Saturday, December 12, 2015

Old cats, new tricks

Of the many things I love about baking, one of the best is that there is always so much more to learn. This week Eva Sabat from Swedish Crown Bakery in Anoka, Minnesota taught a holiday baking class at American Swedish Institute which included St. Lucia Buns.

I am a Lucia Bun fiend. I love them rolled into Luciakatter (cats), crowns, and oxen. I love them prefabbed from Ikea, created by local bakers, and homemade in my own kitchen. I love the story of this Italian saint who somehow miraculously landed in Sweden where she fed the starving and brought light in the darkness. I love watching little kids dressed in white gowns with heads lit up from (electric) candles and Lucia's starboy attendants as they sing and bring treats to all. And I love how my house smells like saffron and cardamom after a batch comes out of the oven.

Being such a freak of Lucia I didn't think there was more to learn about baking the buns and celebrating the martyr, until Eva demonstrated her Lucia rolls.

I always wondered why my buns were so dry. Eva told us that saffron dries out the dough, and suggested that we keep the dough tightly covered in plastic wrap during all of the rises. My raisins or dried cranberries sometimes burn when I bake the buns. Eva soaks her raisins before adding them to the dough. I always wondered why my Swedish friends loved vanilla sugar so much. Eva explained that it doesn't water down recipes.Often my Lucia dough is so soft that brushing egg wash on it deflates the dough. Eva said to try using a spray bottle to evenly coat the buns with egg wash. All great tips for Lucia Bun bakers!

When it came time for our class to shape the dough into s-shapes, I immediately formed a chubby snake and started curling the edges. Eva came over to my station and demonstrated how she rolls a longer skinnier rope and lifts the dough as she shapes the rounds. Her s-shapes looked like crowned roses. Beautiful!

Turns out old cats, especially Luciakatter, can learn new tricks!

Luciakatter
Makes 18 buns
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon each cardamom, saffron
Zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon rum
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 packet yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 tablespoons milk)
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries soaked in rum at least 1 hour

Use mortar and pestle to grind cardamom and saffron. Combine cardamom, saffron, vanilla, orange zest and rum. Stir together to dissolve saffron.

In small saucepan melt butter in milk. Remove from heat and add spice mixture.

In large mixing bowl combine sugar, egg, 2 cups of the flour, baking powder, salt, and yeast and whisk together. Use dough hook on standup mixer and add wet ingredients. Mix 10 minutes, gradually adding enough of the remaining flour to make a very silky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to double in rise.

Divide dough into 18 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 12-inch long rope and gently life either side of the rope into s-shaped spiral. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise another 30 minutes or until it looks like the dough has expanded nicely.

Use brush or spray bottle to lightly coat rolls with egg wash. Push raisin or cranberry into center of each rose. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven 5 minutes or until rolls are golden.

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