December 13, 2012

Santa Lucia by Grace Patton

Not to be confused with Santa Lucia's buns because that wouldn't be funny or appropriate at all.

Growing up, my maternal grandma always drilled it into my head that I was "a Swede first and the rest didn't matter". She was (still is!) a headstrong Swede and was religious about celebrating the feast of Saint Lucy. Tradition goes that the eldest daughter wakes up early on the feast of Santa Lucia (an Italian saint who was actually "adopted" by the swedes) and dresses in a long white nightgown with a red ribbon around her waist, a wreath of leaves and candles on her head, and serves her family saffron bread and coffee along with her siblings (the ones that are willing and able). I enjoyed this tradition growing up and even had the head wreath with electric candles to prove my dedication to the "Swedish" saint. I've yet to pass the wreath onto my eldest and only daughter (age 2) but maybe this will be her year to shine and serve.

Want to pretend to be the eldest daughter in your family or pressure your eldest daughter to make and serve the buns to the rest of her kin? Here's a pretty simple recipe that tastes pretty good. I would imagine you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen right this second.

Santa Lucia Buns (yield: 18)
Adapted from One Perfect Bite

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1-1/3 cups milk (I used almond milk)
(optional!! - I opted not - the kids were sleeping while I was baking and Bonnie was breathing down my neck with the deadline looming so we went saffronless) 1 teaspoon saffron threads, chopped fine and soaked in a few drops of water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
4 cups unbleached flour + flour for kneading
Raisins for garnish (I hate raisins in baked goods and used chocolate chips instead)

1) Melt butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add milk and (if you are using) saffron and heat until just until hot - do NOT let it boil. Pour the mixture into a bowl where you plan to mix everything together (mixer, etc). Sprinkle yeast over milk and let it sit for ~5 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, 1 egg and 2 cups of the flour. Stir until until smooth and well combined. Add final 2 cups of flour and mix again until dough is smooth. The original recipe claims the dough should be "velvety" and I have no idea what that means. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until perfectly smooth. This dough has a wonderful velvety texture to it. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to coat all surfaces, and let rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

2) Ideally you would line a baking sheet with parchment paper but I didn't have any and again -- sleeping children --  so I didn't. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Punch dough down and roll into a 36 inch long log/snake shape. Cut 18 2-inch pieces from cylinder. Roll each piece into a 10-inch rope. There are multiple traditional shapes from which to choose:

I obviously rolled with the most complicated:
behold: the Christmas Boar

3) Let rise, covered, at which point they should double in size (mine didn't), about 45 minutes. Brush buns with reserved egg. Tuck raisins (or don't!) into spirals at each end of figure eight. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Mine puffed up nicely during the baking process so don't fret if they don't rise very well. I added the chocolate chips when they were fresh out of the oven so that they didn't melt and burn whilst baking.

4) Serve to your grateful offspring ...

who may or may not declare them to be doughnuts

5) and declare yourself a Swedish success.

Happy Feast of Saint Lucy and thank you (!!!) to Bonnie for having me!!

Grace Patton, who is gorgeous and funny, would likely be envied (in a sinful way) by her kajillions of readers were she not also a master of self-deprecation.  A fashion blogger, nfp promoter, mother of three (there's one in the womb!), and wife of the so-funny Simon, Grace blogs at Camp Patton.  You can find her on Facebook or having dinner with her doctor-husband in the hospital cafeteria.

For more posts on Advent traditions and reflections check out the Advent series.


  1. This is terrific, Grace. Thanks for sharing your family tradition here. Sure beats our cinnamon-roll-from-a-tube-that-we-twist-into-those-shapes and try to pass off as the real thing. Looking forward to having my husband try out your recipe! :)

    And yes, also sub chocolate chips for raisins. Always. Good tip.

  2. I've got it in my head to try these today. But, are milk and eggs optional?? Shoot, gotta go to the store. Saffron, you didn't make the cut.

    Thanks for sharing your tradition and recipe.

    (Let's be honest, if there are day old donuts at the store, I'm calling them St Lucia buns)

  3. Does anyone else see how skeptically those two are looking at the buns? Hilarious.

  4. Going to make these right now! Today is my daughter's feast day (her name is Lucia) and I was just thinking I should look up a recipe because I definitely dropped the ball on celebrating. Wham, bam, Grace Patton to the rescue!

  5. okay you are too sweet with that bio ...

    thanks for having me!

    finally getting around to putting up a link on my blog. Needy, needy children!!!!

  6. Maybe next year we'll try the buns with the cake, as any additional breakfast sweets would go over big here (so long as there is liberal chocolate chip application.) Plus, I think I could convince the oldest to become more involved if I let her roll out some of those shapes.
    Thanks Bonnie and Grace!

  7. My Katie has exactly 364 days to learn how to be a Swede! These sound DELISH.

  8. We sub the raisins with cranberries. :)