Saffron buns are traditionally baked around Christmastime in Sweden, especially in celebration of St. Lucia Day on December 13th. Delicately perfumed with saffron, with an adorable “S” shape and a traditional topping of raisins or decorative sugar; these buns certainly have a holiday vibe. While I am not Swedish, and had actually never tasted a saffron bun until I started testing out this recipe, I hope you enjoy my adaptation of them. This is also the second in a three part series using one of our favorite flours, King Arthur Flour. King Arthur All-Purpose Flour helps keep these buns fluffy despite rich ingredients like ricotta and butter.
Since saffron is an expensive spice, I wanted to make sure I used it in a way that would allow the flavor to permeate the entire batch of rolls. That is why the recipe begins with heating up the milk and butter with the saffron and allowing the spice to infuse those ingredients before beginning to make the dough. And even though this recipe calls for instant yeast, the warm temperature of the milk/butter mixture will speed along the rise time, especially on chilly winter days. Just make sure you let the mixture cool down until it is warm to the touch. If it is too hot, it will kill the yeast.
The actual making of the dough is fairly straightforward and comes together quickly with the Ankarsrum.
The recipe makes over 3 dozen rolls, and I found it best to work in batches once the dough had risen. I turned my oven on to preheat when I first started to shape the rolls and then as soon as I filled up a pan, I covered and put it by the oven so the heat radiating off would help them rise quickly. This way I was able to bake in batches pretty easily without anything over-proofing.
I prefer to use a kitchen scale not only to measure out ingredients, but also for when I make rolls and buns. This provides a consistent size. If you don’t have a kitchen scale on hand, you want to pinch off portions of dough about the size of a golf ball to work with.
I found the easiest way to shape these was to roll out each portion long and skinny, and then curl the two ends around to create an S, making sure you leave a little room in the curled area so that when they start to rise they don’t uncurl.
There are two different ways of decorating these that I came across. The first was to place a raisin in each curled little part, and the second was to sprinkle with sugar. I went with the latter because my family is not big on raisins.
Since these buns bake at such a high temperature, I found it crucial to swap my pans halfway through baking in order for them all to bake evenly.
These keep for several days in an airtight container. Briefly reheat the buns at 350º to “refresh” them after a day.
Let us know if you have any questions or comments and I hope you are inspired to make something new this holiday season.
Prep Time: 45 minutes (including shaping of buns)
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 -2 1/2 hours
173 g. (3/4 cup) butter
492 g. (2 cups) whole milk
1/4 tsp. saffron
227 g. (1 cup) ricotta cheese
152 g. (2/3 cup) sugar
12 g. (1 Tbsp.) instant dry yeast
6 g. (1 1/2 tsp.) kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and whole milk. Crumble the saffron into milk mixture. Heat, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
Once milk mixture is warm to the touch (too hot will kill yeast) pour into the stainless steel bowl of the Ankarsrum mixer with the roller/scraper attachment. Add the ricotta, 2 eggs and sugar and mix on medium speed (3 o’clock) until combined. Reduce speed to medium low (2 o’clock) and add in half the flour and the yeast and mix until fully incorporated. Add the remaining flour and salt and mix on medium speed until flour is fully incorporated. Adjust the roller about an inch from the side of the bowl and lock in place. Let knead 15 minutes.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour and a half.
Line half sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets.
Turn dough out onto a clean surface. Punch down and portion out 1/3 to work with. Place remaining 2/3 back in the bowl and cover until ready to use. Using a kitchen scale, weigh out 2 ounce portions of dough. Roll into a long cylinder approximately 12 inches long. Take both ends and curl up into an S shape. Place 3 inches apart on baking sheets. Cover and let rise until almost doubled in size, 30-45 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.
Preheat oven to 450º F.
Once rolls have risen, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Yield: 38 rolls