When I was in about the fourth grade for Christmas my sister and I got the American Girl dolls that we had been pestering our parents about for a couple years. Truth be told, by the time we actually had the dolls we were too old to be that interested in them. Being the oddball family blonde, I wanted and was gifted the Kirsten doll which shared my coloring. She was from Sweden and one of the outfits I got with her was for the St. Lucia holiday. It was not until recently when I stumbled across a recipe for St. Lucia Bread and looked up the history that I understood what it was all about.
St. Lucia’s day is a very important holiday in Scandinavia; on the 13th of December it is a major feast day and is a festival of light (since it represents the coming of spring, summer, days getting longer and more light). A young girl will wear a white dress, red sash and a crown or wreath of candles, and carry rolls in procession as songs are sung. Because of the celebration, St. Lucy is supposed to help one live the hard winter with enough light.
This bread is not only beautiful, it is delicious and tastes the way a Christmas bread should: slightly sweet and yeasty, a little buttery and creamy.
- ½ ounce dried yeast
- 2 cups lukewarm whole milk
- ½ teaspoon saffron
- 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 7 cups all purpose flour, plus more to dust
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup superfine sugar
- 1 cup raisins, plus more to decorate
- 1 egg, beaten
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a mixing bowl. Add saffron and stir to extract as much yellow color as possible. Pour the milk through a fine milk sieve to remove seeds into another bowl. Melt butter, cool slightly, and add to milk mixture.
- Sift flour and salt in a large bowl. Add sugar and raisins to flour and mix well.
- Pour yeast mixture into dry ingredients and mix well. Stir until bread forms a ball and comes cleanly from the edge of the bowl.
- Knead dough on a floured surface for 10 minutes. Some raisins may fall out but this is alight, try to add them back in if possible. Return dough to bowl and let it rise for 1½ hours at room temperature.
- Lightly knead dough on floured surface for a minute or two. Divide into 20-22 equal pieces. Roll into sausages about 6-7 inches in length and form into shapes as seen in photos, curling the ends. Stud with a few extra raisins.
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and let rise for 30 minutes again.
- Preheat to oven to 350F.
- Brush beaten egg on bread moderately heavily all over surface as bread needs it for golden brown color.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown all over. Let cool on wire rack.