Monday, December 27, 2010

The Book Made Me Do It!: Long-Awaited Saint Lucia Buns

Like, I imagine, a lot of other people who were little girls in the 1990s, the American Girl books (and accompanying [and mesmerising!] doll catalog) were a pretty persuasive introduction to the historical fiction genre, and the wide world of history-in-general for me.  I always liked the Kirsten books.  The main character was a Swedish immigrant whose family was moving into the American west to farm, and that setting felt warmly familiar after encountering it in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books.  (I was also a fan of the Molly books, which I think were actually a really good introduction into some of the important things about life in America during World War II.  Mary Downing Hahn's Stepping On the Cracks was also amazing that way.)
The Kirsten's-Christmas book (all of the various American Girls had a Christmas Book) introduced me to the Swedish tradition of Saint Lucia's day, where the oldest girl in the household gets to bring the family a tray of specially made buns and coffee while wearing a wreath with lit candles on her head, and the whole thing always seemed really enchanting to me.  I wanted to dress up and carry a tray and then eat the buns!  (And I really wanted those candles on my head.  Just the right balance of prettiness and danger.) 

Instead---a bunch of years later---I decided to make the buns, which are called lussekatter.  I used a recipe from the excellent and full of fun food facts Horizon Cookbook.  The first step was making some saffron-infused water, which was a very pretty process.

These buns are often made in an S-shape, which I was feeling dubious about, having entered into a bunch of shaped-dough projects where most of the dough ended up glued to the bowl and my hands rather than shaped and on the baking sheet, but this dough---maybe because it was an egg bread?---was so easy to work with.  The buns just coiled themselves right into perfect shapes.  If I make these again, I may even attempt one of the more complicated configurations.  Here's one before baking, decorated with raisins:

And the batch of them, all baked up. (I made a quarter recipe, I was thrilled that it worked and produced such a manageable batch of buns.)

They were tasty, too---a little sweet, with a nice texture, and the cardamom that I tossed in (it wasn't in the recipe, but I recalled it being a Thing in Scandinavian baking, so I added it anyway) gave them a really  nice flavour, especially when combined with the raisins/currants. 

I ate one with a tiny little coffee (made even more thematically Swedish by the cup I was drinking out of being from IKEA...), and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Despite the lack of candles balanced on my head.  I love it when books inspire me to cook, even if in this case, the actual food came a strangely long time after the initial inspiration.

I made these last Sunday, and they weren't really part of my (sadly unphotographed) Christmas baking, which included biscotti and Polish gingerbread cookies and pears baked with rum and spices.  Next project:  possibly homemade graham crackers.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow--I loved the Kirsten books too, and I was sad to learn that she is no longer available as a new doll! I so wanted my daughter to have a Kirsten. I love that you made the buns and want to try them myself; I do want to start observing some Swedish traditions since my husband and kids are Swedish.

    Awesome post!