Today, December 13, is St. Lucy’s Day or Santa Lucia Day. The day is celebrated in Norway and Sweden when girls dress in white dresses with red sashes and wear wreaths of candles on their heads. (That’s the part not to try at home.) In the Julian calendar, December 13 marked the winter solstice and the candles gave light to the longest day of the year. Saint Lucy Day is also celebrated in Italy.
Santa Lucia Buns, made with a rich, saffron dough, are the traditional treat for the day. They’re fun to make, so gather the kids to help roll the dough and make the whimsical twists. You might have a new Christmas tradition….and lots of memories.
Santa Lucia Buns
From the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook
- 1 cup light cream (I used half and half)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup lukewarm water (105-115 degrees)
- 5-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- I egg white, slightly beaten with 2 teaspoons water
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup ground almonds
- 1/4 cup dark raisins
Heat the cream just until hot but not boiling in a saucepan. Remove from heat. Add the sugar, butter, saffron, and salt and stir until the butter is melted. Let cool to room temperature.
Stir the yeast into the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes.
Stir the cream mixture into the dissolved yeast. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 2-1/2 cups of the flour; beat until smooth. Beat in 2 eggs, the golden raisins, and ground almonds. Gradually incorporate the remaining flour, first stirring with the spoon and then mixing with your hands. The dough will be fairly soft.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes.
Place the dough in a large buttered bowl and turn to coat with butter. Let rise, covered with a damp towel, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.
Punch the dough down and place on a lightly-floured surface. Cut into 20 pieces. Roll the dough into ropes on a work surface and shape on greased cookie sheets in any of the ways that follow below.
Cover the buns with a damp towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Just before baking, brush the buns with the egg-white wash.
Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with plenty of butter.
SHAPES FOR SANTA LUCIA BUNS
Wagon Wheels: Roll two pieces of dough into 10-inch ropes, one-half inch wide. Place the two strips side by side on the cookie sheet. Pinch all but the ends together and coil each of the four ends as in the photo (right). Press a dark raisin in the center of each coil.
Santa Twists: Roll one slightly smaller piece of dough into an eight-inch rope, one-half inch wide. Coil the ends in the opposite direction, making an S that resembles the photo (left).
Santa Lucia Buns: Roll two pieces of dough into 10-inch ropes, one-half inch wide. Make an X with the ropes. Coil each end counterclockwise to resemble the diagram. Press a dark raisin in the center of each coil (center photo).