Because I grew up in a family with long Catholic roots in Europe, I celebrated Advent in different ways than families where the customs had been interrupted by the Protestant Revolt. Now, thankfully, many of those customs have returned, including celebrating St. Nicholas Day and the Feast Day of St. Lucy. This feast day is celebrated on December 13th in these countries: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Finland, Hungary, Malta, Bosnia, Bavaria, Croatia, Slovakia, Spain and St. Lucia, West Indies (Wiki has this list).
I first made St. Lucy "Kats" or St. Lucy Buns in the 1970s after I moved to Minneapolis. One needs saffron, which is really expensive now, but here is a recipe for "Lussekatter" .
St. Lucy Kats
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
- 1 cup melted butter
- 1/2 tsp. saffron threads, finely crumbled (or 1 tsp. powdered saffron)
- 1 cup milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 pkg. dry active yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
- 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, well-beaten, plus one egg white
- raisins or currants to decorate
Crumble saffron threads into melted butter. Let sit 30 minutes to an hour (this intensifies the saffron flavor).
Heat milk to a light boil, turning off heat when it reaches the scalding point (with small bubbles across the top). Stir in melted butter, sugar, and salt. Pour mixture into mixing bowl and allow to cool until “finger-warm” (still quite warm, but just cool enough to touch). Stir in yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.
Mix 3 1/2 cups flour into liquid. Stir in two well-beaten eggs. Add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough (just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You don't want to add too much flour).
Transfer dough to a large greased bowl and turn to coat all sides. Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch down risen dough. Lightly knead two or three times on a floured surface. Pinch off small handfuls of dough (about the size of a racquetball) and roll into "snakes." Shape snakes into "S"-shaped buns or other desired shapes (please see my photo gallery of Lucia buns for traditional examples). Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with the towel again, and allow to rise until doubled (about an hour).
Decorate buns with raisins, brush with egg white, and bake in preheated 375º oven about 15 minutes, just until brown. Yield: 20 St. Lucia Buns