Tag Archives: swedish

Santa Lucia crown

Santa Lucia crown

The feast day of Santa Lucia,  St Lucy, is celebrated on 13 December. Her name derives from the Latin lux, as in “Fiat lux!” – “Let there be light!”. We also have a cat called Lux. She’s not divine in any way, she’s a needy, bony scrag, but we still love her.

Lucia was supposedly born into a wealthy family in Syracuse, Sicily, in 283AD, a time when the Roman Empire was still officially devoted to Zeus, Apollo and co. Christianity only won out a century later. The Emperor Diocletian was old-school, and she was killed during his reign, in 304AD. Medieval accounts of her death are grim, and involve her eyes being gouged out before she was burned at the stake. She remains the patron saint of the blind. As well as salesmen, oddly.

The facts are, of course, uncertain, but her veneration spread to Rome by the 6th century, and had even reached Britain by the 8th century. Today, she’s mostly celebrated on her home island and in Sweden. Her namesake role as a bringer of light was particularly important in the mid-winter gloom and her feast day may previously have been celebrated on the solstice, the shortest day of the year: now 21 December and more bound up in Christmas itself.*.

Santa Lucia crown cut in half

Anyway, this is based on another recipe from Cooking with the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf, “The Most Unique Catholic Cookbook Ever!”. It’s purportedly based on a traditional Swedish bake, but I can’t guarantee that. I’ve made Swedish inspired Santa Lucia buns before, which feature a similar enriched dough with saffron. And in the book Scandinavian Baking, Trine Hahnemann has a saffron bread recipe and recounts a Swedish legend about a man being woken by beautiful singing on the long, solstice night, 13 December 1764. It was St Lucia, bringing light, food and wine, and adding herself to the pantheon of Swedish annual traditions.

125g water
125g full-fat milk
A few sprigs of saffron
6g active dried yeast
250g plain (all-purpose) flour
250g strong white bread flour
2 eggs
120g caster sugar
50g butter, softened
3g salt

Plus
1 extra egg to glaze
100g icing sugar
30g milk, possibly more
3g vanilla essence
Candied fruit, lightly toasted flaked almonds, nibbed sugar or sprinkles to decorate

1. Combine the milk and water, warm slightly, add the saffron and leave to infuse for at least 20 minutes, even overnight.
2. Warm the liquid again then add the yeast and leave to froth up.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, salt, softened butter and two of the eggs.
4. Add the yeast mix and bring everything together to form a rough dough.
5. Turn out onto a lightly greased surface and knead to combine and create a smooth dough.
6. Form the dough into a ball and put in a clean, lightly oiled bowl.
7. Leave to prove until doubled in size. This will depend on the temperature. I don’t have a prover or warm cupboard, and our kitchen was about 19C; the doubling took a couple of hours.
8. The total dough should be about 1030g. Cut off a piece weighing about 350g, leaving the other at about 680g. Form these into balls, rest them for 10 minutes or so.
9. Stretch the balls slightly then slice each one into three equal sized pieces.
10. Roll the small pieces into snakes around 40cm long, and the larger ones into snakes about 80cm long.
11. Braid the three longer pieces, then form into a circle, pinching the ends together. Put this circle on a greased baking sheet.
12. Braid the three smaller pieces and go through the same process. Put this smaller circle on top of the larger circle.
13. Cover with a clean cloth then leave to prove again until doubled in size.
14. Preheat the oven to 190C.
15. Whisk the final egg, then brush over the dough to glaze.
16. Bake for about 15 minutes then turn down to 180C. Keep an eye on this bake as the glaze can brown then burn easily. If it does, cover with foil. Bake for another half hour or so.
17. Cool on wire racks.
18. Sieve the icing sugar, then add the milk (adding more as necessary) and sugar to create a basic icing.
19. Drizzle the icing over the crown and decorate as you wish – you could use glace cherries, I suppose, but they’re the Devil’s work. The kids like sprinkles, so I’m using vermicelli and nibbed sugar.
20. Serve the crown with birthday candles for Lux, Lucy, Lucia, light.

Enjoy in the pre-Christmas mayhem of Advent, close to the solstice.

St Lucia crown baked

* I’m talking about the northern hemisphere of course. The shift from the old Julian calendar to the new Gregorian calendar involved removing between 10 and 13 days, depending on when the transition took place. Strongly Catholic countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Poland made the switch in 1582. Britain, Canada and most of the US didn’t until 1752.

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Filed under Baking, Breads, Cakes (yeasted), Feasts, Recipes

Kladdkaka – gooey Swedish chocolate cake

Kladdkaka sliced

So this isn’t very Christmassy, but I’ve wanted to try making a kladdkaka for a while. I really must get a Swedish or Scandinavian baking book as I’m enjoying everthing I try making from recipes from that part of the world.

Kladdkaka is a kind of gooey chocolate cake. It’s unleavened – no baking powder, no soda, no yeast, so it’s not intended to be light and airy. Instead, the aim seems to be to basically leave the inside somewhat unbaked, so it’s moist to the point of runny, so it’s not unrelated to things like chocolate fondant and brownie.

In English, it can be called mud cake, but from what I can tell from online dictionaries, kladd means either draft, or rough, or daub, something a bit messy and unfinished, or goo, gunk. A Swedish-speaking friend meanwhile (he’s Finnish but is one of those annoying types who speaks multiple languages perfectly) says that “If something is ‘kladdigt’ it’s sticky, gooey, doughy, maybe even messy.” Thanks. Tom.

135g butter
55g cocoa powder
110g plain flour
320g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs
icing sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Grease and line a round tin, ideally 18cm or 20cm (7 or 8 inch).
3. Melt the butter then remove from the heat.
4. Sieve the cocoa and plain flour into mixing bowl.
5. Beat together the eggs and vanilla.
6. Pour the butter and egg mix into the flour, and beat together with the sugar until the mixture is combined.
7. Pour the mixture into the tin then bake for around 20-30 minutes. This is the important bit and will vary depending on the character of your oven. You want it to start pulling away from the edges of the tin, but not be baked dry in the middle.
8. Cool in the tin for about 20 minutes, then turn out.
9. Dust with icing sugar.

Kladkakka dusted

You can eat it warm, with ice cream or whipped cream. I had mine with custard, though I doubt Swedes do this; we just had some fresh custard in the fridge that needed me to nobly step in to finish it. It’s also very nice cooled completely, to a more truffle-like texture, and eaten with a cuppa.

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Filed under Baking, Cakes, Recipes