Lussekatter AW 2020

Lussekatter AW 2020.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

It is a couple of weeks to the annual St. Lucia celebrations on 13 December in Sweden, and if I seem a little saffron bun nuts at this time of year, well… I am. I do however have some comfort in that the Nordic grocery shops are already bringing out lussekatter, saffron buns and gingerbread cookies to brighten the long winter nights at home. So why not have a go at making batches of saffron buns at home too, St. Lucia being one of my favourite days that lead up to Christmas itself, and it being one of the highlights of the jultide season.

Lussekatter compilation AW 2020.
Video & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

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13th December: the festival of St. Lucia with Lussekatter


Our batch of Lussekatter or saffron bread this year, for Lucia

I’ve asked some Swedish friends of mine, the significance of the festival of St. Lucia in Sweden. And few knew its actual significance, except that it arrived from Italy, back when Sweden was still Catholic (today it is more Lutheran), before 1700s.

Traditionally, Lussekatter are baked without raisins in them, but as you can see from our batch above in the picture, we cheated some with adding raisins in the dough. The bread is extremely fragrant, with the smell of saffron. It does tend to dry out quickly, also because of the saffron but we hope that with the raisins in the dough, it’d stay moist just slightly longer. The saffron bread, as with most breads, tastes best fresh out of the oven. But if left for the next day, it helps with heating the bread in the oven or in the microwave oven before eating. Enjoy with a warm glass of milk!

I found a fuller account of the festival of St. Lucia via a quick search on the internet. The information below is from the website of New Sweden

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A saffranssemla. Like a semla, only with saffron added, along the Swedish west coast, Sweden.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

I did a post-Christmas grocery store run yesterday in Sweden. To my horror, I saw trays of semlor being brought out from the bakery department. I took a double take on the trays, to see they were not actually large cream puffs, because, why not? But, there were no cream puffs. The trays were filled with luscious marzipan and cream filled semlor, headed to the bakery shelves. A lovely sight, but a little early, I thought.

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Saffron brioche

Saffron brioche, a Lussekatter variation.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of brioche to be found in the baked confections section of Swedish grocery shops. These new bakes were certainly Instagram worthy, sitting in neat rows on the display counter. I loved how they looked and most of all, the confectionary section of the shop drew crowds from the dofting aromas of combined caramelized sugar and butter.

Cafés got around into producing brioche bakes too. Popular variations of brioche that can be found in Swedish cafés include kanelbullar brioche, and chocolate pull-apart loaves. Sold on the idea of brioche, one advantage of starting Christmas bakes early is that you get to experiment with variations of recipes and styles to the confection. In this case, my interest for Lussekatter haven´t waned, so I tried a brioche version of these saffron buns.

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Saffranstårta / Saffron cake with the garden’s still blossoming calendula, and sage.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2017

Six weeks to Christmas, and the Christmas street lights are on display at Haga, lighting up in festive manner one of the oldest market and living quarters of the city of Gothenburg. Haga Nygata is lined with cafés currently inviting visitors with displays of festive treats, the large summer cinnamonroll side by side with Lussekatter saffron swirls.

Saffron came to Sweden during the 1300s by trade with Asia. The rarity of saffron meant it was limited in use to those who could afford such luxury. But by the 1800s, socio-economic circumstances made it possible for saffron to be used (still exclusively) as a winter festive spice in cakes and breads. Since arriving in Sweden in 2002, I perhaps only ever tried saffron cake on one occasion. Most other saffron experiences had come in the form of eating Lussekatter, which are now available in bakeries and grocery stores in the weeks that lead up to St. Lucia day (13 Dec.) in Sweden and then to Chiristmas. Attracted to its rich golden hue, but wanting to leave Lussekatter [1,2,3,4,] baking as a closer-to-Christmas project, I thought to try my hand at saffron cake baking.

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Lussestjärna, Lucia in Sweden 2016

A Lussestjärna to Lucia day in Sweden 2016.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2016

It occurred to me that I was much more enthusiastic last year about lussekatter and had by end of November 2015, already baked a batch in their traditional shapes. This year, I am rather, on the day itself for baking Lucia saffron buns, though keeping my sight pegged a little farther ahead in the week. In seven days on 21 December at 10:44 UTC, the winter solstice will be here and so the globe turns. It’s something I’m looking forward to, and thought to celebrate the day of St. Lucia in Sweden, with a traditional saffron bun, baked in the shape of a star.

While I do have a favourite recipe for a saffron bun that doesn’t dry out too soon over the counter, this time around, I followed a recipe from a cookbook that called for adding the butter and saffron mixture after the dough had risen once over. It was labelled ‘grandmother’s lussekatter recipe’, I trusted it. The striations are done by first placing four pieces of thinly rolled dough in disk shape over each other, where the layers (stacked like pancakes) are buttered and dusted over with cocoa power in between. Nutella will work beautifully here too. Continue reading “Lussestjärna, Lucia in Sweden 2016”

November cats

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro

An evening with homebaked Lussekatter or saffron buns that are usually made in Sweden in celebration of St. Lucia’s Day that falls on 13 December.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2015

I love when Christmas comes a little early. In this case, I thought to settle and bake a batch of saffron infused buns called Lussekatt that in the tradition of Sweden, are baked in celebration of St. Lucia’s day that falls on 13 December. This, and a cup of glogg sounds pretty much a good start to the jultide season. Continue reading “November cats”

Santa Lucia saffron bread, Sweden

Santa Lucia saffron bread / buns or as the Swedes call them, Lussekatter.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2012

In Sweden the 13th of december is called the night of Lucia. The name is connected to the Sicilian saint of St Lucia through the Catholic past of Sweden however the actual celebration itself is that of the longest night of the year, the antipode of the Midsummer Night celebration.

In its Nordic context it was thought that this, the longest and darkest night of the year was filled with so many spirits and generally unholy workings that one had better stay awake. And to this end, till this day the night is often spent partying and in the morning, white clad girls with candles in their hair with friends visit teachers and elderly relatives. The girls with the candles in their hair signify the coming of light and the lengthening of the days again till Midsummer’s.

Today, Swedes around the world delight in celebrating Lucia on 13th December with song and dance, much like Christmas caroling in churches of the Roman Catholic faith. A beauty contest of sorts to find the year’s “Santa Lucia” queen often begins in early December across various regions of Sweden, a girl who heads the choir specifically for this celebration, crowned with a ring of lit candles on her head.

On the culinary front, a golden yellow saffron bread with the most delicate of aromas, made out in various shapes familiar to Nordic folklore is baked for this occasion, one where I find difficult to resist not in the least because of its aroma or colour, but in its lightest of texture of breads dotted with raisins.
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Second Sunday in Advent


Lussekatter, usually makes its appearance on St. Lucia which is 13 December.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson & CM Cordeiro 2011

There are definitely some things more than just tradition when it comes to cooking and preparing during the Advent weeks that lead to Christmas. It’s in the air, a solemn feeling of silent expectation.

In all of this, I find it very much soothing to the busy mind, all too often kept spinning by the daily transactions, to relax and just spend the whole day baking.
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Second Advent – Visiting Christmas Markets in Gothenburg, Sweden 2010

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro-Nilsson, Christmas Marketing at Haga, 2010.

Standing in the cobbled streets of the Haga district
Christmas market in Gothenburg, Sweden.

J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson © 2010

During the whole of December many streets and squares in Gothenburg are turned into Christmas markets with numerous small food and handicrafts fairs, where the emphasis is on the old-fashioned, the homemade and the genuine.

The opportunity is also taken by many historical societies to show off their gear.

Since Sweden is a very secular country, traditional Christian nativity scenes are almost conspicuously absent while the emphasis is on memories of times – and Christmases – long gone.
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Café treats at the Haga Christmas market, 2009

Haga Christmas market, 2009 Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Gothenburg Sweden

Café assortments are quite fantastic at the Haga Christmas market, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Photo for CMC © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro Nilsson 2009

We were much earlier this year to the Haga Christmas market than previous years, where it seems too, that I favour strolling the old streets of Haga in the same furry hat!

I believe most Christmas markets begin in western Sweden thereabouts on the 28th of November, and I generally appreciated just a smidgen more daylight time than if we were to go Christmas marketing just three weeks on in December.

Chocolate at Haga julmarknad 2009

Handmade chocolates and liquour chocolate balls.

Walking down the street, it became apparent that this year at Haga was mostly about café treats! Even before the extensive renovations to this area during the 1970s, Haga was known for its restaurants. Today, the entire street is punctuated with good coffee places, where I personally bear one or two cafés in mind when headed this way.
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