Happy St. Lucia Day! This is the day that our Scandinavian friends celebrate St. Lucy, an ancient martyr with an abiding role as a bearer of light in dark winters. On this feast day young girls dress in her honor wearing white robes with a red sashes. The girls form a procession that is led by a young lady selected to portray St. Lucia, who wears a crown of candles while carrying a tray of baked goods.
Some of you may remember my previous Lucia Day post from 2013. That's when I made traditional saffron buns (Lussekatter). Soon after I was introduced to powdered saffron, thanks to the advice of my Scandinavian readers. I had used saffron threads in the dough and my buns were only slightly yellow. Apparently, you should always need a pair of sunglasses to look at properly-hued saffron bread. In other words, the brighter the better!
(I think I got it right this time!)
Powdered saffron isn't available to me locally so I had to order it online. I chose this Spanish saffron powder because it had the most favorable reviews. I used four .100 gram capsules which yielded the brightest yellow dough I've ever seen!
The dough was easy to handle and roll into three 36-inch ropes. I did the work on my dining room table so I'd have plenty of room and you may want to do the same. Braiding the dough is simple: start in the center and braid one end, and then turn it around and braid the other end. This way you're braiding 18-inch lengths at a time, and not trying to flip 36-inch lengths of dough over one another by starting at one end.
When you're all finished weaving the strands together, you'll have something akin to Rapunzel's braid. Cut the messy end pieces away using a knife or bench scraper.
Coil the braid around itself so that you have a round loaf and tuck the end piece under.
Just before baking, the loaf is brushed with egg wash and topped with Swedish pearl sugar which gives it a touch of sweetness. When sliced, its crumb is soft with a flaky crust. The favor is yeasty and bright with saffron. I think it's best eaten warm with a pat of salted butter.
Lately I've been using lecithin granules to extend the life of my yeast breads. It doesn't affect the taste of the bread, and I really like being able to enjoy my baked goods for longer than just one or two days. If you're making this for a gift, then I suggest using the granules for prolonged shelf life. Just whisk them in with the dry ingredients. It takes about 1 tablespoon per cup of flour.
Since this bread is called 'Lucia Crown' then it is appropriate to top it with candles (I used these).