Nordic Christmas: Saffron Rolls

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This post is part of our series exploring Nordic Christmas traditions. To see the entire collection, visit the Nordic Christmas home page.

Early in my research for Nordic Christmas I found recipes for saffron rolls everywhere. I’m no stranger to bread-making, and I even keep saffron in my spice cabinet, so this task did not daunt me at all. However, on my recent trip to IKEA I noticed they had some Saffron Rolls in the freezer section. Ta-Da! I mean, I love cooking and baking but at some point there’s just not enough time for anything.

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These are a popular Scandinavian treat at Christmastime, most especially for Santa Lucia Day. The S shape is supposed to resemble that of a curled up cat. While the IKEA buns have raisins interspersed in the dough, traditionally the raisins should be in the center of the curl, signifying the cat’s eye. I’m unclear how this cat-inspired bun became associated with Santa Lucia, but an earlier name for these buns is “devil’s cat.” All I can guess is that perhaps it has to do with warding off evil?

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It’s the saffron that gives the buns that warm yellow glow to the colouring.The warm, rich colour of these sweet rolls certainly seems appropriate for a winter treat. It’s just one more way of adding light to a dark time. And a yummy one, too.

The taste of the IKEA rolls was fine. As a family we rarely buy processed breads, choosing instead to make them ourselves. We will definitely make them ourselves next time. When it’s not the middle of December and super crazy busy.

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