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Saffransbullar and pepparkakor

In Sweden, Christmas is not Christmas without saffransbullar and pepparkakor, saffron buns and gingersnaps.

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Photo: Helena Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se

Traditional treats

The sweet yeast rolls that are served during the Christmas season are flavoured with golden saffron and dark raisins and often shaped into ‘Lucia cats’ (lussekatter). The gingersnaps are customarily cut in the shape of little men and women, pigs or hearts, and are often decorated with frosting. It is not uncommon for children to help build little houses out of gingersnap dough to celebrate Christmas.

But sweet yeast buns without saffron are eaten year round in Sweden, usually in the form of cinnamon buns. Gingersnaps are also eaten year round, though most of the time they are not home-made and are generally just round in shape.

Saffron buns

Ingredients

(25 buns)
3 g (1/8 oz) saffron threads
50 g (2 oz) yeast
200 g (7 oz) sugar
300 ml (1½ cup) milk
1 egg
150–200 g (5–7 oz) butter
1 tsp salt
750 g (26 oz) flour
100 g (3½ oz) raisins

Glaze:
1 egg
2 tbs water

Preparation

To make ‘Lucia cats’ (lussekatter), grind the saffron along with a cube of sugar, using a mortar and pestle. (For those who think ahead: drip a little cognac on top, and let stand a few days.) Crumble the yeast in a bowl and stir in a few tablespoons of milk. Melt the butter and pour on the milk.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except the raisins, and knead the dough in a dough mixer for 10 minutes. Carefully mix in most of the raisins, cover the dough and let it rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Divide the dough into 25 pieces and roll the buns in an oblong shape, about 10 cm (4 in) long. Cover them and let rest for 10 minutes, then roll them twice as long and twist the ends of each bun in opposite directions to form a sort of figure 8. Put one raisin in the middle of each half figure 8.

Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise under a towel for about 90 minutes, or until the buns have doubled in size. Bake in the oven (220°C/425°F) for 5 minutes. Beat together the egg and water, brush the mixture on the buns. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.

Gingersnaps

Ingredients

200 g (7 oz) brown sugar
200 g (7 oz) white sugar
200 g (7 oz) dark corn syrup
150 ml (¾ cup) water
300 g (10 oz) butter
2 tbs ground cinnamon
2 tbs ground ginger
2 tbs ground cloves
1 tbs baking soda
0.9–1 kg (2−2¼ lb) flour

Preparation

To make gingersnaps, heat the brown sugar, white sugar, corn syrup and water in a pot. Add the butter and let it melt. Stir and let cool slightly, then blend in the spices and baking soda. Then mix in the flour to a smooth consistency. Sprinkle a little flour on top and put the dough out to cool, preferably overnight. Take the dough and knead it smooth on a baking table, adding more flour if desired. Roll it thin and cut into shapes, using the desired cookie cutters. Bake in the oven (180°C/350°F) for 8–10 minutes. Let the gingersnaps cool on the baking sheet.

Last updated: 25 March 2014

Carl Jan Granqvist & Lena Katarina Swanberg

Innkeeper Emeritus Carl Jan Granqvist selected the dishes. Journalist and author Lena Katarina Swanberg wrote the texts. Translation: Victor Kayfetz.