In Sweden, on St Lucy’s Day (13 December), the youngest daughter of the house rises before dawn, puts on a white dress and a crown of nine candles and wakes the family with coffee and cakes seasoned with cardamom and saffron called lussikatter (Lucy Cats), said to refer to the devil’s cats which St Lucy subdued. Whether an actual person called St Lucy/Lucia ever existed or not, the saint seems to have taken her mythology and characteristics from local Pagan deities.
25 g dried yeast
400 ml whole milk
½ tsp. saffron
150 g caster sugar
200 g plain yogurt
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
175 g butter,
800 g plain flour
Beaten egg, for brushing
3–4 large baking trays, greased and lined with baking parchment
Warm the milk slightly and put the saffron strands in. Leave to soak for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle on the yeast with a tsp. of the sugar, cover and leave in a warm place to activate the yeast. Blend in the rest of the sugar, then add the yoghurt, egg and salt. Add the softened butter and flour and knead for 10 minutes. Cover and leave the dough in a warm place until it has doubled in size (this will take about half an hour). Turn out the dough onto a floured board and knead again. Divide into 25-30 equal pieces and using your hand, roll them out into ‘sausages’. Put them on the baking sheets in an S shape and pop a raisin into each of the two curves. Prove in a warm place for 30 minutes. Brush with a beaten egg and bake at 200°C / 400°F/ Gas mark 6 for 10–12 minutes until browned.
© Anna Franklin, The Hearth Witch’s Kitchen Herbal, Llewellyn, 2020
Thanks to Susan Greasley for this year’s batch of Lucy Cats!