Today is the 1st of December and today two things happen. The first one its that we are now officially on the countdown to Christmas. In just over 4 weeks from now, we will be celebrating with my family in Belgium. In the 7 years P. and I have been together, this is the first time we will be enjoying the festive season in my hometown of Bruges. I’m beyond excitement.
The second thing happening today is that P.’s parents are flying in for a 5 day visit. P. is from Sweden but during winter time, his mother and father live in sunny Spain. I hope the cold we are experiencing in Berlin right now will not be too bad for them.
So, put advent, Sweden and Spain together and you get saffranslängd. Let me explain. In Sweden, during advent, they celebrate St. Lucia. And during these celebrations, they eat saffron buns called Lussekatter. Saffron isn’t cheap, it’s like gold, you pay quite a bit of money for a tiny bit of the little red strands. But since Swedes use it in so many more things than saffron buns, it’s reasonably priced. Here in Germany, not so much the case. So we are very lucky that my in-laws are bringing some from Spain today (where they also use it in quite a lot of dishes).
Let’s make a Swedish saffron bread called saffranslängd!
This is a bit of a project as it takes time but it is totally worth it! And most of that time is the dough resting so you can do something else while you wait. Have a coffee, read a magazine or make Lego structures with your kids.
The key ingredients for this recipe are saffron and fresh yeast. If you can’t get fresh yeast in the supermarket, ask a baker (street corner or even the bakery in the supermarket). Yeast is great to work with, it makes everything come alive and it has such a lovely unique smell.
Raisins are for filling the bread. Just to add another bit of sweetness.
Use a bit of sugar to help crush the saffron with a pestle and mortar.
Once everything is combined, you need to let it rest. Let it do its thing. Your dough needs to grown a lot, to twice its size.
Now, shape it into a simple loaf or do what I did. I opted for a roll-cut-pull approach. I’ll explain how I did this in the recipe.
(makes 2 loaves)
40g fresh yeast
1 kg flour
150g butter – melted
1g saffron strands
optional: pearl sugar for decoration
1: Combine the milk and the melted butter together and heat to 37 degrees C. It should feel lukewarm when you put your finger in the mixture, not hot or the yeast will die and your dough will not rise.
2: Meanwhile, put the saffron and a teaspoon of sugar in a pestle and mortar and crush the strands.
3: Divide the mixture into two. In one part, crumble in the yeast and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add this to the other part of the milk-butter mixture and add the sugar and saffron. Stir until dissolved.
4: Add the flour and kneed for about 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in a stand mixer with a dough hook. The dough should form a clean, smooth ball that doesn’t stick.
NOTE: if you are making a simple loaf, add the raisins now with the flour.
5: Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Put the bowl in a warm place that is free of draft and let it rise to twice its volume (approx. 30-45 minutes).
NOTE: if you are making a single loaf, preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.
6: Cut into 2 equal parts.
NOTE: if you are making a simple loaf, skip to step 11.
7: Roll out the dough into a rectangle about half a centimetre thick. Then sprinkle over half of the raisins. Roll the dough tight like you would roll a carpet, starting the roll with the long side. Do the same with the second part of dough.
8: Take a sharp knife and cut into the dough every 2,5 cm, starting from the bottom. Cut about 3/4 of the way down, you don’t want to cut all the way through.
9: Take the first “cut” and squeeze the middle of it between your thumb and forefinger. Pull it towards you. Take the next “cut” and pull it to the left. Take the third “cut” and pull it to the right. The fourth “cut” your are again squeezing and pulling towards you, then left and right and repeat until you reach the end. Do the same with your other bread.
10: Put both loaves on a baking sheet and cover with a clean tea towel for about 30 minutes, until they have doubled in volume. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.
11: Whisk the egg lightly and brush both loaves with the egg wash. Sprinkle on the pearl sugar.
12: Bake in the bottom of the oven for 35 minutes. Keep an eye on your loaves. If they start to brown too quickly, lay some tin foil over them for the rest of the baking time.