Now that the advent decorations has been busted out (well actually we took it over a week ago but whatever), it means it is not long until the 13th december. Originally Saint Lucia Day is a catholic holiday to praise the martyr Lucia, but for some reason it is heavily celebrated in Norway and even more so in Sweden. I have so many nostalgic memories connected to this holiday, most of them from when I was in grade school.
All the children would dress up in long white dresses (yes the boys too), the girls with glittery ribbons in their hair and the boys wore these really weird pointy hats with star stickers on (they looked like wizards..). On the 12th december, all the girls would argue about who was going to be Saint Lucia because that meant you would get to wear the halo with candles. I remember one of my biggest fear back then was to be chosen to be Lucia, because I have always despised being the center of attention. Yup, I was a weirdo child. Then when it was the 13th, the first and second graders would walk around the school singing “Saint Lucia” in norwegian while handing out saffron buns (or as we call it, Lussekatter) to all the students.
I even dug up an old photo for you guys. I am the one smiling towards the camera haha! Now that I think back at it, the whole concept seems to be incredibly weird, especially considering that most norwegians nowadays are not really that religious (I am exclusively an atheist). Guess it is just a part of our tradition, just as having advent calendars and going to church on Christmas Day. I really wish I had a picture of the boys’ hats though, they are priceless! The best I could find was this cartoon picture, so just imagine a bunch of boys in white dresses running around with those hats and the star wands. For some reason they were made using dark blue paper and silver stars, as opposed as what you see on the picture below.
Are you laughing yet?
Well I am done reminiscing, so on to the recipe for Saffron buns/Lussekatter. This is in many ways inspired by the recipe for Raisin-Pecan Cinnamon Buns but instead of using yeast like most traditional recipes does, I used baking powder. This makes the process a lot faster without losing any taste. Remember to read the notes below for information on possible substitutions!
- 6-7 cups certified gluten-free oat flour *
- 4 cups dates *
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup coconut butter, melted
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk (400g), stored in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 tsp cardamom
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 0,50 g saffron (totally worth the price!)
- 1/2 ts ground tumeric
- ½ ts salt
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Celsius/450 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the dates, figs and water into a small pot and let this simmer for about 5 minutes. This will soften them and make it easier to blend it completely smooth. Using a hand blender (or transferring it to a blender/food processor), blend this until it is completely smooth.
- Stir in the melted coconut butter (this is done by placing the coconut butter into a small bowl, then into a pot and fill the edges with boiling water. Cover this with a lid and wait 5 minutes) and vanilla essence, and stir thoroughly. Take the coconut milk out of the fridge, open the lid, and scoop out the coconut fat. Since it has been placed in the fridge the water and coconut will have separated from each other, but you are not going to use the water for this recipe. Stir the coconut in with the other ingredients in the pot, and let this sit.
- In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients. Start off with using 6 cups of oat flour, and see whether you need the remaining 1 cup towards the end. Pour in the liquids and mix thoroughly. Do not be tempted to add in more liquids, as you stir it will become better mixed. The resulting dough should be thick and kind of sticky. If it is too sticky, add in another cup oat flour.
- Get ready two trays and cover them with a baking sheet. Have a bowl of lukewarm water next to you, since you will be using wet hands when forming the buns. Grab about 2 tbsp of the dough with your wet hands and start rolling it into a long cylinder shape. Proceed to shaping into whatever you wish. As a child, I always preferred making the double-twisted ones, because it looked like a “S” (for Solveig), but you can make whatever you wish. I even made a Saint Lucia cat once when I was younger. The sky is the limit! Decorate them however you want using the raisins, or you can add in a bit of raisins to the dough.
- Bake each tray in the preheated oven for 10-30 minutes, all depending on the size of the buns. When they have turned a golden brown, allow them to rest on a cooling rack until they are completely chilled.
- At my first attempt at making these I used 2 cups figs and 2 cups dates instead of 4 cups dates, but the fig taste was far too overwhelming. It might work to use 3 cups dates and 1 cup dried figs, but I do not recommend going over that!
- Depending on how firm you like your buns, you can use either 6 or 7 cups oat flour. This will vary depending on what type of dates you use, and also the brand of coconut milk. Keep in mind that uncooked gluten-free doughs have a very different texture than the ones using wheat flour. The dough will be a lot stickier, and that is perfectly normal. If it is so sticky that you cannot work with them using wet hands, that is when you might need to add in even more oat flour. Just add it all in gradually and see how it goes.
- I sorely recommend making these a day in advance, as they are far more juicy and firm the day after. Store them in an airtight container and they will keep for 1 week, perhaps longer. If this is your first time trying this recipe (or making saffron buns), perhaps try it out once before the 13th. That way you know for certain if you need the consistency to be softer or firmer!
I really hope you decide to try out this recipe for Saint Lucia Day, or whenever you just want a nice saffron bun. Personally I cannot imagine eating this any other time than during Christmas because of all the tradition surrounding it, but if you have no specific memories connected to this holiday you can make this anytime! It is a really delicious treat that all ought to try out at least once in their life.