The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Santa Lucia Bread Query

SDbaker's picture

Santa Lucia Bread Query

Hi everyone, a friend of mine mentioned a yeasted bread called "Santa Lucia," said it was a Swedish traditional bread.  Doeas anyone have a recipe?

 Many thanks!

SD Baker

scott lynch's picture
scott lynch

I've never seen anything that looks like a definitive recipe, but it is normally a sweet dough (cinnamon roll or sticky bun style).  According to most Scandanavian traditions it is a breakfast bun served with coffee.
My wife's family (Swedish-American) observed Santa Lucia day and they used hot-cross buns.  I will say that the more I learn about their traditions the more I realize how much they have changed from the old-world ways (don't even get me started on their "Swedish" rye bread).
From the research I have done, Santa Lucia buns are a sweet dough tinted with saffron for golden color, and I saw a very old picture (more like an icon) of buns that were double-twisted into an S shape.  If you have a copy of Bread Baker's Apprentice, it is the same shape as Pane Siciliano, which makes sense as Santa Lucia was from Sicily.  Here is a typical one from Wikipedia:

Lucia bun, made with saffron.
There is a Saffron Buns recipe in the Favorite Recipes section here at The Fresh Loaf, which you could use.  Based on the photos in the recipe, I would consider upping the saffron a bit for a deeper color.
The holiday is fun and a good opportunity to get young kids interested in baking My daughter was 6 last year and baked cinnamon rolls from a tube with no supervision using a toaster oven--she was quite pleased with herself.  An older girl could make them from scratch.
Good luck with it and have fun.  

Bridgestone's picture

Our first batch of Lucia buns evaporated so it was time to make a second one.  I found this semi-old query and thought I'd post some photos.  These are called "Lussebullar" or even "Lussekatter" in Swedish although Santa Lucia buns/bread are an excellent translation.  They are named after the festival of Lucia (the 13th of December) but are served through all of December.

The ingredients:

1/2 tsp salt, 7 tablespoons of butter (100 grams), 2 grams of saffran (this is double the normal amount but it's worth it...), 2 cups of whole (or more) milk, 1/2 pound quark, 50 grams (about 2 oz) cake yeast, 3/4 cup "vit baksirap" (essentially simple sugar with a large amount of glucose in it - regular, granulated sugar can by substituted although the buns stay more moist with the "vit baksirup"), 7-8 cups of flour

Start by adding the saffron to the milk and gently heating:

(This step is not necessary but I do it to extract as much flavor from the saffron as possible.  Ideally, this could be done the day before baking.)

Let the mixture steep and cool to about 95 degrees.

Add the milk/saffron mixture to the yeast in the mixing bowl...

... and mix to dissolve the yeast.

When the yeast has dissolved, add the quark and the "baksirap"/sugar before adding the flour:

Mix until elastic (about 10 minutes).

Add the salt and the rooms temperature butter (bit by bit):

Add any extra flour needed to make the dough managable and mix for another 10-15 minutes (on low speed).  When done, it will be very elastic and slightly sticky:

Let rise for 45 minutes and pour out onto a floured working surface.

This batch makes about 35 buns so divide into 35 pieces and start making your shapes:

We like to gild the lily around here so half of the batch was made into buns.  Simply roll out the dough, spread rooms temperature butter on it, grate almond paste over and sprinkle with raisins.

Roll up and slice the roll into inch-thick buns.

Place all of the buns on buttered or parchment-covered pans and let rise for 30 minutes. 



Before baking, brush with an egg wash and bake in a very hot (425 degree) oven for 5-10 minutes.  Keep an eye on these as they seem to brown in seconds!

That should keep us going until after Monday's Christmas Eve festivities!

browndog's picture

These are absolutely glorious, Bridgestone. All that saffron, omigod...and the almond paste rolls...I'm uncharacteristically at a loss for words...

Ok I'm better now. 

Are you living in Sweden?  

But seriously, I thought 'quark' was a subatomic particle. You frequently use them in baked goods?

Bridgestone's picture

browndog - yup, I live in Sweden (Stockholm area).  I was born in the United States but have been living over here for nearly 12 years now.

Quark is what I hope is the correct English term for this type of cheese.  It's similar to mascarpone but not as rich.  This was the full-fat (10%) version although I know that the low-fat (3%) version available in Sweden works just fine. 

Just a quick follow-up report: the syrup did actually make a bun that seems to be staying much more moist than a bun using only granulated sugar.  Dryness in Lucia buns is an issue (hence the quark and the syrup) as the saffron tends to dry things out.  So, no, I don't use quark in many more baked goods than these saffron buns.

Finally, thanks, browndog, for the encouragement!

TableBread's picture

Wow, these are amazing!  I just had to stop in and offer my gushing praises for your wonderful bread!


And what a wild looking mixer!  That dough hook is outrageous!




Bridgestone's picture

Thank you, TableBread - gushing is very appreciated!

 The mixer is an Electrolux (Swedish product, of course!).  I believe that they are marketed as DLX mixers in the United States.  They are called "Assistants" in Sweden.

Cosmopolita's picture


Hi, wath kind of flour is necessary to use? Cake flour? And I can use molasses or corn syrup? Thanks

ehanner's picture

But the buns are so beautiful it has been a favorite for me also. I think this would be best with All Purpose flour but you could try a small amount of cake flour mixed in. I thing Cayro Syrup would be a good substitute for the sugar.

My question is what is the Quark or Moscapone? It looks like it could be sourcream or something along that line, maybe plain yogurt. I'm not sure.

Good luck if you try these. Please let us know how it goes.

Welcome to the forum, nice to have you aboard. 


josordoni's picture

Hi Eric,

Quark is German, mascarpone is Italian, both are cream type cheeses.  Quark is lower in fat and sourer in flavour, mascarpone is rich, opulent and sweet, it is the basis of a proper tirimasu.  Also, it can be used as a very thick alternative to cream and is wonderful atop a chocolate mousse cake... mmmmm.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The closest would be low fat, low salt cottage cheese, whipped smooth in a small kitchen machine. 

Mini O

Cosmopolita's picture

I will try.

Sorry for my bad english but I'm italian and I'm learning now your language.

In Italy, quark is similar to ricotta but less sweet , do you know?

ehanner's picture

I am familiar with ricotta but I wouldn't say it was sweet. I'm sure there will be someone here that will know what this product is in English. These look like cheese pastry's to me.

Where are you in Italy?


josordoni's picture

Wiki has this to say:

Availability outside of Europe

Although common in Europe, quark is extremely rare in the United States. A few dairies manufacture it however, and some specialty retailers have it available. In Canada quark (firmer East European variety) is available as "baking cheese"


Although I did find it for you here at the Vermont Butter and Cheese Co and mascarpone too!  And lots of other lovely sounding dairy!  Yum yum yum...





Cosmopolita's picture

Ricotta is not sweet because have sugar inside but because to be included in the cream chees not acid. For exemple, in Italy, where the quark is not diffuse, we take ricotta and add some drops of lemon juice to have the same flavor and consistence. I hope that you could find a good sobstitute for this recipe.

I live in the capital, Rome.