Lucia bread

Lucia bread

Scandinavian Christmas
Lars Ranek

Legend has it that, on 13 December 1764, a gentleman in Sweden was woken in the middle of the night by a beautiful voice. He saw a young woman in white, singing and dancing through his room. She had wings and was carrying a candle. It was Saint Lucia. She brought light, food and wine for comfort on what was, in the Gregorian calendar, the longest night of the year. We celebrate this fabled event every 13 December. Girls dress up in long white dresses and walk carrying lit candles, singing the beautiful Lucia carol. It’s one of the favourite Christmas traditions and makes everyone well up! Somehow it makes you grateful for life.


Quantity Ingredient
40g fresh yeast
500ml lukewarm whole milk
1/2 teaspoon saffron
200g salted butter, melted
1kg plain flour, plus more to dust
1 teaspoon salt
100g caster sugar
75g raisins, plus more to decorate
1 egg, beaten


  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a mixing bowl, then add the saffron and stir until the mixture turns yellow. Add the melted butter. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then stir in the sugar and raisins.
  2. Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until the dough comes cleanly from the edge of the bowl. Knead the dough on a floured work surface for 10 minutes, until it is shiny but not sticky. Return it to the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 1½ hours at room temperature.
  3. Lightly knead the dough again on a floured work surface. Divide it into about 22 equal pieces. Roll them into sausages, then form them into different shapes, as seen in the photograph, curling up the ends. Stud each with a few raisins.
  4. Place the breads on baking trays lined with baking parchment, cover with clean tea towels and leave to rise again for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Brush the risen breads with the beaten egg and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until golden brown all over, then leave to cool on a wire rack.
  6. Eat them as they are, or spread with chilled butter.
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