Thursday, 13 December 2007

St. Lucia's Day: Another Festival of Lights for a Dark Season

Today is St. Lucia’s Day, the Sicilian virgin martyr who is celebrated in Scandanavia with candles and special baking. Given the way the Julian calendar was skewed at the time the Norse country became Christian in the 11th century, it’s easy to say how this festival of light could be conflated with pagan celebrations of the winter solstice: the shortest day of the year was about Dec. 13 then.

Here’s the recipe for Luciasbrod or Safronsbrod that I make every year. It is not an old Soderstrom tradition, but something we started after we got married (my name was McGowan, we eat oatmeal and most of us drink Scotch, not aquavit.) The recipe has been adapted over the years from one I found in advertising for flour. When the kids were in elementary school I took the dough to school several times to do a workshop on baking and astronomy (you can pass on a lot of information about the sun, the earth's orbit and inclination, length of day, and the different calendars. while you're supervising kids rolling the dough between their palms.)

Safransbrod, Lucia buns, Nisse buns, Luciakitti

3 tsp. dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup scalded milk
good pinch saffron
1/4 cup butter
l tablespoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
4-5 cups flour
l/3 cup mixed, diced candied fruit
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped almonds

Put yeast in warm water to dissolve. Heat milk with saffron and butter. Let cool after butter melts. Mix with yeast, sugar, salt, eggs and lemon rind. Add about half of flour and mix until stiff dough is formed add fruit, raisins and nuts. Turn out on floured surface and knead, adding flour as necessary until a smooth, elastic dough is formed (about 10 minutes.) Let rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Punch down, then divide into l6 equal pieces. Roll each out until long and skinny, Form an S bun. Let rise again until double. Bake at 375 F. for 12-15 minutes until light brown.

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