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These bright-gold buns celebrate Sweden's Christmastime feast of St. Lucia. They're easy to make, fun to shape, and make a pretty statement in your Christmas dinner breadbasket. Or serve them for breakfast, with butter or Devon cream.
1/4 cup (2 ounces) hot water
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) butter
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the topping)
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 egg white (reserved from above), whisked with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup (2 ounces) pearl sugar or sparkling white coarse sugar, optional
golden raisins, optional
Combine the hot water and saffron, and let sit for 10 minutes to soften the saffron.
Mix and knead together—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—the saffron water, milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg, egg yolk, yeast, and flour to make a soft, elastic dough. Set the dough aside to rise till puffy (but not necessarily doubled in bulk), about 60 to 90 minutes. At this point, you can place the covered bowl in the refrigerator, and chill the dough overnight. It’ll continue to rise in the fridge, but much more slowly.
Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 12 pieces. Gently shape and roll each piece between your hands to form short logs, about 4" long. Let them rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment.
Roll each log into a 15": rope; they’ll fight back and shrink to about 12"; that’s OK. Shape each into an S, with the ends tucked in nicely. Or shape into a figure-8 by making a loop, pinching and rolling the ends together, and making an 8. Lay the buns on the prepared pan. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap or the cover of your choice, and let rise for about 1 hour, or until they're puffy; dough that’s been refrigerated will probably need to rise for about 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 350°F.
Brush the buns with the beaten egg white. Sprinkle them with pearl or coarse sugar, if desired. We prefer bright-white pearl sugar, as it contrasts so nicely with the buns’ golden color. Bake the buns for 20 minutes, or until they're set and light golden brown. Remove them form the oven, and tuck a couple of golden raisins into the center of the 8’s, or the end loops of the S’s, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature; a dab of butter or Devon cream is always nice.
Yield: 12 buns.