Saint Lucy Day is observed in many countries, but the Swedish tradition exceeds the church rites for a special reason. As the name reveals, Lucia is a figure symbolizing light. Winter nights in this Nordic nation are very long, and people yearn for an end of the darkness that shrouds a good part of the days as well. In the Julian calendar of old December 13th marked the longest night of the year, winter solstice, the turning point that promised lighter and warmer days.
So in the Swedish tradition Lucia is an angel-like figure in a white gown with a red sash, bearing a crown of lit candles. She leads a procession of candle-bearing maids and boys in pointed hats holding up star symbols, thus expressing the power of light and its magic powers.
The Lussekatt recipe:
3 cups wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup butter (salted)
3/4 cup milk
1 g saffron
2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine 1 tablespoon sugar, warm water, and yeast in a bowl. Wait for yeast to bubble and foam.
In a saucepan combine butter, milk, and saffron.
Heat until warm and butter is melted, do not boil.
Let cool off for 8 minutes.
Add milk mixture to yeast in the bowl.
Add flour and 1/2 cup sugar and beat until dough is smooth.
Lay out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover loosely, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Divide dough into 16 pieces.
Roll each piece into 1-inch-wide, 6-inch-long strips.
Coil ends in opposite directions, forming a tightly curled inversed S-shape.
Place on a baking sheet and let rise for another hour.
Brush buns with beaten egg yolk and place 1 raisin in the center of each curl, 2 per bun.
Bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown.