RECIPE: How to make a traditional saffron wreath

Saffron buns are popular around Lucia and Christmas in Sweden. Here instead is a wreath filled with all things yummy.

RECIPE: How to make a traditional saffron wreath
Saffron wreath. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food


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.

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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.