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Inside Sweden: The Lucia recipe that's even better than saffron buns

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Inside Sweden: The Lucia recipe that's even better than saffron buns
Lucia on December 13th is one of Sweden's most important pre-Christmas traditions. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren writes about the biggest stories of the week in our Inside Sweden newsletter.


Next week, Swedes will celebrate St Lucia, a pre-Christmas holiday and one of the most enduring winter traditions, which brings some much-needed light into Sweden’s winter darkness.

Because Swedes like to celebrate holidays through the medium of cake, you’ll struggle to get through the day without eating at least one or two lussekatter, the traditional saffron buns.

In my family, however, we always make another kind of saffron bread this time of the year. It’s called Drottning Kristina’s julkrans (Queen Kristina’s Christmas wreath) in honour of Sweden’s 17th century Queen Kristina (she probably didn’t invent it, and maybe never even ate it herself).

I thought I’d share the recipe with you.

This is based on existing recipes, which I’ve translated and adapted to how I make it. For example, most recipes call for less of the almond paste, but to me the almond paste is the best part, so I like to make sure I have plenty (if you prefer less, use 100g butter, 1 dl sugar and 50g almonds).

It’s based on Swedish measurements and ingredients, so it says sachets of saffron because there’s only ever one size in Sweden, and fresh yeast (but I’ve added in some extra information for readers based outside of Sweden).

Makes two breads in total.



125g butter

2 sachets, or 1g, of saffron (most recipes say 1-2 sachets; I say you only live once)

3 dl milk

1 egg

1.5 dl sugar

0.5 teaspoon salt

50 g fresh yeast (fresh yeast is the most common in Sweden and you usually find it near the butter in supermarkets, but you can replace it with dry yeast, in which case around 12-14 g should do it)

around 12 dl flour

Almond paste:

150g butter

1.5 dl sugar

75g almonds, finely chopped




Nib sugar



Crumble fresh yeast into a big bowl and melt the butter in a separate pot.

Add milk and saffron to the melted butter and warm or let cool until it’s 37C. If you don’t have an oven thermometer, use your finger. It should feel only very slightly warmer than your finger.

Pour the liquid over the yeast and stir until it’s dissolved.

Add sugar, salt, the egg and most of the flour. Knead the dough as if your life depends on it.

Add more flour if the dough is too sticky, but be careful not to add too much, or it will get dry.

Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise in a warm, draught-free spot. It should roughly double in size. Most recipes say this takes 30 minutes, but I usually find it takes a bit longer than that.

In the meantime, mix the ingredients for the almond paste.

When the dough is ready, divide it into two pieces because we’re making two breads.

Split each piece into three pieces. Roll one of them into a bun and flatten it slightly so that it's maybe 10 centimetres wide. Roll the other two pieces into long ropes (about 60 centimetres each), then twirl them around each other and then place them around the flattened bun. These pictures show roughly what they're supposed to look like.

Let them proof for 30-60 minutes in a warm, draught-free spot under a towel.

Whisk an egg for a few seconds and brush it thinly and evenly all over the bread. You can skip this step, but it will give it a golden sheen and basically make the bread look prettier once it’s finished.

Make little holes (1-2 centimetres deep) in the bread with your finger and fill them with as much of the almond paste as you possibly can. It's up to you how many holes you make. Most recipes call for six to eight. I usually make five holes in the middle and then squeeze the rest of the filling in between the folds of the two rolls that make up the crown around the bun.

Spread flaked or chopped almond, and nib sugar (known as pearl sugar or pärlsocker in Swedish) all over the bread. I’m not a fan of nib sugar, so I only use almonds.

Set the oven to around 200-225C and bake the bread for around 15 minutes (some recipes online say closer to half an hour, but I find 15 minutes usually works best – it should have a nice, golden colour and not be soggy on the inside).

That's it! Hope you like it, and of course I won't say no to your favourite Christmas recipe in return.


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Thanks for reading,

Emma Löfgren

Editor, The Local Sweden

Inside Sweden is our weekly newsletter for members that gives you news, analysis and, sometimes, takes you behind the scenes at The Local. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to your newsletter preferences.


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