Lussekatter is the most vital part of a Swedish Christmas! Made in time for Saint Lucia day they're eaten all through the holidays, and usually made in the traditional "Lussekatt" shape shown here. This is my 100% authentic, tried and tested, all-time best recipe - and it's easy to make without quark and nuts.
Start by grounding your saffron together with the sugar, using a mortar and pestle or a bowl and a spoon. Then mix with the rum and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Crumble the yeast into a large bowl. Add milk, mix, then add in room temperature butter in pieces and mix again, trying to mash up the butter pieces a bit as you go.
Then mix in the sugar followed by the saffron mixed with sugar and rum. Add a little water to the bowl or glass that held this mix, swoosh it around and pour in to make sure you get as much of the saffron flavor as possible. Mix.
Now start adding the flour. Add a bit at a time until it is all mixed in. When it's getting hard using a spoon to mix, start using your hands instead.
When all the flour is added, start kneading the dough. Knead for at least 10 minutes, or longer if you can. When done it should come away easily from the sides of the bowl. Do not add more flour! Once done, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 60 minutes.
After 60 minutes, check to see if the dough has risen sufficiently. It should be about double in size. If not, let it rest a bit longer.
When the dough has risen, place a piece of parchment paper on top of an oven tray. Spread a little flour on a clean surface and take a small piece of dough - enough for one Lussekatt. Roll it out into a snake that's about 20 cm/7-8'' long and roll the edges in to create the classic Lussekatt shape. Then place on the parchment paper, taking care to space them out so that they have room to rise about 50% more. Continue until you run out of dough.
Drain the raisins and place two raisins in each Lussekatt, one at the middle of each spin. Then cover with a kitchen towel and set aside for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven for 400°F (200°C).
When the Lussekatter have been rising for another 30 minutes, mix together your egg and remove the kitchen towel. Brush the Lussekatter with the egg and then place in the middle of the oven.
Bake for 8 minutes, until golden, then remove and place on a cooling rack or kitchen towel to cool. Cover with a kitchen towel. Repeat until you've baked all your Lussekatter.
Cooking time will vary with your oven.
Ingredient notes & substitutions
Fresh yeast - if you have the choice between regular and one for sweet doughs, use the one for sweet doughs. But both work.
Instant dry yeast can be used instead of fresh yeast, and you then need ¼ of the quantity stated. For one batch of this recipe this means 0.5 oz (14 g). You also need to adjust the process slightly. First of all, mix the instant dry yeast with the flour and let sit for 10 minutes. Then follow the recipe as written, mixing the milk with the butter, sugar and saffron, and then mixing in the flour and yeast mixture. Be aware that the dough might take a little bit longer to rise than when using fresh yeast.
Saffron - if using saffron threads you need to ground them first, using a mortar and pestle or a spoon and a bowl, but I recommend doing this even if you're using ground saffron.
Saffron powder can be used instead of saffron threads. 1 Tbsp of loosely packed saffron threads is equal to about 0.04 oz (1 g) of saffron powder.
Rum is just used to extract maximum taste from the saffron - you can use vodka, cachaca or brännvin instead, or just water
Salted butter can be switched for unsalted and a ½ teaspooon of salt
Tips & tricks
Ground your saffron with sugar - this is especially important if using saffron threads and not already ground saffron
Extract all the saffron flavor by allowing it to steep in alcohol before adding it to the dough. This way you can use less saffron, but still get a lot of taste.
Use fresh yeast - dry will work, but fresh rises quicker and better
Use room temperature butter and milk for the best consistency (instead of melting the butter and heating the milk as many recipes will tell you). Melted butter will absorb a lot of flour which makes your finished buns much dryer.
Weigh your flour as the density of a cup or deciliter of flour can vary greatly. If you don't have a scale, follow the cups or deciliter measurement instead but be mindful of how the dough feels. When done it should be a bit sticky, but easily release from the sides of the bowl.
Don't add too much flour as this will make your buns dry. Instead, knead the dough well.
Knead your dough for at least 10 minutes - this together with the room temperature butter makes all the difference for consistency.
Soak your raisins in water to avoid them soaking up moisture from the dough
Cool on a rack - to avoid a soggy bottom
If you're freezing part of your batch - let them cool down almost fully on the rack and then immediately pack them in bags and stick in the freezer. This ensures you lock as much moisture as possible inside.
If you don't like saffron, can't find it, or it's just one of those years when it's too expensive - you can use ground turmeric to get that yellow color instead. Or use part saffron, part turmeric.
If you don't like raisins - just skip them
Store them in plastic bags in room temperature for up to 4 days - they will go dry before they go bad
Freeze in plastic bags to store them for longer - up to 3 months