Lucia buns, lussekatter or lussebullar in Swedish, are saffron-yellow twists with two raisins and rather gruesome origins.
Glad Lucia! Happy Lucia Day!
13 December is the feast of St Lucia. In Sweden, it’s the day when they turn a nominated girl in every family into a human candlestick and bake buns that resemble gouged eyeballs. Those Swedes! Aren’t they confusing Advent with Halloween?
Who was St Lucia?
Saint Lucia, like most saints, met pretty horrific end. An early Christian from Syracuse, she pledged virginity which wasn’t well received by her suitor – I wonder why? He tried to drag her to a brothel to teach her a lesson, but Holy Spirit held her in the spot and made her immovable – or was she just so heavy?
Then they tried to burn her but no joy, flames didn’t touch her. Somewhere along the line she also had her eyes gouged, or even did it herself to repel the suitor, legends disagree on that. Finally she died, stabbed in the neck, and promptly became a martyr saint.
A pitch for a new show
Whilst on the subject, I am amazed no film or television network has yet developed a series on saints and martyrs, since they usually met with cinematically gruesome end. Stoning and beheadings were truly among the most humane! Modern torture porn is not a patch on those stories.
Lucia celebrations in Sweden
Back to Lucia: Swedes celebrate the day with a procession of young girls dressed in white who wear crowns festooned with candles – honestly, have they not heard of health and safety? Plus, they bake and eat Lussekatter or Lussebullar, saffron buns twisted into an ‘S’ shape with two raisins stuck into the centres of the coils.
They are supposed to be the resemblance of two eyes held on a plate, though more squeamish call them ‘katter’, ‘cats’ – for the likeness to twisted cats’ tails. No fooling me – I can certainly see eyeballs rather than cats.
Lucia saffron buns
However grisly their origins, Lucia buns are delightful. Soft and tender, possibly through the addition of skyr, Icelandic style yoghurt, although that might be just clever Icelandic marketing. They are so gorgeously yellow with saffron you might think they were better fit for Easter than Christmas. And not difficult to make at all.
How to make Lucia saffron buns?
The dough is best mixed with a standing mixer as it is and should be sticky and soft. It proves in bulk, and then gets knocked back and divided into small pieces. Rolling ropes and twisting them into snake shapes might be a good fun for little helpers, as well as sticking eyes – raisins – into the centre of each S.
Make sure you tell them it’s supposed to be gouged eyes – kids love the macabre. Lussebullar can be baked straight after the final proof but they are happy to spend the night in the fridge too and be baked on the next morning.
Recipe and twist
My main source for the recipe was ScandiKitchen. Like they, I wholly embrace the idea of Lucia, saffron and the gouged eyes with one exception: surely TWO raisins per bun are a misunderstanding? It’s like a single grain of salt on your egg, or one kernel of sweetcorn in tuna-mayo!
So I added sultanas to my dough, not too many so they didn’t peek through in finished buns – but they made a real difference. I’m sure Lucia would forgive me.