09 December, 2013

"Happy Christmas!" From Europe, With Love: Day 9: Jul

It was very easy for me to include Sweden in my series for a number of reasons.  The first one being that my family on my mother's side is largely Scandinavian.  Just about an even split between Norwegian and Swedish.  Because of that, I grew up learning about many of their traditions like, St. Lucia.  Later in my twenty something years I spent a lot of time working with missionaries from my church.  At one point we had not one, but two girls from Sweden; one from Umea and one from the Gothenburg area.  It was quite interesting seeing some of their food traditions.  I watched with my mouth gaping open once as one of the sisters ate a bowl of cereal with straight buttermilk.  Apparently this is normal there, but in Minnesota...no way!  There were many things about Swedish food culture I totally understood.  Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam...c'mon, it is one of the best things ever!  I just knew I had to find a dish to celebrate Sweden in a way that my Grandma Alverna would be proud.  It didn't take me long to figure out what would be the perfect sweet dish...lussekatter.

Lussekatter, also known as "saffron buns", may make its appearance every year as early as the start of Advent (Dec. 1st) but they are sure to be available by December 13th.  The 13th marks the day of Saint Lucia.  Lussekatter are a sweet roll dough that begin unlike any other, with warm milk and Spanish saffron.  This delicacy originated in Cornwall as the "revel bun" or "tea treat bun" and was made with currants.  But when the bun made its way east, the Swedish replaced currants with raisins.  Sometimes food coloring was used when saffron was hard to come by, but they just don't taste the same without the saffron.  They have a distinct flavor and a special place in the hearts of many a Swede.  They lead the mind, via the stomach, to the realization that a "God Jul" is just around the corner.

**The U.S. measurements appear first followed by the European weights in parenthesis, unless only U.S. measurements were given.  I weighed the amounts out first, then measured them with U.S. measuring cups and spoons.  You can thank me later.

2 c. whole milk
1/2 gram of Spanish saffron
3 T. yeast
1 c. quark
3/4 c. vit baksirap (essentially, simple syrup)
7-8 c. flour
1 stick + 2 T. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs beaten, to paint dough
raisins to garnish

Start by adding the saffron to the milk and gently heating.  Let the mixture steep and cool to about 95 degrees.  Add the milk/saffron mixture to the yeast in the mixing bowl.

When the yeast has dissolved, add the quark and the baksirap before adding the flour.  Mix until elastic (about 10 minutes).  Add the room temperature butter (one T. at a time).  Add any extra flour needed to make the dough manageable along with your salt.  Mix for another 10-15 minutes (on low speed).  When done, it will be very elastic and slightly sticky.

Let rise for 45 minutes and pour out onto a floured working surface.

Split dough into 4 equal parts.  Split each 4th into half (giving you 8 parts).  Split each of those in half (giving you 16 parts).  Split each of those in half (giving you 32 parts).  After divided, start making your shapes.

The classic shape that is most oft seen is the julgalt.  I thought the gullvagn was beautiful as well as the julkuse.  I tried as many different shapes as I dared but, keep in mind that if you do anything like the julkuse or the gullvagn that you are using two ropes of dough so that will cut the amount of total buns down every time you do a shape that requires 2 ropes.  Plan accordingly if you are making these for a large crowd.

The julgalt is made by taking one of your 32 lumps of dough and rolling it as if you are making a snake or piece of rope.

After you have that down take the end at your right and roll it into itself on the UPPER side of the rope of dough.


To complete the julgalt shape take the left end of the rope and roll it into itself on the lower side of the rope.

Either repeat this 32 more times or look at the chart and get creative!  I promise you it is worth the effort and they are NOT hard to make at all.  People will think you have become a master pastry chef over night! (Unless the people you are feeding are from Sweden...)


One word....beautiful!  These are some of the most beautiful rolls I've ever seen in all of my life.  It doesn't surprise me one bit.  Most things that come out of Sweden are in fact quite gorgeous.  I told my Swedish friend this morning that I was enjoying one with a nip of lingonberry jam and I was rebuked immediately.  I was informed that the traditional way to enjoy your lussekatter is with a loverly glass of milk and nothing else.  I couldn't help myself....I tried it with the lingonberry anyhow.  The flavors didn't mesh well, so perhaps there is wisdom in the milk idea.  When I had a lussekatter with just milk it was a whole other experience.  These are rich, moist, and not overly sweet.  When I first saw them, I visually mistook their shine as something that was probably overly sweet.  But they don't come anywhere near that.  They are just the right amount of sweet.  I hope you'll give this recipe a try.  It was super fun and a lot easier than it looked initially, so give it a shot.  You'll be glad you did, I promise!

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