Scandinavian style Christmas saffron buns with a marzipan and cardamon filling
Growing up in Sweden, every Christmas I would enjoy these wonderful traditional baked buns which get their gorgeous yellow colour from saffron, a spice well known for being the most expensive spice in the world. In recent years, saffron has also been given increased attention for its potential positive impacts on mood and with it being December and cold and dark here in the northern hemisphere and so much going on in the world, we could probably all do with some more mood boosting foods.
Traditionally these saffron buns (also called lussekatter or lussebullar in Sweden) don't have filling but I think this marzipan and cardamon filling just make these a little extra special. I really hope you give these a go, they take a little bit of time to make as they are proved overnight in the fridge but trust me when I say they are well worth the wait!
This beautiful yellow spice famous for being the most expensive spice in the world, doesn’t only give food an amazing yellow colour and taste but has also been shown in both animal and human studies to potentially have anti-depressant effects by keeping balanced levels of dopamine, noradrenaline (norepinephrine), and serotonin.
Studies have shown benefits to both depression and anxiety and although most studies are based on supplementation or higher doses, adding saffron to your cooking or baking may add both lovely flavour and have potential health benefits.
I love using saffron and it is often used in both cooking and baking in Sweden, specially during Christmas (specially during Lucia in Sweden on the 13th of December when these buns are traditionally eaten) and if there is one time of year where I use it a bit extra it is during the lead up to Christmas.
Traditionally these buns don’t contain any filling but hey ho, as it is a Christmas like no other and I absolutely love marzipan and cardamon I wanted to make them a little extra special.
I have added the recipe below and also given a few substitute ideas for anyone who wants to avoid certain ingredients. These take a bit of time as they are left to prove overnight (this adds great flavour as it also has a slight fermenting effect) but are well worth it.
Lussekatter (saffron buns) makes around 24 buns
750 g flour (I use 350 g plain and 350 g strong, but you can also substitute with spelt)
120 g unrefined light brown sugar (or other sweetener such as coconut sugar)
7 g sea salt
13 g fresh yeast (around 4 g dried if using but if you can find fresh I highly recommend it)
350 g whole milk (you can use a dry free option if preferable)
2 g saffron
1 egg (at room temperature)
150 g butter (at room temperature)
Marzipan and cardamon filling
130 g marzipan (you can make your own if you prefer a lower sugar version by blending 120 g blanched almonds with a sweetener such as maple syrup to taste until it becomes a paste)
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamon
80 g butter (room temperature)
1 egg for brushing
Mix all the ingredients with an electric whisk or regular whisk until light and airy. Set aside.
Mix the flour, sea salt and sugar in a bowl.
Mix the yeast into the cold milk until dissolved and also add the saffron (make sure it has been crushed up in a pestle and mortar before to release the flavour)
Stir the saffron milk into the dry ingredients together with the egg and work into a loose dough. Leave to rest for around 15 minutes at room temperature.
Work the butter into the dough for around 10 minutes either by hand or by machine and then place it in the fridge to go really cold for a couple of hours.
When the dough is cold, take it out and roll it out into a rectangular shape around 8 mm thick on a floured surface.
Spread the filling over the dough and then fold in half (fold the longer end of the dough over the other long end)
Cut the folded dough into strips roughly 3/4 inch in width.
Roll the strips into an S-shape by rolling one end one way and the other end the opposite way (head to my instagram @jessicakanerva to see a video in my stories how I do this).
Place the S-shaped buns on two trays, press one raisin into the middle of the two ends of each bun and place in the fridge overnight. (You can also skip this and leave them to prove in room temperature for around 3-4 hours but if you have the time I would definitely recommend proving them overnight as the light fermentation process adds both to the flavour, texture and also helps them become more easily digestible).
Next day. Take the buns out of the fridge and leave to prove in room temperature for around 1 hour. In the meantime heat the over to 200 degrees (fan) and when ready to bake lightly whisk an egg and brush the buns.
Bake in over for around 7-8 minutes (keep checking so they don't burn).
Enjoy while fresh and warm and if not eaten straight away freeze and defrost when needed as the saffron in the dough make these buns dry fairly quickly so I don't recommend leaving them out for too long, but this is rarely an issue with these delicious buns!