Before Christmas, one of my coworkers had a cookie swap soiree, and I, of course, felt obliged to make a bazillion baked goods for the occasion. For Hannah’s Christmas challenge, I wanted to make traditional Simon-Teteak family favorites.
So naturally, I chose St. Lucia buns (from the Swedish Andersens on my dad’s side of the family) and Marcipani cookies (from the Czech Teteaks on my mom’s side of the family).
And as you can see, I had a special baking guest: our very own wee law receptionist, Christopher.
These Christmas cookies and buns are special not only because they’re part of my heritage (which I’m an extreme sucker for). It’s the spices that make these marcipani cookies special: Ground fennel and caraway seeds give these gingerbread-esque creations a wonderfully sharp yet subtle flavor. The saffron buns (otherwise known as lussekatter in Swedish, meaning little cats), are sweet yeast rolls with ground saffron. Because saffron is so expensive usually, these are reserved for the St. Lucia Day holiday, which my family celebrates every December 13.
I had the pleasure of borrowing my friend’s KitchenAid mixer, which helped quite a bit when it came time to knead the saffron bun dough. It tends to get extremely sticky, which I remember always frustrated me as a child when it came time to shape them into rolls.
The little spots you see in the cut up rolls are golden raisins, which are a lovely addition to the saffron. Once you’ve let the dough rise once, you divide it into 32 pieces, which will make 16 buns. Basically, you roll out the dough segments into 12-inch strips and then twist them together to make this shape (I obviously need to do better about taking pictures of my baking step by step). Then you let the rolls rise again until they get nice and puffy and are ready to bake.
Next, Chris and I rolled out the cookie dough. It made a ton, so I took the other half to my cousins’ house for Christmas (they’re Teteaks too) so we could make some together. I didn’t have a rolling pin yet, so you can see here that Chris is resorting to my method of choice, the cooking spray can.
After several hours of mixing, rising and baking, here’s the final result! The cookies were far more airy and light than I would have expected, and for a person who doesn’t like fennel or caraway seed that much, I was really surprised with how light the flavor was. As for the saffron buns, they were delightful as usual. They’re also very good for breakfast.