In the weeks preceding Christmas, luxurious saffron is both celebratory and fragrant, bestowing a beautiful golden hue to treats and sweets. Saffron bread or Santa Lucia bread is a delicious Swedish sweet bread, which celebrates the return of light during the dark winter solstice. The decorative buns are traditionally made to celebrate the Feast of Saint Lucia on Dec. 13 by forming billowy, saffron-scented dough into various shapes (lussekatter) and buns. It’s a wonderful family-friendly tradition, as everyone can help to shape the buns and, of course, eat them, still warm from the oven and slathered with butter.
You don’t need to be Swedish to enjoy these fragrant golden treats. I have been making saffron bread with my Danish husband since we first met. In the early years before our children were born, we made a point of inviting friends with children to help us make the bread, since this holiday tradition is not complete without little fingers rolling and tasting the dough. While the bread rose, we would take long walks in the nearby forest before returning home to a crackling fire to shape and bake the breads, which we enjoyed with a glass of mulled wine or tea. Now we have our own children to help, but we continue to share this tradition with our friends.