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Saffron buns with marzipan and almonds

Saffron & marzipan rolls / Safrani-martsipanisaiad
These were immensely popular with our kids as well. The photo is from December 2011, when our son, Aksel, was 11 months old. Look at those cheeks!

It’s Saint Lucia’s Day today, the festival of light, which is especially popular in Sweden. Trust me, it’s pit dark outside by 4 pm, so we need any extra light we can get here up North, even if it’s in the form of candles on top of a lingonberry branch wreath balanced precariously on some little girls head :)) It’s common to eat saffron buns – lussekatter – on Lucia’s Day – ideally, first thing in the morning with your breakfast coffee or tea, but these are also wonderful in the afternoon, of course.

Lussekatter or Lucia buns are usually shaped like S, but I’ve opted for the more simple roll and enriched the buns with marzipan filling and slivered almonds. kokblog has an excellent overview of the various lussekatter-shapes, check them out.

Saffron buns with marzipan and almonds
(Tõeliselt mõnusad safranisaiad)
Makes a lot!

 Saffron & marzipan rolls / Safrani-martsipanisaiad
Yeast dough:
500 ml lukewarm milk (2 cups)
a generous pinch of saffron threads*
50 g fresh yeast (or use 2 sachets of instant yeast)
0.5 tsp salt
150 g caster sugar
150 g unsalted butter, softened
200 g cream cheese, softened
1 kg of all-purpose flour

100 g unsalted butter, softened
200 g marzipan, grated
3 Tbsp brandy or cognac
a generous pinch of saffron threads

To finish:
egg-wash made with 1 egg and 1 Tbsp water
50 g sliced almonds
sugar pearls

 Saffron & marzipan rolls / Safrani-martsipanisaiad

Heat the milk, pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the saffron and let it infuse and cool for a while. The milk should be 37 C/98 F at the end.
Crumble the yeast into the milk. Add salt, sugar and most of the flour. Then knead in the soft butter and cream cheese and the rest of the flour. Knead until the dough doesn’t stick to the bowl any longer. Cover and let rise until doubled in size – you need to do that in a warm and draught-free place.

(Meanwhile, cover the baking sheet with a parchment paper and pre-heat the oven to 220 C/430 F).

Prepare the filling. Grate the marzipan coarsely. Mix saffron strands with the cognac and let infuse for 5-10 minutes. Melt butter in a small saucepan, add the marzipan and then the saffron-infused cognac. Heat gently, stirring, until combined. Remove from the heat.

Gently knead the yeast dough and divide into two. Roll both on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle, about 5 mm (1/4”). Spread half of the marzipan mixture onto the dough and roll tightly, starting from the longer edge.

Repeat with the other dough.

Cut into 3-4 cm rolls (about 1,5 inches) and place onto a baking sheet. (If you wish, you can let them rise again for 20-30 minutes). Brush with the egg-wash and sprinkle with slivered almonds and pearl sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lovely golden brown. Let cool under a clean kitchen towel – this helps them stay soft.

A note about using saffron. Saffron is water-soluble, not fat-soluble. I am surprised how many recipes ask you to simply add the saffron threads in with the rest of the ingredients (the oil or the flour), without infusing it with the liquid (NOT oil!) beforehand. You can extract so much more flavour and colour by the simple infusion process, and given the price of good-quality saffron, you can use much less of that precious spice and get much more out of it. 

More recipes for lussekatter or Lucia buns:
Nami-Nami, 2011
A Cat in the Kitchen, 2006
Anne’s Food, 2007
Joe Pastry, 2012
Eat Drink One Woman, 2009
Good. Food. Stories. 2009
Eat, Live, Run, 2012
pPod’s Kitchen, 2010
One Perfect Bite, 2009

More recipes using saffron: 
Saffron buns (lussekatter)
Roasted aubergines/eggplant with saffron yoghurt dressing by Ottolenghi
Saffron carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
Golden saffron pancakes

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