This recipe for St. Lucia Buns was posted a few years ago originally, but it got buried in the archives and I thought I’d bring it up again for the Holidays.
Each December, I find myself searching for the perfect holiday traditions. Not that there are any perfect ones, of course, but with two little ones in our family, I crave some routine and consistency each year. Dream scenarios would be opening presents every Christmas morning as a family in our home, snuggling up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate Christmas Eve to watch Rudolph (and then later White Christmas), searching through holiday magazines and cookbooks for the best cookie recipes and then making them together over Christmas break, and sweet yeasted bread every day. Cinnamon rolls, fruit-filled Danish, braided pumpkin-spice knots, just anything along those lines, all Christmas-time long.
King Arthur Flour asked me to bring a Christmas classic to their Holiday Table, and I immediately thought of St. Lucia Buns. St. Lucia Day is before Christmas Day, taking place on the longest night of the year (according to the ancient Julian calendar), December 13th. While these buns are not dripping in icing and swirled with cinnamon, they are sweet and delicious nonetheless. They could be made in the middle of December, and then again on the 25th, served for breakfast, or an afternoon coffee break after opening piles of presents and shaking every last piece of candy out of stockings by the fire. Whenever you decide to make them is just fine; just make sure to add them to your baking list.
Browse some of my other picks for Classic Christmas recipes and favorite tips for the season at King Arthur Flour’s Holiday Table.
To begin: In a small saucepan set over medium heat (or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave), heat the milk and saffron to a simmer; then stir in the butter.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Mix to combine, then knead the dough.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it’s quite puffy.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape the dough into 12 logs, then roll each log into a long rope.
Shape each rope into an “S” shape.
Let the buns rise again, until puffy. Brush with egg whites.
Then sprinkle with coarse white Swedish pearl sugar.
Bake the buns until they’re golden brown.
Remove the buns from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.
St. Lucia Buns
Recipe by King Arthur Flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed
1/2 cup butter
4 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white (reserved from dough) mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
coarse pearl sugar, optional
golden raisins, optional
In a small saucepan set over medium heat (or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave), heat the milk and saffron to a simmer; remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Set the mixture aside to allow the butter to melt and cool to lukewarm, 30 to 35 minutes. You can reduce the milk’s cooling time by about 10 minutes by refrigerating it.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, flours, salt and sugar.
Separate one of the eggs, and set the white aside; you’ll use it later.
Pour the lukewarm milk and butter mixture over the dry ingredients.
Add the 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, and the vanilla. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes by mixer, or 10 minutes by hand, till the dough is smooth and supple.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (8-cup) measuring cup, cover it, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it’s quite puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.
Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 12 equal pieces. A scale makes this job easy; each piece will weigh about 92g, or 3 1/4 ounces.
Shape the pieces of dough into rough logs, and let them rest, covered, for about 10 minutes. This gives the gluten a chance to relax.
Roll each log into a 15″ to 18″ rope. They’ll shrink once you stop rolling; that’s OK.
Shape each rope into an “S” shape. Tuck a golden raisin into the center of each of the two side-by-side coils, if desired.
Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving an inch or so between them. Cover them, and let them rise for about 30 minutes, till they’re noticeably puffy, but definitely not doubled. While they’re rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Brush each bun with some of the egg white/water glaze. Sprinkle with coarse white Swedish pearl sugar, if desired.
Bake the buns until they’re golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. If you’ve used raisins, tent them with foil for the final 3 minutes, to prevent the raisins from burning.
Remove the buns from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.
Yield: 12 large buns
This post was sponsored by King Arthur Flour. All my opinions, as always, are my own.
AngelaSaturday, December 18, 2021 at 12:11 pm
These were wonderful. We had them with golden raisins, lingonberry preserves, and butter.
I didn’t have potato flour, so after a little poking around on the web I used a combination of arrowroot powder and almond flour. I found that cornstarch was an acceptable, though not equivalent substitute. On a whim I combined the almond flour with some arrowroot powder to give it both the bind and the nuanced flavor and they turned out beautifully. I think a combination of cornstarch and AP flour would probably be fine too.
The King Arthur Flour recipe clarifies that if you use salted butter, you should reduce the amount of salt by 1/4 teaspoon.
Thank you for amplifying this recipe, Sarah! This was a fun treat on a quiet December weekend.
PenelopeWednesday, December 5, 2018 at 4:04 pm
It looks good! I can’t wait it make this coming Christmas holiday.
BeckyTuesday, December 4, 2018 at 10:09 am
Stopped by to get the links for your Spotify Christmas playlists (thank you!) and saw you had bumped up this post. I thought I would let you know how much I love seeing these “pulled from the archives” reminders from bloggers I have followed for a while. In a world that is focused on new creations, I find it comforting to be reminded of those solid recipes from the past that are still good to fall back on. Thank you so much for everything you put into this space! Happy holidays!
EmilyTuesday, December 4, 2018 at 9:46 am
You have inspired me to try making a gluten free version of these! They look absolutely delicious!
How would you describe the texture to someone who has never had one and will never be able to try the original version with gluten? Would you describe it with the texture of a soft pretzel or a dinner roll? I have memories of the more “conventionally American” bakes from when I was a child before being diagnosed with celiac disease.
Thank you! I hope you can describe the texture for me!
BoxonSunday, May 14, 2017 at 11:28 pm
Thanks for his great recipes and the buns look delicious! Very like with the aroma produced after coming out of the oven …
ElizabethMonday, December 19, 2016 at 7:19 am
I would love to serve these fresh from the oven on Christmas morning but would need to do some of the work the night before. At what point would you recommend putting the dough into the fridge overnight? I thought perhaps after shaping them into logs. Thanks!
SarahThursday, December 22, 2016 at 9:51 pm
Hi Elizabeth – I haven’t made part of them the night before yet, so I’m not sure the best place to stop. But King Arthur Flour has a baking hotline you can call (and they actually answer!) and they can answer your questions there, as well. The number and other contact is here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakers-hotline/
PaulSaturday, December 24, 2016 at 8:08 am
Froze mine 2 days before. Thawed overnight and baked like normal. Worked fine.
Anna A.Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 2:04 am
I just made these- they’re currently in the oven! I’m curious to taste them. Being relatively new to baking breads and rolls, I found that my dough was really dry and cracked easily when it was done rising. Is that normal? It was super difficult to roll. Any tips for my next attempt?
BarbaraMonday, December 12, 2016 at 1:05 pm
Is it possible to make them slightly smaller, dividing the dough into 16 pieces? Would I lessen the baking time?
Abby | Lace & LilacsMonday, December 12, 2016 at 12:37 pm
Just lovely, Sarah. <3
Grace F RiedelSunday, December 11, 2016 at 9:17 pm
You have to strain and discard anise saving the flavored water.
Grace F RiedelSunday, December 11, 2016 at 9:15 pm
Anise would be a good flavorful substitute for saffron. You would boil it then remove from heat and cover for 10 min to infuse the flavor. Coconut oil may be a good substitute for butter.
RandySaturday, December 24, 2016 at 1:22 pm
Zakarian recommends as a substitute 1 part turmeric to 2 parts paprika.
Amy T.Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 8:07 pm
My family has made a brioche recipe, similar to these buns but much more time-consuming, for years. This holiday I’m going to try the St. Lucia recipe but add a heady vanilla glaze which we normally put on the brioche. Your new cookbook looks great. Congratulations!
Grae WillimsSunday, December 11, 2016 at 5:39 pm
IS THIS A PRINTABLE RECIPE?
SarahSunday, December 11, 2016 at 5:44 pm
No, I’m sorry it’s not! But you can go to the King Arthur Site and print it here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/PrintRecipe?RID=1734&radio=1
MarthaSunday, December 11, 2016 at 3:32 pm
Are the saffron threads used for just color? If so, could I subsitute tumeric? Or do you have any other ideas for what to use if you don’t have access to saffron?
SarahSunday, December 11, 2016 at 4:14 pm
The saffron is for both color and taste, although the flavor is pretty subtle here. I think you’d be fine omitting the saffron and using a little tumeric. But King Arthur Flour has a baking hotline you can call (and they actually answer!) and they can answer your questions there, as well. The number and other contact is here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakers-hotline/
Alice BilodeauSunday, December 11, 2016 at 2:57 pm
I love keeping the Swedish tradition in our family making Soritz cookies and Mundel Mussler cookies. I will definitely be trying the St. Lucia buns this year. If anyone would like to share a good recipe for Swedish Cardamom bread, I would really appreciate it!
FernandoSunday, December 11, 2016 at 11:42 am
Can I use rice flour or oat flour replacing potato flour? Thanks
Risemary NisbetSunday, December 11, 2016 at 10:11 am
I would like to make these delicious looking buns. However, I am intolerant to anything with potato. Can I use regular flour?
SarahSunday, December 11, 2016 at 1:27 pm
I haven’t tried substituting all-purpose for the potato flour. I’m guessing it would work, but! King Arthur Flour has a baking hotline you can call (and they actually answer) and they can answer your questions there. The number and other contact is here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakers-hotline/
Carol HydemanSunday, December 11, 2016 at 9:45 am
Our St Lucia tradition is Swedish Cardamom braid. My children are adults but it still is a joy to bake cardamom bread to share with them and friends. We open Christmas gifts on Christmas morning, have coffee and cardamom bread while we enjoy a leisurely start to the day…except for the cook. Christmas Eve is a traditional Swedish smorgasbord with lots of food and at least seven types of cookies and rice pudding with lingonberries for dessert so Christmas Day dinner might be turkey with all the usual sides or ham or beef tenderloin or leftovers from smorgasbord. God Jul indeed.
Margaret Downs-GambleSunday, December 11, 2016 at 9:30 am
Any suggestions for HIGH high altitude baking of these? I’m above 7000 feet and am struggling with yeast baking but would love to make these net week.
SarahSunday, December 11, 2016 at 1:28 pm
I haven’t done much high altitude baking, so I’m not sure. But King Arthur Flour has a baking hotline you can call (and they actually answer!) and they can answer your questions there. The number and other contact is here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakers-hotline/
LindaSunday, December 11, 2016 at 8:56 am
I’ve been eating these for almost 70 years and making them for over 50 years. I learned to use cardamom rather than saffron though. They are a wonderful tradition
TerriTuesday, December 13, 2016 at 8:40 am
Can you please tell me the measurement of ground cardamom to use instead of saffron?
SweetWater FarmsSaturday, December 10, 2016 at 3:42 am
Never heard of these before – but, now that I see their loveliness – I am going to try them. I kind of like the idea of trying them with the raisins – thank you for your inspiration!
Valentina @HortusThursday, December 8, 2016 at 11:58 am
As an Italian, leavened sweets and breads definitely make Christmas – think panettone, pandoro and the like! I would love to try my hand at making these. I can’t get into the mood for cookies! 🙂
MariaWednesday, December 7, 2016 at 8:58 pm
Oh my word!! I have not heard anyone talk about St. Lucia’s day in years. That just made my heart so happy:) These buns look so lovely!!
Carol HydemanSunday, December 11, 2016 at 9:50 am
It is still a significant day in my house. I usually make 10-15 loaves of cardamom bread each year. That is our St Lucia day tradition – and are gifts for friends, coworkers, and family.
Kathryn BWednesday, December 7, 2016 at 4:53 pm
For a dairy free version- would it still work with lard instead of butter?
FernandoSunday, December 11, 2016 at 11:44 am
Maybe canola oil? Sunflower oil?
SarahSunday, December 11, 2016 at 1:26 pm
I haven’t tried it substituting oil or other flours, I’m sorry! But King Arthur Flour has a baking hotline you can call (and they actually answer!) and they can answer your questions there. The number and other contact is here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakers-hotline/
alanaWednesday, December 7, 2016 at 3:09 pm
so, i’ve never made st. lucia buns, but now that i’ve got this post, with all your shaping how-tos, i think it’s time. these look sooooo good, sarah!!
Christiann KoepkeWednesday, December 7, 2016 at 1:37 pm
I have wanted to make these for so long and you’ve inspired me to get on it!! They’re just so pretty and I’m sure incredibly delicious too!
Amina NasarWednesday, December 7, 2016 at 11:26 am
What does one substitute potato flour with if it’s not available. Cute buns!
TemiThursday, December 8, 2016 at 5:07 pm
1 small cooked potatoe.
Cheryal HussainWednesday, December 14, 2016 at 6:50 am
Hello, Potatoe flakes can be used.
ShaunaWednesday, December 7, 2016 at 9:11 am
This is a wonderful tradition. Thank you for sharing.
Claudia | The Brick KtichenTuesday, December 6, 2016 at 4:25 pm
Christmas baking traditions are the best – in our family, it’s been cinnamon-date brioche scrolls on Christmas morning around the time of present-opening! I’ve never heard of St Lucia buns before but that swirl is gorgeous – so interesting with the potato flour and saffron too.
Aysegul SanfordTuesday, December 6, 2016 at 9:47 am
I love those little hands <3 She is so adorable.
And these buns.. Seriously mouthwatering and delicious. <3
CarolineTuesday, December 6, 2016 at 9:11 am
Sarah, I totally relate to wanting to create holiday traditions. My kids are much older, but we started baking my Mom’s Armenian braided bread every year and it’s just not Christmas without it now. These buns are absolutely gorgeous! I love their beautiful shape and those pearls of sugar so much! Lovely recipe! Happy Holidays!
Victoria PeaseTuesday, December 6, 2016 at 4:20 am
I’ve never heard of these buns before but they look incredible, I just want to tear into one and dunk it in a mug of hot chocolate!
[email protected]'s BookbagMonday, December 5, 2016 at 11:41 pm
i’ve always been afraid to try these but now i feel less afraid! will try this weekend!
bettyMonday, December 5, 2016 at 7:34 pm
Oh Sarah, it’s so beautiful, and these photos just melt my heart. I’ve never tried or made these Saint Lucia’s buns, but I think I have to now!
Allyson (Considering The Radish)Monday, December 5, 2016 at 9:35 am
I’ve been curious about Saint Lucia’s buns since I was little, but I’ve never tried them. I think I have to now with this beautiful recipe.
Laura BigsbyMonday, December 5, 2016 at 8:20 am
Beautiful buns with even more beautiful girl !
Taste of FranceMonday, December 5, 2016 at 6:56 am
Those curlicues are wonderful.
We usually have a Saint Lucy party–a candlelit cocktail party. A kickoff to Christmas!