RECIPE: How to make a traditional saffron wreath

RECIPE: How to make a traditional saffron wreath
Saffron wreath. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food
Saffron buns are popular around Lucia and Christmas in Sweden. Here instead is a wreath filled with all things yummy.


Makes 1 wreath

Preparation: 25 minutes

Cooking: 25 minutes

Total: 50 minutes + about two hours to prove



0.4g saffron threads, 1 packet (in Sweden it's sold in 0.5g packets – this works too)

½ tsp sea salt

½ tbsp vodka

1 large egg, lightly beaten

500g (or more) strong white flour

100g caster (superfine) sugar

7g fast action dried yeast, 1 packet

300g milk

90g unsalted (sweet) butter, softened

Filling and decoration

40g softened butter

1 tsp ground cardamom

100g orange marmalade

50g raisins

50g candied orange peel, optional

2 tsp almond flakes, optional

1 tsp pearl sugar, optional


1. Place the saffron threads in a mortar with the salt and grind with the pestle until evenly mixed. Pour over the vodka and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes.

2. Place 500g of the flour in the stand-mixer's bowl. Stir in the sugar and the dried yeast.

3. Heat the milk until warm, between 35C and 40C (95F to 105F). Add the saffron mixture and half of the beaten egg, reserving the rest of the egg for glazing.

4. Fit the dough hook to your stand-mixer and with the machine running on minimum slowly add the milk mixture.

5. Increase the speed to 2 (k Mix) or 3 (KitchenAid) and slowly add the softened butter, a bit at a time. Do this very slowly, taking about three minutes. If the mixture looks too wet add a tablespoon of flour.

6. Continue to knead on speed 2 or 3, slowly adding additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, until you have a nice soft dough. The idea is to add as little flour as possible until the dough is still a little sticky to the touch, but does not completely stick to your hands when you handle it. The exact amount to be added varies, but you will normally need to add three or four tablespoons of flour. Once you have added enough flour, continue to knead for a further two or three minutes. The dough is unlikely to form a ball, which is why it needs finishing by hand, see step 7.

7. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Clean out the bowl, lightly oil it and then return the dough to the bowl. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap), a shower cap or a cloth and leave in a warm draught-free place for about an hour, until it has doubled in size.

8. Mix the butter and cardamom for the filling.

9. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knock it back a couple of times and then roll it out to a rectangle about 45cm x 30cm (18in x 12in). If you are having difficulty getting the dough to keep its shape, leave it for five minutes before trying again as the dough needs time to relax while you are forming it. If you want an even wreath, trim the sides and use the off-cuts to make some saffron buns, but I don't normally bother.

10. Spread the butter and cardamom mixture over the dough, then the marmalade and finally sprinkle raisins and candied orange peel (optional) over the top.

11. Carefully roll the dough up lengthwise, with the seam on the bottom, transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and shape into a circle.

12. Using a pair of scissors, cut most of the way through the dough, cutting on a slant. After each cut, pull the dough out or push it into the centre of the circle to expose the filling, alternating as you go around the circle. Make between 12 and 20 cuts, but because if will puff up a lot when it is baked you don't need to be very neat or worry about doing it evenly.

13. Cover lightly with a cloth and set in a warm area for about 40 minutes, until the dough is nicely puffed up again.

14. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, gas 6, fan 180C).

15. Brush the dough with the remaining beaten egg, sprinkle with almond flakes (optional) and pearl sugar (optional) and bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown with a slight caramelisation on the top. Leave to cool on a wire rack.


– The wreath will puff up a lot when it is baked, so you will need a very large plate or board if you want to put it on display.

– If you prefer an almond filling, replace the marmalade, raisins and the oragne peel with 150g of grated mandelmassa (almond paste).

– Use baking parchment to make it easier to transfer the wreath to a wire rack to cool.

– This recipe is based on using a stand mixer. If you want to make it by hand, increase the amount of flour to 550g, melt the butter with the milk and increase the kneading time to ten minutes.

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