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Saffron Christmas Bread Recipes

1/3/2014 8:25:00 AM

Tags: baking bread, saffron, Virginia, Heather Alf

Saffron BreadFor many people New Year’s Day marks the end of the Christmas season. Traditionally, however, Christmas day is only the first day of the 12 days of Christmas. Our family had a very blessed and busy week with visits from friends and family, and lots delectable Christmas goodies.

Now that all the hustle and bustle of the season is winding down we are blessed with another week to celebrate the birth of Our Lord. To keep the spirit of peace and festivity, I try to balance delicious food with ease of preparation. It can be challenging to find time to bake during the busy holiday season but most bread recipes can be converted to quick bread recipes which can be put together in under 20 minutes.

My favorite recipe this year was Lussekatteer (Swedish saffron buns). On December 13, most Scandinavian households serve these sweet buns infused with saffron in honor of St. Lucy’s feast day. I made them for my family and was very pleased with the results. They are a little bit tricky and time consuming to make so I adapted  a quick bread recipe that can be made in a quarter of the time. This loaf is mildly sweet and makes a wonderful winter breakfast for one of the 12 days of Christmas. Saffron imparts a light golden color and an enchanting flavor to any dish it is costly however so I only use it for special occasions. I will share both recipes and let you choose which one to try. 

Lussekatter, from Classic Scandinavian Cooking by Nika Hazelton

¾ cup milk
2 packages or teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
¼ cup butter
3 ½ cups sifted flour
2 tablespoons boiling water
¼ cup raisins
1 teaspoon saffron
1 egg white
½ cup warm water
¼ cup finely chopped almonds (optional) 

Scald the milk, stir in 1/3 cup sugar, salt and butter. Cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile combine boiling water and saffron, let stand. Pour ½ cup warm water into large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water; stir until dissolved. Add milk mixture, egg, saffron, and 2 cups of flour; beat until smooth. Stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic about 10 minutes by hand or 5 by machine. Place in a greased bowl and turn to grease dough on all sides. Cover and allow to rise until doubled (I’ve found the best place to rise bread dough is in a sink filled with very warm water) this takes about 1 hour.

Punch down; turn out onto a floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit 20 minutes before buns are ready to be baked. Divide dough into 18 pieces. Roll each piece into a strip 12 inches long. Roll each side in a coil shape going opposite directions to form a bun. Place buns on greased baking pan and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Press a raisin deep into the center of each coil and brush buns with egg white sprinkle with the remaining sugar and almonds if desired. Bake for 20 minutes.  Enjoy! Yield about 18 buns.

Heather’s Golden Saffron Quick Bread

4 cups white wheat flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
¼ cup yogurt or sour cream
4 eggs 1 stick melted butter (cooled)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon saffron steeped in 2 tablespoons hot water

First grease and lightly flour 2 loaf pans then preheat the oven to 375 degrees The trick to a good quick bread is to mix wet and dry ingredients together separately and then combine them until just moist. Sifting the dry ingredients together is not essential but greatly improves the texture. Mix the flour baking powder and salt together in large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl combine all the other ingredients, mix well. With a rubber spatula mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until you have an evenly moist batter. Pour into prepared loaf pans and bake for about 50 minutes.

Begin testing for doneness at 45 minutes. Mine usually takes between 50 minutes and 1 hour. To test, insert knife into the center of the loaf. When it comes clean remove it from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Enjoy! This bread makes a nice snack or breakfast and freezes well. Yield two loaves.

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