Did you ever bake with your mum when you were small? I did. Every December my mum would bake gingerbread (not always with home made dough but it was tasty all the same) and a particular, golden yellow type of bun that we call Lussebullar or Lussekatter, rolled into peculiar s-shapes and decorated with plump raisins that many of my family members then had to pick out of the buns before they found them edible.
It seems like there are two main theories behind the bun’s name and the shape. One is that the “lusse” in the name stands for Lucifer and the buns are coloured yellow with saffron to frighten the devil on his way and the other theory, which I prefer, is that the bun is symbolising the goddess Freya’s favourite cat. Who knows what’s true? The only conclusion you can draw is that Christmas in Sweden seems to be a mix of many different cultures and religions.
Last year I baked these buns using a recipe I came up with myself, using sour dough and a tiny bit of yeast as insurance in case there wouldn’t be enough life in my sour dough starter. This year I decided to try something a bit easier and faster, so I baked a batch using this recipe from Pickipicki, with a few changes. I was tired after having worked hard the whole week and I was also impatient, so I used 12 grammes of yeast as opposed to one and a half. But you can add a bit more or a bit less depending on how much time you have.
I thought the dough looked a little bit sticky so I added some flour, which turned out to be a bad idea. I should have known by then that lussebun dough is supposed to be sticky because otherwise the buns become dry. The dough should preferably be just about workable.
I also used a sugar solution instead of an egg to brush the buns with because I think the result is buns that last longer and I also prefer the look of the sugar solution rather than the egg.
There are a few guidelines when baking buns apart from those above; never melt the butter, use strong flour, soak the raisins in boiling water for half an hour and lastly; soak the saffron in a couple of table spoons of alcohol for a few days. The alcohol makes the saffron go a longer way. You can use vodka, brandy, cognac or rum, try to experiment. The alcohol flavour disappears as the buns are being baked.
If you want to try something different from the normal s-shaped buns you can roll out the dough as you would when making cinnamon buns and then spread a filling on the dough. I used a filling made of home made marzipan, orange zest, orange juice and butter. Orange, saffron and marzipan is a very good combination, the tangyness of the orange is a nice contrast to the rounded flavour of the saffron and the rich marzipan.
Pickipicki’s Lussecats with my changes
100 g cold water
100 g strong flour
12 g fresh yeast
The poolish you just made
500-600 g strong flour (I used perhaps 700, don’t do that)
2 dl milk
200 g sugar
5 g salt
1 g saffron that have been sitting in alcohol
250 g unsalted butter
Approximately 150 g raisins (no raisins if you’re filling the buns)
75 g sugar
100 g water
Mix the cold water the the floor for the poolish, let it rest for three hours. Mix everything apart from the saffron and the butter together. Let it rest for half an hour. Use a kitchen machine (I like Ankarsrum Assistent or a trusty old Kenwood) for 7 minutes on a slow speed. Add the butter, the saffron and the raisins and mix together using the machine again. Shape into s-shapes and let them rise for 4-5 hours, (longer if you used less yeast and shorter if you used more yeast) they should feel very fluffy and springy to the touch when they are ready for the oven.
Bake at 250 degrees C (220 if you’re using a convection oven) for 8-10 minutes (longer or shorter depending on the size of the buns) while you bring 100 g water and 75 g sugar to the boil. When the buns are done baking you put then on a cooling rack and brush them lightly with the sugar solution.
I can’t give you the exact ingredients for the orange-marzipan filling since I tend to wing things a lot when I bake but I would guess at 200 grammes of marzipan, juice and zest from one orange and 75 grammes of butter. Top with flaked almonds before baking.
The filled buns are a bit of an effort, especially if you make your own marzipan, but they are well worth it. Even people that don’t like saffron buns much said that mine were nice!