Sunday, 13 December 2015

Happy 'Lucia'....

Legend has it that, on 13 December 1764, a gentleman in Sweden was woken in the middle of the night by a beautiful voice.  He saw a young woman in white, singing and dancing through his room.  She had wings and was carrying a candle.  It was Saint Lucia.  She brought light, food and wine for comfort on what was, in the Gregorian calendar, the longest night of the year.  In Sweden, this fabled event is celebrated every 13th December.  Girls dress up in long white dresses and walk carrying lit candles, singing the beautiful Lucia carol....'The Festival of Light'.

Although brought up here in England, as a child, my Swedish mother along with my sister and I would always celebrate this lovely tradition. We girls would dress up in long white dresses, with myself as the eldest sibling, wearing a traditional wreath with candles on my head.  We would go around to my grandparent's house which was along the lane from ours, and quietly let ourselves in, early in the morning on 13th December.  Entering their bedroom by candlelight and singing the Lucia carol, we would bring them tea, and gingerbread in bed.  It was a beautiful tradition that my English grandparents loved, and remains a treasured childhood memory for me.

Another traditional treat to be eaten in Scandinavia on this date is delicious Lucia bread.  

With the recipe taken from one of my favourite cookbooks to use at this time of year 'Scandinavian Christmas' by Danish chef Trine Hahnemann, I shall certainly be making a batch or two of these delicious treats....

Simple to make, here is the recipe if you are inspired to try....


You will need:
40g fresh yeast (or 15g dried yeast this is not available, but fresh makes all the difference if you can!)
500 ml lukewarm whole milk
1/2 tsp saffron
200g salted butter, melted
1kg plain flour, plus more to dust
1tsp salt
100g caster sugar
75g raisins, plus more to decorate
1 egg, beaten

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a mixing bowl, then add the saffron and stir until the mixture turns yellow.  Add the melted butter. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then stir in the sugar and raisins.

Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until the dough comes cleanly from the edge of the bowl.  Knead the dough on the floured work surface for 10 minutes, until it is shiny but not sticky.  Return it to the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 1.5 hours at room temperature.

Lightly knead the dough again on a floured work surface.  Divide it into about 22 equal pieces.  Roll them into sausages, then form them into different shapes.  Lucia breads often take the form of old Nordic mythological symbols, such as buckthorn and cats.  Stud each with a few raisins.

Place the breads on baking trays lined with baking parchment, cover with clean tea towels and leave to rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/gas mark 4.  Brush the risen breads with the beaten egg and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown all over, then leave to cool on a wire rack.

Delicious as they are, or spread with a little butter!


I do hope you are having a happy weekend?
If you are still looking for that perfect stylish gift, then don't forget to pop over to 'The White Company' who still have a lovely 20% off until midnight tonight....just click on the 'White Company' link here in the right hand column using  the Code: AH657

Enjoy your Sunday...

Sophia xx

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