This year my oldest son became very interested when I started making them, and I figured it would be a fun task that he could help me with. Making bread, though difficult, is actually great for kids to participate in. My son helped mix the batter, kneed the dough, roll it out and place the little raisins in each of the swirls. I can't help but hope that making these St. Lucia Buns with me will one day become a great memory that he will always look back on.
I consider these a special treat that only comes once a year, so I didn't try to make them gluten-free or vegan. Instead, I tried to make them a little more healthy by using white whole wheat flour and unrefined sugar. Great served as a quick breakfast or even as dessert after dinner. The smell of saffron buns baking in my oven will always be a warm reminder of my childhood, and now the promise of memories yet to be made.
St. Lucia Saffron Buns
1/3 cup of milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 water (heated to between 110-115° F)
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup pure sugar cane (unrefined)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron (or crushed-up saffron threads)
2 3/4 cups of white whole wheat flour (or regular all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon olive oil (or cooking oil)
egg wash - 1 egg whisked with a little water
In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk and butter. Once the butter is melted take it off the heat and set aside to cool. In a large bowl put the warmed water and dry yeast and set the bowl aside for about 5 minutes or until the yeast is activated. Check the milk and melted butter with a thermometer to make sure it is not above 115° F. If the temperature is right, add it to the yeast along with the sugar, egg, salt, and saffron. Whisk everything to combine. Then, with a wooden spoon stir in 1 and 1/2 cups of the flour until smooth. Add in the remaining flour a little at a time until you can form the dough into a ball (With the whole wheat flour I only used an additional 1/2 cup). Place the dough on a floured surface and kneed the dough for about 5-10 minutes or until it is smooth and it springs back when you poke it. Place the dough in a large bowl and coat it with the olive oil. Place bowl in a warm place covered with a kitchen towel to rise for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
Punch down the risen dough and cut it into 12 equal pieces. Cut each of the 12 pieces in half (now 24 pieces of dough). Roll out each half into a long rope (6-8 inches) and cross two ropes in the middle. Coil each of the ends of the rope toward the center in a circular clockwise pattern as seen below.