Christmas recipe: Swedish saffron buns with almonds

Food writer John Duxbury shares his new take on an old Swedish favourite: saffron buns with added chocolate and almond paste.

Christmas recipe: Swedish saffron buns with almonds
Swedish saffron buns with chocolate and almonds. Photo: Swedish Food/John Duxbury

This take on Sweden’s famous saffron buns adds white chocolate and almond paste to mix things up. No Swedish Christmas is complete without the popular treat.


These buns are best made with mandelmassa (almond paste), which can be obtained from a specialist shop or you can make your own using Swedish Food's recipe which you can find in their Swedishfoodpedia article about almonds.

The dough is quite moist making it a bit tricky to handle so it is easier if made in a machine. (Use the dough hook and knead for one minute on minimum as you add the liquid, butter and quark, then 4 minutes on a low speed (2 or 3) and finally finish off by kneading by hand for a further minute.)

If you bake them in paper cases (cinnamon bun cases are ideal if you can find them), they make excellent presents.

If you would like fresh saffron buns for breakfast you can let them rise overnight in the fridge. Alternatively, pop some frozen buns in a warm oven for 10 minutes.

Dissolve the saffron and sugar in a little alcohol, such as some rum, brandy or amaretto, the day or even the week before to bring out the maximum flavour from the filling.


1 packet saffron threads (usually sold in 0.4 g or 0.5 g packets)

70 g (5 tbsp) golden caster (superfine) sugar

240 ml (1 cup) whole milk (4%)

450 g (3½ cups) strong (bread) flour

7 g (1½ tsp) “fast action” dried yeast (1 packet)

½ tsp salt

100 g (4 oz) Quark (1%)

100 g (1 stick) unsalted (sweet) butter, softened

Filling and glaze

100 g (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

100 g (4 oz) white chocolate, chopped

150 g (7 oz) mandelmassa (almond paste), grated

75 g (½ cup) dried cranberries, raisins or frozen blackcurrants

1 beaten egg, to glaze

2 tbsp pearl sugar


1. Place the saffron threads in a mortar with half the sugar and grind with the pestle until evenly mixed.

2. Put the milk in a saucepan with the sugar and saffron mixture and heat to 40°C.

3. Put the flour, the remaining sugar and salt into a bowl and mix. Add the yeast and mix.

4. Gradually stir in the milk mixture, the cream cheese and the softened butter in stages. Bring together to form a dough and knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes (5 minutes if you are using a machine).

5. Clean the bowl and put the dough back in it and cover with a shower cap (many hotels helpfully provide them!) or cling film (food wrap) and leave it in a warm place for an hour or until it has doubled in size (or overnight in the fridge).

6. Tip the dough out on to a floured surface and punch once or twice to knock it back. Roll it out until it is approximately 40 cm x 25 cm (16”x10”).

7. Spread with butter and then sprinkle with the chopped chocolate, almond paste and fruit.

8. Roll the dough up along the long edge into a sausage and cut into 2 cm (¾”) thick rounds. Place the rounds onto greased baking trays and cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 20-30 minutes.

9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F, gas 7, fan 190°C).

10. Brush the buns with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with pearl sugar and then bake for about 7-9 minutes until golden brown, but still moist in the middle. Leave to cool on a rack.

Recipe courtesy of John Duxbury, founder and editor of Swedish Food.

For members


Sweden’s best Christmas markets for 2021

After many Christmas markets were cancelled last season, you may be wondering where you will be able to get this year's dose of Christmas cheer. Here are our suggestions for some of Sweden's best Christmas markets.

snow on stockholm's gamla stan christmas market
Stockholm Old Town's Christmas market may be one of Europe's oldest. Photo: Ola Ericson/


1. Malmö Mitt Möllan

The trendy and multicultural area of Möllevången in Sweden’s third biggest city has become the spot for a special Christmas market for those looking for a modern and hipster-ish atmosphere. The Mitt Möllan traders’ association organises a market that promises art, culture, food and fashion. Busy that weekend? Malmö’s traditional annual Christmas market in Gustav Adolfs square, focusing on local products, is being held in three sessions, from December 9th-12th, 16th-19th and 20-23rd. 

When: December 2nd-5th

Tickets: Free

2. Kalmar Castle, Kalmar

This spectacular 800-year-old castle has established itself as one of the largest Christmas markets in Sweden. For four days, the whole building will be opened to the public and visitors get the chance to wander around in the historic decorated halls. Listen to Christmas and winter music, and walk around the castle and visit some of the about 120 craftsmen from all over Sweden who set up their stands and sell handmade items. 

When: November 25th-28th

Tickets: 90 kronor (free for under-12s)

Kalmar Castle in Småland provides a scenic location for one of Sweden’s largest Christmas markets. Photo: Emmy Jonsson/Scandinav Bildbyrå/

Katrinetorps Landeri, also known as Gourmetgården, is Malmö’s Christmas market for foodies. This market, situated in the house and gardens of Katrinetorp, built in the 1800s, will have a focus on Christmassy food such as glögg (mulled wine), as well as a horse and cart, antiques, a Lucia parade and dancing around the Christmas tree. They will also be offering their own handmade products in their deli.

When: December 3-5th

Tickets: 80 kronor for adults, free for children under 15

4. Jul på Bosjökloster, Höör

Christmas at Bosjökloster monastery is also back for 2021! As in previous years, this market will feature Christmas concerts in the church, as well as locally produced gifts and food for perfect Christmas gifts. Visitors will also be able to eat a traditional Swedish julbord, meet Santa, ride a horse and cart and “look for presents in the maze”. This market is taking place on the first weekend of advent, meaning you can start getting into the Christmas spirit as early as November!

When: November 26th-28th

Tickets: 100 kronor for adults, dropping to 50 kronor after 2pm on Sunday and free after 3pm on Sunday. Free for children under 16. Over-65s pay 80 kronor on Friday


5. Liseberg theme park, Gothenburg

Sweden’s biggest amusement park, Gothenburg attraction Liseberg, lights up every year with millions of Christmas candles. A traditional Christmas Market and an old-fashioned Christmas market in different areas of the park offer everything from carol singing to pony carousel rides. Ice shows, Santa’s grotto, an ice skating rink and the park’s rabbits are sure to keep your little ones entertained. More information here.

When: Thursdays-Sundays between November 19th and December 30th. Check website for more details.

Tickets: Entrance from 95 kronor (free for children up to 110 centimetres) to 245 kronor for unlimited rides. The price varies depending on which day you visit as well as whether you want to go on the rides or not.


Gothenburg’s Liseberg theme park is host to a Christmas market complete with festive lights. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/Scanpix/TT

6. Skansen, Stockholm

Take the ferry over to Stockholm’s Djurgården island from Slussen and stroll over to Skansen, Europe’s biggest outdoor museum, which has organized its own Christmas market since 1903. It’s a great place to snap up some presents in the form of traditional Swedish arts and crafts, as well as having a feel of how Christmas was celebrated in the past.

When: Fridays-Sundays between November 26th and December 19th.

Tickets: 70 kronor for children aged 4-15, 160 kronor for adults and 140 kronor for concessions.

7. Old Town, Stockholm

Around 40 stands set up shop right in the middle of Stockholm’s Old Town ahead of the festive season, selling Swedish Christmas sweets, smoked reindeer, elk meat, a range of Swedish handicrafts and decorative arts, and much more. The setting alone is enough to get anyone into a romantic Christmas mood. This market might actually be one of the oldest in Europe, since the first Christmas market in the square was held as early as 1523 (although it started in its current format in 1837).

When: November 20th-December 23rd

Tickets: Free

8. Wadköping Christmas Market, Örebro

The Wadköping outdoor museum, which is an echo of what Örebro looked like centuries ago, organises a Christmas market full of the usual traditions: Christmas decorations, sausages, cheeses and arts and crafts. 2021’s Christmas market will also feature outdoor Christmas songs and pony riding.

When: November 21st and 28th, December 5th and 12th

Tickets: Free


9. Gammelstads Kyrkstad, Luleå

Brave the cold (and it will be cold) for a Christmas market in the far north of Sweden. The Gammelstad Church Town is the country’s largest and best preserved church town, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is over 400 years old, and comprises of 405 cottages, six stables and a privy, sprawling around a large medieval stone church. The Christmas market takes place at the Hägnan open air museum, where around 80 exhibitors sell products from home-baked goods to arts and crafts. Visitors this year will be able to make their own candles, meet Santa and go on a candle-lit walking tour through the museum.

When: December 4th-5th

Tickets: 30 kronor

10. Jokkmokk Christmas Market, Jokkmokk

Jokkmokk is located in the north of Sweden, in the Arctic Circle. It is an important place for the Sami people, the only indigenous population in Scandinavia. It is famous for its winter market in February, which first took place in 1605. At their recently-established Christmas market, held in celebration of the winter solstice, visitors will find traditional Sami handicrafts – called duodji – and learn more about their history and culture.

When: December 11th-12th

Tickets: Free

Traditional Sami handicrafts – called guksi or kåsa – wooden drinking cups available at the Jokkmokk Christmas and winter markets. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix/TT

11. Christmas Market at Nordanå, Skellefteå

Are you in Skellefteå this December? Pay a visit to the Christmas market at Nordanå, which started in 1975. It is particularly known for its arts and crafts, and in past years visitors have been able to buy handmade ceramics, knitted baby clothes, and tin thread jewellery.

When: December 5th

Tickets: Free

12. Christmas Market at Västerbotten Museum, Umeå

This Umeå museum dedicated to the region of Västerbotten organises its annual Christmas market again. It promises a candy shop, horse-drawn carriage rides, a bakehouse and more than 80 artisans selling locally produced food and quality wares. Hungry visitors can also learn about what Christmas dinner from this region may have looked like in the 1870s.

When: December 4th-5th

Tickets: Free