It’s the first day of December. That means hysterical Christmasing in order to chase away Covid isolation blues must commence. It means the first cup of tea from my advent calendar and the first real baking experiment of this, our second lockdown in Ulvesund.

During lockdown number one, we mastered Tartine’s Country Bread sourdough recipe which is just phenomenal, and has kept us in bread for the rest of the year. We still bake it every few days, and have managed to avoid buying bread this whole time. It’s an achievement which truly fills me with pride and joy.

Tartine Country Bread loaf in a cast iron Dutch oven, freshly baked.
Tartine Country Bread we baked earlier this pandemic.

Now we often look up sourdough versions of baked goods. Partially for the challenge, but also because we prefer the taste.

These Lussekatter are no exception.

Lussekatter – or Lussebullar – are Swedish Christmas saffron buns eaten throughout advent (the month leading up to Christmas) and especially on Lucia Day.

Because every part of that sentence feels like it needs an explanation, I will not actually explain any of it today. That is because Lucia Day is December 13, so I will write about it then. We are currently between the first and second advent, so I will tell you about advent on the second one. I have to leave something for my future blog posts.

Every single year since I moved to Sweden for the first time (around six of them) I have intended on going on a month-long blogging bender with a whole range of Swedish Christmas traditions and recipes because it is just so damn cozy.

Usually, however, I fail to gather the energy, momentum, or motivation, and so I do not write anything at all. 

This year is different. This year is weird and boring. And so I will endeavor to finally achieve my Christmas Catalog of Photogenic Swedish Experiences.


Saffron buns! They are sweet buns flavoured with saffron.

Apparently, according to a creepy German religious folktale, the devil (in the form of a cat, of course) went around beating children, while Jesus (in the form of a child – much nicer!) handed out tasty buns to nice fellow children.

Apparently they coloured the buns yellow with saffron in order to keep the devil (who obviously was afraid of the light???) away from them. It’s unclear whether this was effective protections from cat beatings, but anyway!

They’re tasty, if kind of strange at first to an Australian who is rather unused to saffron being in anything, let alone everything.

Felix looked up a bunch of sourdough Lussekatt recipes but was not entirely impressed by any of them. He made a few personal touches and they are absolutely divine.

I far prefer them to regular Lussekatter due to the depth of flavour provided by the yoghurt and sourdough starter. They have a slightly crispy surface which makes a satisfying crunching sound as it gives way to the moist and fluffy pastry within. If that hasn’t sold it to you, I don’t know what will. Perhaps the photos.

Here’s how he did it!

Ingredients (makes 32):

  • 50g sourdough starter
  • 150g plain flour
  • 150g lukewarm water
  • 350g butter
  • 250g yoghurt
  • 100g milk
  • 2-3g ground saffron (to taste)
  • 220g Sugar
  • 10g Salt
  • 1 egg
  • 800g plain flour
  • raisins for decoration
  • 1 egg for brushing


  1. Day 1: Making the leaven. Mix starter into lukewarm water, add flour and mix thoroughly. Cover and let sit overnight. It should be really bubbly and float when it’s ready.
  2. Day 2: Melt butter in a pot and add the milk. Leave until lukewarm.
  3. In a large bowl, combine yoghurt, sourdough, sugar, salt, saffron, egg and the butter and milk mixture.
  4. Add most of the flour and mix so that no dry flour remains.
  5. Put dough in a dough mixer and run it at low speed for about 5 to 10 minutes but don’t rely on the time too much, keep an eye on the dough and get it out when it feels right. It should be smooth and moist but not sticky, add more flour while kneading if it’s too sticky.
  6. Cover and let rise for about 6 hours, depending on how warm the room is. You want it to rise visibly, up to around double.
  7. Tip dough onto a lightly floured work bench, use a dough scraper or sharp knife to cut the dough into the size you want.
  8. Gently (very gently!) shape the buns into reverse S shapes (see pictures). You don’t want to squeeze too much air out. Add to lined baking trays.
  9. Cover the trays and let rise for another 2 hours.
  10. Preheat the oven to 240 degrees Celsius or 220 fan forced.
  11. Decorate with raisins as per pictures.
  12. Whisk an egg with a little bit of water and brush the buns lightly.
  13. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
  14. Take care not to bake them too long, or they will get dry.
  15. Eat hot from the oven or let cool and freeze to be reheated later. Buns will still be moist and tasty the day after baking but dry out quickly after that.
Saffron bun before baking, shaped into a backwards S.
Perfectly shaped bun.
Tray of saffron buns arranged on a tray before rising a second time and being baked.
Buns before second rise.

And now I realise I’ve done what I hate, introducing what should really be a simple recipe post with about a million words of personal text that nobody actually interested in the recipe itself will want to read.

Never mind! More likely, I have readers who will read my introduction and skip over the recipe. Either way!

A perfectly baked, golden brown saffron bun, fresh out of the oven.
A perfectly baked, golden brown saffron bun, fresh out of the oven.
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Lily Ray
Lily Ray

Journalist, photographer, traveller and knitter. Mother to a small but demanding infant, Lily's life is messy but generally lovely. She has a lot of thoughts. Here is where she puts them.

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