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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Lussekatter, Lucia Saffron Buns

We've been baking some Scandinavian Christmas breads lately as a change from our usual Christmas bakes.  It is so much fun! This time we baked Lussekatter or Lucia Saffron Buns.  These buns are traditionally eaten in Scandinavia during Advent and especially on December 13 which is Saint Lucy's Day.  Saint Lucia, is the patron saint of light and December 13th was originally thought to be the shortest day of the year so it is still the date chosen in Sweden to celebrate the return of lighter days.  

The buns are similar to brioche but flavoured with saffron.  They are shaped in spirals with two raisins in the center of each swirl.  We made these by hand on a cold and crisp Saturday morning and ate hem for afternoon tea accompanied by a hot chocolate.  All 3 girls helped mix, knead and shape the dough - a great collaborative effort!

Lussekatter, Lucia Saffron Buns

1 tsp saffron threads
250 ml semi skimmed milk
75g butter, melted and cooled
500 g strong white bread flour
50g sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
10g fast action yeast
24 raisins
beaten free range egg, to glaze

Heat the milk until hot then add the saffron threads, stir well then leave to cool for 10 minutes so the saffron can infuse the milk with flavour and colour.  Strain the milk to remove the saffron threads then stir in the melted butter until completely combined. 

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and yeast into a bowl.  Add the milk and butter mixture then mix until a dough forms.  Turn the dough out.  Knead the dough on an unfloured surface for at least 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with greased clingfilm.  Leave to prove until doubled in size, this took about an hour and a half.  Grease and line two baking trays.

Knock the dough back and divide into 12 equal pieces, ours weighed about 70 grams each.  We rolled and shaped our dough on an unfloured surface.  Roll out each piece like a sausage until it is about 25cm (10 inches) long then roll each end into the middle to form an S shape, see the photos.

Put the S shapes of dough onto the baking trays, cover once again with greased cling film and leave to prove again for 45 minutes to 1 hour until doubled in size again.

Preheat your oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas Mark 7.  Remove the cling film from the trays of buns, brush the buns with beaten egg then bake for 8 - 10 minutes until deep golden brown.  We sprinkled a little caster sugar over the buns just before baking to give them a little more texture and make the tops sparkle.  The buns should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Scandinavian Julekage

My daughters love to bake and Christmas time is the perfect time to indulge that passion.  We're always on the look out for new breads to try and at the suggestion of one of the Mums on the school run we attempted Scandinavian Julekage.  She gave me a basic idea of the recipe and we based ours on that, with a few adaptations due to lack of ingredients and me only remembering some of what she said due to baby induced sleep deprivation.  It took 3 attempts to develop a loaf I was happy with and I baked that several times just to make sure the recipe worked well.

Julekage (pronounced yoo-ley-key-yeh) is a popular Scandinavian Christmas fruit bread made from a dough enriched with butter and eggs.  The dough is filled with candied fruit, such as tropical fruit and cherries. and spiced with cardamom. We used cranberries in our bread as I'd run out of glace cherries.

The bread was enthusiastically devoured once I had taken photos and I've made two loaves since, one for us to devour, and another to the school Mum who suggested we make it.  I'm delighted to say it passed the taste test and she declared it to be delicious. 

Scandinavian Julekage

450g strong white bread flour
50g sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fast action yeast
1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom (you'll need seeds from around 15 pods)
80g butter, melted and cooled
2 free range eggs, beaten (I used large eggs)
150ml semi skimmed milk, lukewarm
150g dried tropical fruit
100g dried cranberries or roughly chopped glace cherries

75g icing sugar
1 Tblsp water, or more as needed

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, cardamom, milk, eggs and butter in a bowl.  mix until a soft dough forms. 

Either knead the dough on an unfloured surface or in a mixer until smooth and elastic, this took us about 10 - 12 minutes by hand.  Knead the fruit into the dough until well incorporated.  Cover the dough and leave to prove until doubled in size.

Line a 20cm (8 inch) cake tin with a double layer of non-stick baking paper, extending it 5cm (2 inches) above the top edge of the tin.  I used two disposable cake tin liners and made a collar from a double layer of non-stick baking paper.

Knead the dough again to knock it back.  Put the dough into your prepared cake tin, cover once again, then leave until the dough fills the tin and has almost reached the top of the tin.

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas Mark 6.

Bake the loaf for 35 - 40 minutes.  Cover the top of the loaf with a sheet of greased non-stick baking paper after 20 minutes cooking time, this stops the top of the loaf from getting a little too golden brown (burnt).

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  When you tap the loaf on the bottom it should sound hollow.  Make the icing and drizzle it over the top of the loaf, we sprinkled more dried fruit over the icing for a festive touch.