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Santa Lucia saffron buns are soft and sweet - the perfect treat on Santa Lucia Day!

Santa Lucia Sweet Saffron Buns

Yield: 24 buns
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours

Soft, sweet buns for celebrating Santa Lucia Day. Enjoy with hot coffee or mulled wine.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups milk (350 mL)
  • 1 gram (~ 1/2 teaspoon) saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon honey or cane sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (13 g)
  • 7-8 cups (980-1040 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (90 g) cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, quark, or ricotta
  • 4 large eggs
  • 8 tablespoons (114 g) butter, softened
  • almond paste (optional) - see how to make almond paste
  • raisins (optional)
  • 2-3 eggs, beaten, for egg wash

Instructions

  1. Place the milk and saffron in a small saucepan and heat gently over medium-low heat until steaming. Remove from heat and let cool until still warm but your pinky finger can be held in the mixture comfortably, about 112°F.
  2. Once the milk is cooled, sprinkle over the yeast and let sit until the yeast blooms and the mixture is foamy, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, add 980 grams (approximately 7 cups) of flour to a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, along with the sugar, salt, and cardamom. Whisk to mix evenly.
  4. When the yeast mixture has bloomed, make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in all of the milk as well as the sour cream. Using the dough hook on your mixer, begin to mix the dough on low. Once the flour and milk mixtures have begun to come together, add the eggs one at a time, then add the butter in pieces.
  5. Add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft and just slightly sticky, kneading well between each addition. The feel of the dough is more important than adding a specific amount of flour, so watch for a dough that easily comes off the side of the bowl but it is still very soft to the touch. (If the dough wants to climb the dough hook and kneading becomes difficult, scrape the dough onto a lightly-floured board and finish kneading by hand.)
  6. Form the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size and the dough remains indented when pushed with a fingertip, 1-2 hours.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and keep at the ready.
  8. Scrape the dough onto a lightly-floured workspace, then divide into 24 equal pieces. (These should be approximately 65 grams each - if your dough required lots of extra flour or very little flour, you may need to make a few more or less accordingly.)
  9. Roll each ball into a 12-inch snake. (Cover the other pieces while you're working to keep them from drying out.) Alternatively, flatten each snake, place a small strip of almond paste down the center, then pull the sides over the almond paste and re-roll the dough back into a snake.
  10. Shape each bun by rolling each end of the snake toward the center, rolling one end on the "top" side of the snake and one end on the "under" side of the snake so the final dough is in S-shaped. Place each bun on the baking sheet and keep covered while you roll the remaining buns.
  11. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 30-45 mintes. Alternatively, cover and place in the refrigerator and let rise overnight.
  12. To bake, preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Brush beaten egg over the tops and place a raisin in the center of each "S" spiral, if desired. Bake for 9-12 minutes until the buns are golden brown.
  13. Remove from the baking sheets onto cooling racks. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
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