Christmas baking in Norway is about indulgence and traditionally, lussekatter were made with saffron, a very fine product of the time, as it was expensive and hard to get a hold of. The saffron gave the buns a special flavour and their yellow colour.
Saffron is still used today in some recipes, but it is still expensive, so many use turmeric, or a saffron essence instead, for colouring. These days there are many bun designs, the most traditional can be seen in the heritage post Lucia Bun Design, but today anything goes, really. The buns are always decorated with raisins.
1 packet of dry yeast
(note: sweet dough yeast is best to use)
150 grams butter
500mls of milk
1 gram of saffron (or half a teaspoon of turmeric)
150 grams of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of cardamum
about 1.3 litres of plain flour (measure in a water jug)
1 beaten egg for glazing
Melt butter in a pot. Cool a little and then add the milk.
If using saffron: break it up by putting it into a bowl or mortar with a little of the sugar, crush together.
Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, cardamum and saffron/turmeric in a bowl. Create a well and pour in the milk mix. Mix until the dough forms – it is easiest to do this with dough beaters. Add in a little extra milk or flour if needed.
Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and let the dough raise until double the size – a warm room helps.
Sprinkle some flour on the kneading area and knead the dough well. Roll into a loose log to cut dough into bun sizes. Roll them out into long finger thick sausages. Shape them into the famous Lussekatter double spiral – julegris – or other designs.
Place the buns on a baking sheet and cover in plastic. Allow them to raise for 15 minutes. Glaze well with beaten egg and decorate with raisins (usually one raisin in each eye of a swirl.)
Bake at 225°C for 5-8 minutes (depending on size). Let them cool on a rack. Eat fresh with coffee or hot chocolate.