‘The holidays are all about giving’ – (right?!) There is a constant anti-consumerism thread that this time of year has become too commercialized. As a gift giver, what I’ve grown to realize is that the holidays are really about giving the gift time. The time it takes to select the perfect gift is no small task. So much thought goes into what to select for each person, researching, wrapping the gift, and finally delivering the gift.
Despite the fact that my mother LOVES to shop, I am not a die-hard shopper. I think I spent my early youth trailing her around the stores and using up all of my shoppers allotment of patience with the shopping process. I tend to be the perfect candidate for online retail therapy, but somehow I yearn for that good old-fashioned tactile experience.
I learned long ago that online shopping is not always about getting things done quickly. For many, myself included, this has become the research portion of gift giving. Often times after my research I head to the store to see the item up close and then go back online to purchase my final selection because an e-purchase is more cost effective.
With the season steeped in tradition, I’ve learned to make time for what’s important. I remind myself to stop and reflect on creating memories that I imagine my children will covet most – cookie days, tree trimming, going to see the Nutcracker, lunch at a fancy restaurant all dressed up in our new holiday clothes, and our traditional Christmas day breakfast. These are the special little things that I’ve grown to love about the holidays; more than any gift will be remembered, the memories we create together will be carried over from year to year. It is those moments, when I break from my usual routines, that I feel the excitement of the season and enjoy my time with others.
Over the years we’ve been blessed to share in many cultural experiences with young students that have lived with us. Siri, our student from Norway, shared with us her treasured saffron bun recipe. This rich, spiced yeast-leavened sweet bun is flavored with saffron and cardamom. I often sarcastically joke that this is the most expensive bread you’ll ever eat as it is made with the two most costly spices on the market!
Saffron Advent Buns are also sometimes known as a Cornish tea treat bun or revel bun. The texture is somewhat dry and similar to a teacake. These are best made the same day you plan to eat them, or you can make them ahead of time, and once cooled freeze immediately. Since the saffron tends to dry out the dough the cooked buns don’t keep long.
In Norway and Sweden these buns are made with raisins, but since my gang prefers dried cherries we’ve made the swap. The buns are baked into many traditional shapes, of which the simplest is an S-shape. These buns are typically eaten during Advent, and especially on Saint Lucia’s Day, December 13.
Making these buns together is one of our newly adopted traditions, and sharing their unusual flavor with friends and family is a gift in itself.
St. Lucia Saffron Buns
1/2 cup + 2 TBS, unsalted butter
2 package yeast + ½ tsp
1 gram saffron
1 sugar cube
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cardamom
½ tsp salt
2 cups milk
4 ½ cups flour, can add up to 8 cups but this makes bread very dry
Use dried cherries or raisin for decorations (optional)
Melt the butter and blend it with the milk 98.6 degrees. Sprinkle the yeast in a baking-bowl and add the milk-butter mixture. Allow the yeast mixture to rest for a few minutes and then stirring until yeast dissolves.
Using a pestle and mortar, crumble the saffron with the sugar-cube. Once the cube and saffron threads are broken down, blend it in with the egg.
Add the saffron-egg mixture to the bowl and stir until well mixed.
Next add flour, salt and cardamom to the mixture.
Knead the dough together, adjusting if additional flour is needed. The dough is best if left a bit sticky.
Allow dough to rise for an hour; it should double in size.
When dough is done rising, knead the dough shape into buns. (See the pictures) Roll a 2-inch ball out into a snake, about 14 inches long. Then roll the ends in opposite directions, forming an “S” with spirals at each end. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with the remainder of the dough. Rest buns in a warm spot until the dough shapes double in size; approximately 30 minutes to an hour.
Bake the buns for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees, until golden brown. Turn halfway through cooking to ensure even browning. When cooked the buns are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before eating