)

The moment we got home and had thawed out our hands and feet, we warmed up one Lussekatt to taste. Wow!!! Saffrony! And we think it could possibly be sweeter. It could also possibly be a bit fluffier.

(Because of all the angst and the considerable amount of time it took for the dough to rise, I did have to promise that I will never again attempt to make enriched dough with our Jane Mason starter. The next time I make something like Lussekatter, I have signed a document stating that I will use commercial yeast.)

Lussekatter 2020
Lussekatt: Nailed it!!
Nailed it!

But. Who cares how it looks? It was delicious!

Lussekatt crumb - saffrony!!

Thank you, Judy! I’m so glad you chose this wonderful recipe.

Here is the December 2020 BBB recipe that we were given (and, as per my promise, the one I will be following from now on). Here is what I did to the BBB recipe:

Wild Lussekatter
adapted from our take on Swedish JG’s mother’s recipe for Lucia Cats that calls for cake yeast.

[T]he smell of saffron and sugar is intoxicating. – me, blog from OUR kitchen | Lucia Cats – really late or really early? – 8 January 2006

makes 12 large Lussekatter


  • dessert spoon (about 20 grams) Jane Mason whole wheat starter from fridge
  • 60 grams “no additives” 100% whole wheat flour
  • 60 grams water, at room temperature


  • ½ teaspoon (~0.5 grams) saffron threads
  • 60 grams sugar, divided
  • 20 grams hot water (not quite boiling)
  • 155 grams (150 ml) milk, room temperature
  • 400 grams unbleached ‘no additives’ all-purpose flour
  • 5 grams wheat germ
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 8 grams seasalt (JG’s mother’s recipe calls for only “1/2 tsp salt [3 grams]” with 900 grams of flour. That seems very low side to me….)
  • 50 grams unsalted butter, softened


  • Thompson raisins
  • Pearl sugar, optional
  • milk, or cream
  1. leavener: In the evening of the day before making the bread: Put the starter, flour and water into a smallish bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until the flour is stirred in well. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside overnight in the oven with only the light turned on (because in December, it’s quite cool in the kitchen).
  2. Check the starter: In the morning of the day you will be making the buns: If a small forkful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of cool room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. (If the leavener does not float – it may have has used up all its food in the night, stir in 10 grams each of whole wheat flour and water (ie: even amounts by weight) and cover with a plate and leave for another hour or so. Check to see if it’s floating. If it is not, wait a little longer. When it floats, proceed with mixing the dough.
  3. Prepare the Saffron Put saffron threads and half a teaspoon of sugar into a small bowl. Use the back of a spoon to finely break up the threads. Pour hot water (just under a boil) overtop. Set aside to cool.
    Put saffron and a bit of the sugar into a mortar and use the pestle to grind it finely.
    – JG’s mother’s Lucia Cats recipe
    The best way to extract flavor from saffron is to soak the threads in hot (not boiling) liquid for 5 to 20 minutes. Then add both the saffron and the liquid to the recipe. As the saffron soaks, you’ll notice the distinctive aroma indicating that your saffron “tea” is ready. I like to soak the saffron in stock or wine (rather than water) to add to the overall flavor of a dish.
    – Molly Stevens, Fine Cooking | Getting the Most from a Pinch of Saffron
    [A]lways steep ground saffron in hot water, but never boiling. Boiled water kills saffron’s soul, which will kill the dish, and in turn destroy thousands of years of [Persian] history and culture, which will inevitably sour our experience of the meal, thus affecting our digestion and ultimately our overall well-being. No pressure!
    – Naz Deravian, Bottom of the Pot
  4. Warm the milk Heat the milk gently in a pot until it is body temperature (if we had a microwave, I’d use it…). Set aside.
  5. Mix the dough Sift the all-purpose flour into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in wheat germ and the rest of the sugar. Check the milk on the inside of your wrist to make sure it is baby bottle temperature, then pour the milk into the flour. Pour the saffron water in as well. Use a dough whisk or wooden spoon to mostly mix in the flour. Let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes.
  6. Break the egg into a small bowl and lightly whisk it. Add the egg and all of the leavener, and using the dough whisk or your hands, mix everything together to make a rough dough. If the dough still seems a little dry, put in a little splash of water. (The whole wheat flour in the starter might make things drier – whole wheat flour is more absorbent than all-purpose flour.) Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter for about 30 minutes.
  7. Add the salt: Put the salt into a little bowl and pour a little splash of water over top. Swirl it around before adding the super-saturated salty water to the top the dough.
  8. Kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl – this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like it’s coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than a horrible separated glop. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
  9. Stretching and folding Turn the bowl as you alternately squoosh in the butter and fold and re-fold the dough into the center until the dough is smooth. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave in the oven with only the light turned on for about 30 minutes.
  10. Stretching and folding again: Repeat the folding step about 2 more times at 30 minute intervals. You’ll notice that after each time, the dough will feel significantly smoother . After the final time of folding, cover with the plate, and leave the dough until it is smooth, shiny, and is showing signs of beginning to rise.
  11. Adding the butter: Smear the butter on top. Turn the bowl as you alternately squoosh in the butter and fold and re-fold the dough into the center until the dough is smooth. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave in the oven with only the light turned on until the dough has almost doubled.
  12. Shaping: Scatter a light dusting of all-purpose flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Cut the dough into 12 even pieces (or more, if you want smaller Lucia Buns). Form each piece into a rope. Coil the ends of each rope to form an S-shape. And because we’re making Lussekatter, shape one or two to look like cats. To make a cat, cut a rope in half. Coil one half to make the body and tail; loop the other half to make the head and ears, and use a little milk to seal the body/tail part to the head/ears. Place each bun well apart on 2 parchment lined cookie trays. Put a raisin into the center of each coil. Cover each tray with a damp tea towel and leave in the oven with only the light turned on until the buns have almost doubled.
  13. Preheat the oven: Take the trays out of the oven and place them on the counter! Turn the oven to 375F.
  14. Baking: Just before putting the buns in the oven, gently brush the tops with milk or cream. Place the trays in the center of the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 350F – or whatever you consider to be “moderate”. Bake for 10 -15 minutes until the buns feel light and sound hollow when rapped gently on the bottoms.
  15. Cooling: When the buns have finished baking, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on a footed rack before serving; they are still cooking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm buns (of course you do), reheat them after they have cooled completely: To reheat them, put them into the oven for a few minutes at low temperature.

Apparently, in Sweden, these buns are traditionally served without butter. We do not live in Sweden, nor are we Swedish. The buns are delicious with or without butter, with or without honey. They are also great with eggs for breakfast. And plenty of good strong coffee.


Leavener: The leavener is made with our 100% hydration whole wheat starter. It took about 5 days to create. (See our take on Jane Mason’s Natural Starter made with Wheat Flour.) Please note that JG’s mother’s recipe, as well as the BBB recipe (and almost all the other recipes I looked at) call for using commercial yeast – either dry or cake.

Butter: JG’s mother suggests melting the butter and adding it at the same time as all the other ingredients. Because we were using wild yeast instead of commercial yeast, we opted for adding the butter (at around 11% of the flour weight) later, once the flour and milk could form gluten threads, and the wild yeast had had a chance to do its stuff.
Adding oil, butter or other fat-containing ingredients will have a profound effect on the structure of your dough. Add too much or too early and they will make creating your gluten matrix an absolute pain […] As a general rule, if the weight of fat is less than 5% of the weight of flour, it can be added safely at the beginning. If it’s above this, it’s best to leave it until the end.
– James Morton, Ingredients and Equipment | Fat, Super Sourdough

Shaping: There are many traditional shapes for Lussebullar (Lucia buns)

Traditional Shapes for Lussebullar (Lucia buns)

Topping: JG’s mother said to “optionally decorate with raisins, pearl sugar or chopped almonds”. We like the raisins because then the buns look more like occhi di Santa Lucia.

Oven Temperature: Our new oven runs a little less hot but slightly more evenly than our old one (we would have had to bake these buns at 375F on the top shelf in our old oven, to prevent them from burning on the bottom). I suspect that every home oven is notoriously inaccurate. Andrew Whitley concurs:
Most domestic ovens, whether gas, electric, fan assisted or solid fuel, will bake bread quite adequately. But, not surprisingly, some are better than others. […] [T]he temperature in the oven may have to fall by as much as 30°C before the thermostat calls for renewed heat, so the item being baked is subjected to a constantly oscillating temperature. […] The knobs and dials on domestic ovens are notoriously unreliable. Even where they indicate a precipe temperature rather than a rough guide or a regulo number, you should regard the setting as approximate. […] [A]ll that is really required is to know what setting gives a cool, moderate or hot oven. […] [I]f you understand roughly what heat a loaf requires (e.g. pretty hot for a big, wet, rye sourdough, moderate for an enriched sweet bread), you won’t go far wrong
– Andrew Whitley, Bread Matters, Chapter three: Taking Control


Bread Baking Babes BBB: Let's Keep BakingSeasonal celebration bread: Lussekatter

Judy is hosting December 2020’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:

Because the holiday season is here, I decided to choose a celebration bread that would light up the dark days[…] Lussekatter, or St. Lucia Buns, or Saffron Buns.

St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated most commonly in Italy and in Scandinavia. In Scandinavia, it falls on December 13th, considered to be the shortest day of the year (Julian calendar). Lucia means light, and the saffron provides the color of light. […] I researched a number of recipes, all with slight variations. Some added dried fruit to the dough; some just used the fruit as decoration. Some added cardamom along with the saffron; others said ‘no way’ that cardamom was used. There were variations in the amount of saffron used. There were alternatives to the saffron, such as turmeric. Some added the saffron directly to the dough; some steeped it in warm milk or rum (if you want an extra kick!), or crushed it beforehand.
– Judy, in message to BBBabes

We know you’ll want to make your versions of Lussekatter too! To receive a Bread Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the saffron buns in the next couple of weeks and post about them (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 December 2020. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to contact the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ December 2020 Lussekatter:


Why is the shape called Julgalt in Sweden?

If visiting Sweden in December, you will see curled saffron buns everywhere you go. These are lussekatter and they’re not just for eating; they were once believed to ward off the devil.
      These traditional treats are associated with Luciadagen (“Lucia Day”). Celebrated on December 13, Luciadagen features choirs of children that accompany a leader dressed as Saint Lucia in singing the darkness away and calling for spring. Most aspects of the festivities celebrate light, particularly the candle-lined wreath crown that St. Lucia wears. Like many winter celebrations, Lucia Day blends Christian and pagan practices. […] After Sweden’s conversion to Christianity around the 12th century, legends surrounding St. Lucia (a figure also associated with light) were incorporated into the tradition.
      The buns that go with this traditional celebration are S-shaped and have a single raisin in the center of the two spirals. It is thought that they were originally modeled after a sleeping cat, an animal that was once associated with the devil; however, because they were made with saffron, a spice that was believed to have magical properties (not to mention a bright, sunny color), the treats were thought to actually be an effective way to ward off Satan. Originally, the buns were called djävulskatter (“devil cats”), but later the name changed to the more polite lussekatter (“Lucia cats”).
– Gastro Obscura | Lussekatter
This sweet saffron wheat dough is rolled out into many shapes, all having different names. The most common version – and the one favoured by industry, I guess for its simplicity – is the julgalt or “Christmas boar”. This is often wrongly named lussekatt, or “Saint Lucy’s Cat”, which is, […] a completely different shape.
– The Mind of a Chef, ‘Tis the Season to Make Saffron Buns with Magnus Nilsson

Commonly known as a Christmas ham today, the Yule Boar is said to have Germanic traditions as a tribute to the god Freyr. As time went on the traditions with the god Freyr became related to St. Stephen in Scandinavia, Sweden, and England. In some old Swedish art, Stephen is shown to be tending horses and bring[ing] a boars head to a Yuletide feast. […] Today, the Boar’s Head Feast is still a common tradition. With the roots to paganism and Yule, this feast has traditions that are authentic to the 14th century. […] The Boar’s Head Feast is considered the oldest continuing festival of the Christmas season.
-Jen, Jabrushblog | Yule Boar

Ha!! Look at that! I’m not late at all. St. Stephen’s Day is the day after Christmas! That’s 3 days from now…

Bringing in the Boar's Head - lithograph by John Gilbert (1817-1897) [from Wikimedia Commons]
“Bringing in the Boar’s Head” [Illustrated London News] lithograph by John Gilbert (1817-1897)
Happy St. Stephen’s Day, all!
:hohoho: 🙂 🙂 :hohoho:


One marvels at […] saffron — that essence of summer sun which, having been harvested in the hills of Greece and packed by mule to Athens, has been sailed across the Mediterranean in a felucca. In other words, […] one finds oneself transported to the port of Marseille — where the streets teem with sailors, thieves, and madonnas, with sunlight and summer, with languages and life.
      The Count opened his eyes.
      “Magnifique,” he said.
[excerpt from “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles]


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5 responses to “Wild Times with Lussekatter (BBB December 2020)

  1. Tanna (My Kitchen In Half Cups)

    Happy Christmas Eve with sweet Lucia Cats! I do love the cat and must make some.
    I am so relieved you got them to rise to the occasion! Your exchange in the part with Sister sounds total fun.
    Paella for New Years! Wow that sounds great.
    I do love your cat! Oh I guess I said that. They all look glorious.

    edit 24 December 2020, 15:53: I suspect that I am far more relieved than you that they finally rose! I really was beginning to despair. If only the cat didn’t look like a squirrel, I would love it too. – Elizabeth

  2. Karen (Karen's Kitchen Stories)

    All’s well that ends well. Even with yeast, mine took a while to rise in a warm spot. I think you’ve pretty much assembled every single bit of info about this bread! A one-woman Wikipedia!

    edit 24 December 2020, 15:55: Ha! And imagine how much more I could have crammed in if I hadn’t felt pressed to make sure to post about the Lussekatter before Christmas! :hohoho: 😀 :hohoho: – Elizabeth

  3. Aparna Balasubramanian (My Diverse Kitchen)

    These are comforting at any time but especially now, you’re right about that. I especially like your Lussekat. 😀
    Season’s Greetings & Happy Holidays.

    edit 26 December 2020, 11:30: Thank you, Aparna! Happy Holidays to you too :hohoho: – Elizabeth

  4. barbara

    Delicious indeed! I guess they could be a bit sweeter and a bit fluffier, but they tasted great toasted with butter.

    We had them for breakfast yesterday (yes, we had 2 each, mmm), but I forgot to report. Not only did we enjoy them for themselves, M also reported memories of his childhood: his mother making lussekatter every year, and also school events where the girls paraded with candles on their heads.

    edit 26 December 2020, 11:31: They are good toasted, aren’t they? We heated them up whole in a covered pyrex bowl to soften them. They were great with eggs and bacon. (Ha!! I know. They are NOT supposed to be eaten with eggs and bacon!) :hohoho: – Elizabeth

  5. Katie Zeller (Thyme for Cooking)

    I love the cat! As to the saffron…. I stocked up in Morocco – as best I could. Sad to have to take out a loan to by 10 grams of the stuff
    Your buns are beautiful!

    edit 26 December 2020, 11:34: The handy thing is that a very little saffron goes a long long way, so the mortgage can be paid off sooner. This new tin of saffron is really fresh too. Our Lucia buns were actually almost too saffrony! – Elizabeth


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