Holiday Baking: A Swedish Treat with an Asian Accent

To me, nothing says “The Holidays are coming” more overtly than the smell of good things baking in one’s kitchen. Long-time readers of this blog know that I always try new recipes whenever Christmas starts peeking ’round the corner and I’ve done it again this year.
I was inspired by A Sweet Tradition, an article written by Rebecca Fisher in this month’s issue of Saveur magazine, where the author went into full, giddy, glowing detail about Christmases in her husband’s Swedish home. She wrote about pepparkakor (spicy-rich gingerbread cutouts) and polkagriskola (caramel fudge topped with peppermint candy), of the storied yeast buns served during the feast of St. Lucia, the traditional Swedish precursor to the Holidays, on December 13th. It’s the sort of article that wraps the reader in a warm homey glow and actually sways you to hie off to your kitchen and get baking.
I was particularly taken by the idea of Lussekatterliterally “Lucy Buns” – served for the feast of St. Lucia. These gorgeously soft and fluffy buns are traditionally flavored with saffron and raisins and are served with coffee. Since I didn’t have saffron at home and raisins don’t usually go down so well with the folks and friends, I decided to tweak this recipe a little by adding cardamom and lemon zest plus some sesame seeds to give it a bit of an Asian accent. They came out of the oven absolutely fragrant and golden, by the way; like the toffee bars from a few years back, this recipe’s a keeper.
(Trust me: your house will smell so heavenly after baking these! ;))
Lussekatter Asiatisk (Asian-inspired Lucy Buns)
  • 500 grams all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams granulated white sugar
  • 15omL milk
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 sachet fast-acting yeast
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or lemon flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour with the sugar, yeast, sesame seeds, and cardamom. Make a well in the center and set aside.
Put the milk and butter in a heatproof bowl and heat in a microwave for about a minute and thirty seconds on HIGH. Whisk in the lemon zest or flavoring and the eggs. Beat until well-combined and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix into a shaggy mess of a dough and knead till smooth for about twelve minutes. Cover with a clean dishcloth and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free area for an hour.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees / Gas mark 4. Line a cookie sheet with greaseproof paper or a Silpat liner.
Punch the risen dough down and divide into 24 pieces. Roll each piece into a thinnish rope and coil the ends in opposite directions to make S-coils or coil them towards the center to make hearts. Place on the prepared cookie sheet and cover with the dishcloth. Leave to prove for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Brush the tops of the rolls with milk or egg-wash and bake for about 22 – 25 minutes. Makes 2 dozen.