Saturday, December 09, 2006

Advent Saffron Buns

Saffron buns is an absolute must in Sweden during the holidays. It's strongly connected to Lucia (december 13) but is common all through December. You can buy them everywhere, but home made are generally better. However, saffron tends to really dry out ordinary yeast doughs, so you want to make sure to use lots of fat in the dough, and most people nowadays also use quark to make the dough extra soft and pliable.

This recipe is for round buns filled with almond paste, but the most traditional way is to not fill them at all, just make the saffron dough and then shape into various traditional shapes. Dagmar shows some on her blog.

These freeze very well, which is handy. I got the recipe from ME at Jungbo, and the only thing I've done is halving it (my Kitchen-Aid could JUST about take this amount) and I added some finely chopped almonds to the filling.

A word of warning. Don't even think about making these if you have issues with messy baking. The part where you're supposed to mix a fully risen dough with a very loose batter? Messy. As in, yellow batter ALL over the kitchen, on me, on the counter, on the cupboards, on the floor, on the cats, on the Kitchen-Aid... Absolutely everywhere. And make sure you read through the entire recipe before you begin - you want to be well prepared for this! But it's all worth it, so don't worry too much.

(Oh - and a dl means a deciliter, which is 1/10 of a litre, or 100 milliliters, ml.)

Advent Saffron Buns
Makes about 60

dough 1:
50 g butter
500 ml milk (2 cups)
50 g fresh yeast
1 tsk baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
12-13 dl flour (about 5 cups)

Melt the butter, add the milk and heat until it's lukewarm. Crumble the yeast in a large bowl (preferrably the bowl of your sturdy mixer) and add the liquid. Stir until dissolved, then add all the other ingredients, and work for about five minutes until you have a soft dough that doesn't stick to the bowl. Cover and let rise for about an hour.

dough 2:
1,5 g saffron
125 g butter, softened
100 ml white syrup (substiture corn syrup, that should be close enough. It's just sweet.)
100 ml (0.4 cups) sugar
1 egg
200 g quark
10-12 dl flour (4-5 cups)

Mix the saffron with the butter, syrup, sugar, egg and quark. This dough is to be mixed with the fully risen white dough, and the rest of the flour should be mixed in too. This is messy. Be careful. And don't add too much flour - the dough shouldn't be sticky, but still soft and pliable. Too much flour makes the buns dry and hard.

250 g almond paste (about 50/50 almonds/sugar)
50 g almonds, finely chopped
100 g butter
100 ml (0.4 cups) sugar

Mix into a rough, but evenly distributed paste.

1 egg beaten with a few drops of water
flaked almonds

Prepare baking sheets with paper cups. Take a small piece of dough in your hand - about the size of a golf ball - and roll into a ball. Flatten and put a bit of filling on it. Shape the dough around it so you have a ball again, firmly sealed. Place, seam-side down, in a paper cup. Then brush with a little bit of egg and sprinkle over a few flaked almonds. Leave to rise for about 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200-225°C. (The lower temperature is for convection ovens.) Bake for 8-10 minutes until the buns are lightly golden, but not brown. Let cool completely before stashing in plastic bags in the freezer - but make sure you eat some right out of the oven!

The recipe in Swedish:


Anonymous said...

Where can I find or substitute saffron and quack in the US?

Anne said...

foodierachel - good questions, I have no idea. Surely saffron must be fairly easy to find? Quark is generally added to the dough to make it more supple, without adding so much fat, but possibly exchange it for butter could work. (I wouldn't substitute for 200 g butter though - maybe half.) You can make quark yourself though - and I think ricotta is quite similar. Hopefully someone else will weigh in on this subject! :)

Anonymous said...

Tack för receptet... jag tycker mycket om Lussekatt, ska baka dem snart.

Anonymous said...

They look lovely Anne, and I really like almond paste so maybe I'll try them next weekend for 3rd Advent :-)

About the quark, I've heard that some stores actually have it in the US. Otherwise just like Anne said: Ricotta or doing quark yourself.

Anonymous said...

on the almond paste, just a casual note. To get almond paste to hold together you can add a small amount of water without ruining it (taught at a course in fine baking by a pastry chef), half almond/half sugar and then add just ten per cent of the total weight, 500 grams total of almond paste makes an addition of just 50 grams of water, about ½ dl. Makes it hold together much better and without getting too crumbly.

Melissa said...

ooh, i can't wait to try this recipe! really enjoy your blog. happy holidays!

Anonymous said...

I live in the Chicago area. I made quark with kefir - following the instructions found in the "A cat in the kitchen" blog on Oct 29, 2006. The Cook's Thesaurus site ( has an alternate recipe using buttermilk and milk. The kefir version tastes like a slightly tangier cream cheese (you could probably use that). As to saffron, the larger grocery stores usually carry it. If you don't see it with the other spices, ask at the customer service desk. Since it is so expensive, some stores keep it behind the counter. I ordered my saffron online and paid a lot less - $15 for 5 grams from The Spice House ( Or, I hear that Penzey's ( is also supposed to be a very good source.
Anne, the recipe is delicious. Thank you for sharing it!


isabella said...

Dear Anne I am in italian with a passion for swedish bullar ( I lived in Sweden for one year) and kitchenaid too. I am going to try your recipe. I made the lussekatter (dagmar/acatinthekitchen) using philadelphia, since in Venice is almost impossible to find the topfen. Also my kitchenaid was near to collapse, I had to mix at the end by hands , the dough was very soft. but you can manage if you flour very the table.
whato do you think about the book "bara bullar"?

Anne said...

Isabella - that's a really nice book! I've only tried her cinnamon buns from it, but those turned out great. Yes, the Kitchen-Aid is good for much, but it can be a problem with large and heavy doughs. :)

isabella said...

Dear Anne I have the Heavy duty model of KitchenAid with lift bowl and I have to pay much attention about the order which the ingredients have to be added if not it stucks. Do you know if there are an english edition of bara bullar, my swedish is not good, because i studied in english at Uppsala Univesitet
Ciao my blog is italian and english

Anne said...

Isabella, unfortunately no, it's just available in Swedish. Very few books are translated into English, and this one just came out. Maybe later?