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And bake till time and times are done [Jan. 4th, 2015|09:44 pm]
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Back in the dark days of December, I made Lussekatter.

A sequence of loaves had been, for one reason or another (one reason being a tendency to leave them too long in the oven, but another is a bit of a mystery) particularly crusty and / or dense. An oatmeal loaf, in particular, had refused to rise, and although the flavour was still good, and my breakfast toast still put me in a good mood for the day, it was a challenge to the teeth, and to the breadknife. I was ready to bake something completely different.

Then someone mentioned that it was nearly St Lucy's Day, and there must be Lussekatter. "Yes!" I thought. "I can do that." I had, of course, read mrissa's definitive post on the subject, and I knew this wasn't going to be easy: but baking with saffron, baking to bring back the sun, this sounded like what I needed.

So I selected a recipe from the many offered by the internet, and on the Thursday I baked; on the Friday we went to Richard's funeral, and on Saturday which was St Lucy's Day, there were golden saffron squiggles, just as there should be. They were good enough that I'd gladly do it again, so here's my version of the recipe:
Sourdough starter
300 ml milk
generous pinch saffron - reaally generous
3 oz sugar
4 oz butter
15oz plain flour
1 egg
dried cranberries

  1. Warm, don't boil, the milk in a pan and add the butter and the saffron. Mix in a big bowl with the sourdough starter.

  2. Add the flour and mix into a smooth dough.

  3. Let it rise, knock it back, knead it a bit.

  4. Do it again. Kneading it was not as hard work as I had expected, and it really did do that thing the recipes promise where if you only keep kneading long enough the sticky mess will transform into a silky and coherent dough. That's never happened to me before.

  5. Divide the dough into 24 pieces, and knead each one lightly into a little bun (I saw that the recipe said '24 servings', and disbelieved; but it really did make 24 neat little cakes, smaller than I had pictured them but not ridiculously fiddly to handle).

  6. Let the buns rest for a few minutes, covered by a piece of cloth. Then form each bun into a string, 15-20 cm long (mine weren't as long as this - next time, try harder), then arrange the string in a suitable shape, e.g. an S or double S. Regardless of the shape, the ends of the string should meet.

  7. Press a few raisins into the dough - I tried to add my dried cranberries earlier, to give them a chance to plump up in the dough, but they made the dough harder to hanfle, and kept falling out. Cover the "Lucia cats" with a piece of cloth and let them rise for 40 minutes.

  8. Whip the egg together with a few grains of salt, and paint the "Lucia cats" with the mixture.

  9. Bake them for 5-10 minutes in the oven at 250°C / 475°F /Mark 6 until golden brownish yellow.

[User Picture]From: gillpolack
2015-01-04 09:55 pm (UTC)
I didn't want to get cravings for the bread, so I went back to your description of Richard which I had unaccountably missed. He was a person I'd like to have met, though I suspect we might have argued about literature.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2015-01-05 11:28 am (UTC)
It's no fun talking about literature unless you can find something to argue about! But Richard's views were not always what you would expect, and he took some pride in this.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2015-01-05 11:39 am (UTC)
I have never been in the right place at the right time to find lussekatter on sale: so if I wanted some, baking my own was the only way (also, the sourdough demands to be worshipped at regular intervals, so I have to bake *something*).

I didn't know they were cats until I read that recipe; and I drank coffee with them, because it was breakfast time. (I drank lots of mulled wine at the carol evening a week later, because I was in charge of making it...).

And saffron costs what saffron costs. Considering how it's produced, this is no surprise - and since there is no substitute for the real thing, what can you do? It's worth it, once in a while!

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